Identity Politics Run Amok at the University of Denver


Free Speech Wall at the University of Denver

Their heads full of self-righteousness and the angst of youth, too many campus activists seem determined to impose identity politics on campuses.

In 2015, some students at Princeton University acting under the banner of the Black Justice League demanded “cultural competency training” for faculty and staff, required classes on “marginalized peoples,” and a dedicated space on campus for black students.

The same misguided thinking has now infected my alma mater, the University of Denver.

In September 2016, the message “Disrupt the Peace, White Silence = Violence, White People Do Something, #BlackLivesMatter,” was painted on the university’s Free Speech Wall. The Wall was subsequently defaced to change the message , leading to a sit-in, a march and an Oct. 7 meeting with the school’s chancellor, Rebecca Chopp.

At that meeting, the Black Student Alliance presented the chancellor with a list of demands, including:

  • That a former mascot, called Boone (after Daniel Boone), be prohibited at any DU events because it is “representative of the western extinction of Native American culture” and that another mascot be picked “that celebrates inclusion and diversity while also acknowledging the history of the university’s part in violence against Native Americans”
  • That DU stop calling the students, teams, etc. “Pioneers”, which they’ve been doing since 1925, because “The term ‘pioneer’ is highly problematic for many, especially Native American students, as it is defined as a person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area.
  • That all students applying to DU be required to write an essay articulating their understanding of Inclusive Excellence.
  • That all students complete a curriculum in “Race, Inequality & Social Change” in order to earn a degree.
  • That DU establish an Ethnic Studies Department.
  • That DU provide a budget for the following heritage/history month programs and events:

February – Black History Month

March – Women’s History Month

May – Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

June – LGBT Pride Month

September – Latinx Heritage Month

October – LGBT History Month

November – Native American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month

In a counterintuitive move, a group of student leaders subsequently imposed restrictions on what could be written on the Free Speech Wall and a camera was installed to monitor who’s writing what there.

Hate speech has also been prohibited on the Wall. Hate speech “may take the form of direct or indirect offensive slurs, jokes, messages, or attacks on members of the DU community based on their race, gender, ethnic origin, religion, abilities, socioeconomic background, or sexual orientation,” a memo said.

The memo concluded with the nonsensical comment that “…these guidelines are not intended to restrict free expression; rather they are a means through which we can continue to thrive as an inclusive community with a shared value system and many varied viewpoints.”

Is all this really where we want our universities to go —coercive cultural sensitivity training, the Orwellian suppression of free speech in the name of supporting openness, the elimination of historical references that don’t conform to modern sensibilities, the imposition of identity politics?

The fact is, erasing history solves nothing. Nor does mandated cultural awareness. And the explosion of racial and ethnic heritage months is taking us all in the wrong direction. What we really need is to incorporate recognition and appreciation of various heritages into the daily flow of our calendar and lives.


Would #NeverTrump Stalwarts Now Support Sweet Cakes?


Liberals like those who condemned the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa are now giving a shrug to NeverTrumpers who are discriminating against Trump supporters by refusing to associate with them or patronize their businesses.

The liberals’ unlikely hero in all this today is Phoebe Pearl, a member of the famous dance troupe the Rockettes.

“Finding out that it has been decided for us that Rockettes will be performing at the Presidential inauguration makes me feel embarrassed and disappointed,” Pearl said in an Instagram post today. “…please know that after we found out this news, we have been performing with tears in our eyes and heavy hearts #notmypresident”.

Online comment sections lit up with endorsements of Pearl’s post.

“Proud that you stand up for your views/ beliefs especially to all those trumpies who are always on attack mode ready to become the vicious evil fake definitely not Christians judgmental psychos,” was posted by truthisabitch.

 Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby praised the Rockettes in an article titled, Freedom of Association Isn’t Just for the Rockettes.

“The right to discriminate — to choose with whom we will and won’t associate — is vital to human liberty,” he wrote today. “No one should be forced to play a role in a celebration they want nothing to do with, or to hire themselves out to clients they would prefer not to serve. A liberal baker who declines to create a lavish cake decorated with the words “Congratulations, President Trump” is entitled to as much deference as a black baker who declines to decorate a cake with the Confederate flag…”

Pearl’s post follows actions by other NeverTrumpers asserting their intentions to discriminate against Trump supporters.

HeatStreet, a conservative leaning news website, reported in early December that some Wash., DC homeowners were removing their Airbnb listings so they wouldn’t be put in the position of renting to “…the residents of flyover country.”

“I have a visceral reaction to the thought of having a Trump supporter in my house,” said one Airbnb host. “No amount of money could make me change my mind. It’s about moral principles.”

Television chef Anthony Bourdain said he wouldn’t patronize a restaurant at the newly opened Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. “I will never eat in his restaurant,” Bourdain said. “I have utter contempt for him, utter and complete contempt”.

Designer Sophie Theallet gained some notoriety when she flamboyantly announced on Twitter that she would not dress or associate with Donald Trump’s wife Melania when she becomes first lady. She also called on other designers to follow her lead, saying “Integrity is our only true currency.”

Is all this a liberal double standard?

In 2013, Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners of Sweet Cakes bakery in Gresham, OR refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding of a lesbian couple because of the Klein’s Christian beliefs against same-sex marriage.

In early 2015, then State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian made a preliminary finding that the Kleins discriminated against the lesbian couple on the basis of their sexual orientation.

In July 2015, Avakian ordered the Kleins to pay $135,000 in damages to the couple for emotional and mental suffering they experienced because the Kleins had refused to sell them a wedding cake.

Liberals enthusiastically endorsed Avakian’s decision.

“The Kleins are religious zealots, and not very bright,” wrote one supporter of the decision. “They should stick to baking cakes, and leaving their religion in the back room and/or at home and at church. When one opens their doors to a commercial enterprise, they don’t get to tell people to —- off based on purposeful discrimination.”

“A sign saying “no lesbians are allowed to purchase wedding cakes in my store,” is every bit as discriminatory as a person verbally saying “no lesbians are allowed to purchase wedding cakes in my store” and the business in question should be held accountable,” Mat dos Santos, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, wrote in an opinion column in The Oregonian.

The federal government, while asserting that you can’t discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin, doesn’t prohibit discrimination based on a person’s political bent. So the NeverTrumpers aren’t breaking the law when they support the ability of businesses to ban politically offensive customers, but how is that position morally different from the position the Kleins took?

Do the liberal NeverTrumpers denying services to Trump supporters now want to reverse Avakian’s decision or should they be held to the same standards as the Kleins?

Union Members Can Stop Subsidizing Liberal Candidates and Causes



A question to conservative Oregon union members (I know you’re out there): Why are you contributing to union political funds when most of the money ends up supporting liberal Democratic candidates?

About 18% of the electorate across the country was from union households in the Nov. 8, 2016 presidential election. Donald Trump captured 43% of those union-household voters.

In Oregon, 14.8 percent of the wage and salary workforce belonged to a union in 2015. It’s not clear how they voted, but it’s likely, based upon national patterns, that a decent share voted Republican.

Still, Oregon’s unions overwhelming endorsed Democrats. For example, all but two of the AFL-CIO’s 2016 Legislative endorsements in Oregon were for Democrats (one was an independent, one a Republican), as were all the statewide candidate endorsements.

Similarly, in the 2016 election, political contributions from Oregon’s unions went overwhelmingly to Democrats. For example, SEIU’s PAC, Citizen Action for Political Education (CAPE), spent $2,001,758.89 on the 2016 election. Of that, $706,750.00 went to Defend Oregon (the group pushing Measure 97), $205,000 to the Committee to Elect Brad Avakian, $180,000 to the Kate Brown Committee, and $37,380 to The Real Mike Nearman Committee (created to defeat Republican Mike Nearman).

So why don’t more union members who disagree with their union’s political stances decline to contribute to their union’s PAC and opt out of supporting the union’s political activities. It’s not that hard to do. All a union member has to do is become an “agency fee payer”, sometimes also called a “Fair Share Payer” or “Non-member.”

Oregon allows public employees who are part of a collective bargaining unit to refuse membership in the union that represents that unit. But because the union still has to negotiate on their behalf, these nonmembers must contribute to cover costs which cover collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment, but not costs associated with political activities.

This worker right was established in 2012 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that while employees can be required to pay dues for the direct benefits they get from the union, they can’t be forced to give money to unions for political activities.

According to Steve Buckstein,  Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, even before the 2012 Court decision, a telephone company employee named Harry Beck spent over two decades fighting for the right to opt out of paying the political portion of his union dues to the Communications Workers of America. In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor in Beck v. CWA and created what are now known as Beck rights. Harry is now retired and lives in Oregon. You can watch him tell his story here:

Political spending by unions can be substantial…and influential.

In a Sept. 2015 report to individuals who pay Fair Share fees, the liberal-leaning Oregon Education Association (OEA) said 22.9 percent of its total expenses were nonchargeable for Fair Share fee payers and the liberal-leaning National Education Association (NEA) said a whopping 62.71 percent of its total expenses were nonchargeable for Fair Share fee payers.

This means that if annual OEA dues were $600, they could have been reduced to $462.60 and if annual NEA dues were $185, they could have been reduced to $68.99.

Think of it. Workers, rather than union bosses, deciding for themselves how, or whether, they want to spend their money on political causes.


Is Motor Voter Promoting Voter fraud in Oregon?

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown was thrilled when she signed the automatic motor voter registration bill on March 16, 2015.


But does it have a flaw that could enable fraud?

Under Oregon’s Motor Voter law, when an eligible unregistered voter (over 17 years old, an Oregon resident and a US citizen) visits the DMV to apply for, renew, or replace an Oregon drivers’ license, ID card, or permit, that person receives a mailing from the Oregon Elections Division explaining their options for registering to vote.

Recipients of the mailing can:

  • Do nothing. In that case, the person is registered to vote as a nonaffiliated voter (not a member of a political party).
  • Choose a political party by returning the card. Joining a political party will allow the person to vote in its primary elections.
  • Use the card to opt-out and decline to register to vote.

On Oct. 25, 2016, Willamette Week ran a story that reviewed the new voter numbers. It noted that since the start of 2016, the Motor Voter law has added 247,501 newly registered voters. The story also noted that 9,292 DMV-generated voter registration cards could not be delivered.

Who are those 9,292 people? Could that mean that 9,292 people were fraudulently registered to vote?

According to Dr. Russell Terry, a Voter Engagement Advocate in the Oregon Secretary of State’s Elections Division, cards returned to the Elections Division as undeliverable can be because:

  • the address does not adhere to the USPS standardization for mailing addresses
  • the individual provided DMV with an address before updating their address through USPS
  • the individual is not identified as being at the address to which the mail is delivered

You might expect that a few addresses would be invalid if it took a while to send out the cards and people moved in the interim. But Terry said the transfer of data from the DMV to the Elections Division “…is only a few days, before or right around the time DMV would be mailing a driver’s license to that address as well.”

Is there a way, then, to check whether the people whose cards were undeliverable are legitimate voters?

I asked if I could access a list of all the names and addresses on those cards so a sampling could be checked.

Nope. “The Oregon Vehicle Code prohibits the disclosure of those individuals and their information,” Terry said.

So were up to 9,292 registered Oregon voters not eligible voters on Nov. 8? Who knows?

Given that situation, should the names of the 9,292 people whose cards were undeliverable be struck from the voter rolls?






Port of Morrow’s State-Subsidized SAGE Center tourist attraction facing challenges.


By Bill MacKenzie*


The SAGE Center, Boardman, OR

It’s hard to tell a captivating, triumphant story about industrial agriculture in Eastern Oregon. But the Port of Morrow wanted to try.

Baker County already had the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Wallowa County had the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture and Umatilla County had the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute.

The Port decided to build a high profile state-subsidized Sustainable Agriculture and Energy (SAGE) Center along I84 in Boardman that would draw thousands of visitors and highlight the businesses that sustain the county. If you’ve driven I84 out that way, you’ve probably seen the Center.

But the dream hasn’t worked out as planned, offering lessons for others contemplating tourist attractions.

The idea for the SAGE Center emerged when Tillamook Cheese, stretched to the limit at its Tillamook facilities, opened a second cheese-making facility in Boardman in 2001. But it lacked the tourist attraction of a hoped for Tillamook Cheese Factory tour.

Port of Morrow Manager, Gary Neal, got to thinking about other industries in the county that had a hard time showing how they operate their facilities to make a wide variety of products.


Gary Neal                        Port of Morrow Manager

“…maybe we could showcase the natural resource based economy we have at the Port of Morrow,” Neal thought. “Our technology in the plants as well in the fields growing crops is second to none in the world…The prudent use of our natural resources, multiple energy in the region, the Columbia River and the fact it is the lifeblood of what our region is about all needed a place for that message to be shared.”

The Port, a municipal corporation, hired Public Affairs Research Consultants to create a Business Plan for an Agricultural Learning Center that would “…offer visitors a unique opportunity to learn about modern food processing and where it intersects with transportation, food production and energy.”

A draft Business Plan prepared by the consultants said there were multiple reasons to be confident about the ability of a 28,000 sq. ft. center with exhibit space, offices, a gift shop, conferencing and class space, and a kitchen to attract 40,000 or more visitors annually and to be self-supporting, running a surplus from the first year.

The Plan projected the center would take in $187,880 annually. Most wouldn’t be from earned income, such as entrance and rental fees, but from other sources including payments from the Boardman Chamber of Commerce 
for space in the Center, payments by companies with displays, food service, a gift shop, visitor donations and grants.

The Plan projected surpluses at the Center starting the first year and continuing thereafter.

Encouraged by the optimistic projections, the Oregon Legislature stepped up with $4 million in lottery funds to help build the SAGE Center, which held its grand opening on June 1, 2013.

The 23,000 sq. ft. Center boasts a movie theater seating 204 people, two conference rooms and an ever-changing exhibit hall. The hall currently features videos of 3rd and 4th graders interviewing local workers, such as farmers and dairy operators, as well as a tractor-like device children can drive to plant corn using GPS technology.

There’s also an interactive tour of Morrow County in a simulated hot air balloon, hands-on displays illustrating the magnitude of Morrow County’s agricultural operations and a mock french fry-making machine.


A feature exhibit at the SAGE Center shows how a potato gets turned into french fries

The theater is used for movie showings, trainings for local businesses, large group presentations and local drama and music productions. A recent event featured a performance by acclaimed guitarist and songwriter Johnny A.

A job fair serving local industries is hosted at the Center annually as well as a Morrow County Harvest Festival, which is designed to showcase local artisans, produce growers and provide a free, family-friendly event.


Educational tours are also provided where students receive a comprehensive and interactive experience. Students see, touch, and sometimes smell how food and energy are produced in Morrow County and delivered to consumers.

It all sounds great.

But things haven’t exactly gone as planned.

The consultants said there were potential barriers to success, such as the need to raise public awareness of the center and the development of competing visitor attractions in the area, but they were still optimistic.

“Based on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats the proposed AIC is a reasonable risk and it is reasonable to conclude that it is a good investment,” the consultants said.

But the Center ended up costing much more than anticipated. The original estimate was about $6 million. The final cost was $8,305,845, requiring a $4.3 million investment by the Port on top of the $4 million state grant.

Then there were higher than expected operating costs.

The market feasibility study for the Center projected annual operating expenses of just $184,128.

To say the least, that was wildly off track.

The Center’s fiscal year ends on June 30. Actual fiscal year operating expenses have been: FY14: $497,940; FY15: $763,331; FY16: $913,014

The consultants projected annual replacement/maintenance/ground expenses would be $24,000. The reality? $115,210 in FY16.

The consultants projected the annual cost of a Director and hourly staff would be $105,241. The reality? With lower local volunteerism than expected and more responsibilities, such as staffing the Center’s gift store, full-time staff has grown to four and labor costs in FY16 totaled $300,091.

Similarly, the consultants projected the annual cost of marketing the Center would be $3000. The reality? Marketing costs in FY16 totaled $123,545.

Even the estimate for the minor item of supplies was way off. The consultants projected the annual cost of supplies would be $2,400. The reality? $19,205 in FY16.

The result?

The consultants projected an annual surplus starting with the first year. Instead, the SAGE Center is hemorrhaging money like a burst water main. It reported a deficit of $554,766 in its 1st year, $598,063 in its 2nd and $574,972 in its 3rd.

And the deficits were actually worse. That’s because the Port of Morrow injected $70,000 in the 2nd year and $180,000 in the 3rd year from its general fund to help keep things going. Without those infusions, the deficits would have been $668,063 the 2nd year and $754,972 the 3rd.

Port officials insist they’re not fazed by the ballooning costs and deficits. Joe Taylor, President of the Port of Morrow Commission and a local farmer, said changes to the Center’s design from original plans explain some of the cost increases, as did the Port’s desire for “…a first class venue to tell the story of our area’s agriculture and energy communities.” In any case, he said, the Port had sufficient funds in its budget to handle the expenses.


Joe Taylor President               Port of Morrow Commission

The number of visitors has not met expectations either, despite the consultant saying there were “many reasons to be confident” about the ability of the SAGE Center to attract them.

The Market Feasibility study projected 40,000 visitors a year, emphasizing that this was a “relatively conservative” estimate.

But it has proven hard to tell a rich and entertaining story about agriculture. There are high visitor days, such as during the Harvest Festival, which attracted about 1000 people in 2016, but on many days the expansive parking lot is largely desolate.

As a result, the Center has averaged just 22,000 visitors a year, with no year-to-year increases, according to Kalie Davis, the SAGE Center’s Manager.


The usual scene at the SAGE Center parking lot.

About 14,500 of the SAGE Center’s 22,000 annual visitors are U.S. and international tourists. Another 4000 are groups of schoolchildren, most from Eastern and Central Oregon. “Not a lot from the Portland area, “ Davis said. “That’s an area we’re working on.” Events, such as job fairs and movies (the center’s theater is the only one in Morrow County), bring in the rest of the visitors.

In comparison, the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City attracted 36,871 visitors in 2015 and the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum hosted 38,130.

Davis minimized the difference between projected and actual visitor counts. The 40,000 SAGE Center visitor projection by the consultants was simply unrealistic from the beginning for a rural facility far from major population centers when most tour operators focus on the I5 corridor and the Oregon coast, Davis said. ‘It’s not as easy as if you build it they will come,” she observed.

The Port would clearly like to see an increase in the visitor numbers, “…but we are not concerned about what we have seen this far,” Taylor said. “The SAGE Center is located in a county of 12,000 people and along a very straight stretch of freeway.  Trying to get those folks to pull off and come in is a big challenge and we are learning and getting better at it all the time.”

The hope, Davis said, is that media coverage, such as being featured on KGW-TV’s “Grant’s Getaways”, growing interest in the farm-to-table movement and enthusiasm for tracking where food comes from will draw more visitors to the Center. She sees 30,000 visitors annually as a reasonable goal.

Embracing optimism, Davis expects it will take a little while to raise public awareness of the relatively new Center and build visitor count, but it will happen. “Nobody knew what OMSI was, I’m sure, when they started off,” she said.

As for the construction cost overrun and operating deficits, officials with the Port and the SAGE Center dismiss suggestions that these have been a shock or are reason for concern.

Davis said the substantial increase in the construction cost of the Center is because the original design in the early stage of planning was essentially a box, with no custom elements. The design changed later when a community committee argued a more appealing design was necessary to attract visitors. “The cost did go up quite a bit, but the Port knew that going into it,” said Davis.

Taylor added that the Port is aware of the substantial difference between projected and actual operating expenses, but “…is not overly concerned.”

Taylor and Davis said the failure of the Center to generate surpluses isn’t a problem either.

“The Port knew that the SAGE Center would not be a money maker right away,” Taylor said. “This is a long term program to educate people on where their food and energy comes from.”

Furthermore, Taylor said, the Center represents just 5% of the Port’s operating budget and less than .008% of its overall annual budget. “Over time the benefit the SAGE Center brings to our region will pay off bigger than the deficits we see now,” he said.

Neal reinforced Taylor’s observations. “This is not about generating revenues to offset the expenses,” Neal said. “This is about sharing with as many people we can (information) about the use of natural resources and that our food doesn’t just come from the grocery store, our electricity doesn’t just come from a light switch, and so on.”

“The only reason this facility even charges admission is to show value in the experience,” Davis added.

The Center, she said, was built more as a marketing tool for the Port and an educational and community facility for Boardman. In addition, it was intended as a catalyst for local growth, a magnet for new residents and workers in an economically healthy area struggling to attract a qualified workforce.

In many respects, the SAGE Center seems to have a precarious future, given its ballooning costs and grim deficits. Its survival, however, may depend more on the Port’s willingness and ability to continue bearing the financial burden than on whether the escalating costs can be reined in.

Neal said the Port has no intention of throttling back in its support of the Center. “We have the resources to support this facility and the mission for the long term,” he said. “This is a long term investment.”

*Bill MacKenzie has worked as the Communications Manager of a major technology company in Oregon, a newspaper reporter on business and politics and as a staff member on a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. He writes on public policy issues at:


The SAGE Center At A Glance

Location: Visible from Interstate 84; at 101 Olson Road, Boardman, Ore., 97818 (A small map showing the location might be helpful)

 Directions: Take Exit 164, turn north toward the river, then turn right on Front Street. Follow it 1/2-mile to the SAGE Center.

General Admission 5.00
Students and Seniors (62 and older) 3.00
Under 5 Free
Family 20.00 max



Only in Portland: Mindless CEO Taxes


Eric Fruits, an Oregon economist I admire, made some illuminating comments today on Portland’s misguided attempt to tax CEO pay:

Last week, Portland passed a first-in-the-nation income tax surcharge on companies whose CEOs earn more than 100 times the pay of the median worker in the firm

The tax is on companies that are subject to a new Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring publicly traded companies to report the ratio of CEO pay to its median pay beginning in 2017. Thanks, Dodd-Frank.

It is estimated that the measure will ultimately raise about $2.5 million annually from some 550 companies that pay Portland’s Business License Fee, which is a nice was of saying “business income tax.”

The pitch from the city commissioner who pushed the ordinance (Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick) is that the surcharge is designed to reduce income inequality. It’s supposed to punish high-income CEOs and the money raised is promised to go to fund affordable housing.

In reality, most of the CEOs targeted in the tax don’t live in or near Portland and the money actually goes into the city’s general fund to be spent however council sees fit. So the tax really won’t do anything to reduce CEO pay, and the money collected will do nothing to raise the incomes of the poor.

A more interesting development may come with the new Congress. Republicans have been targeting Dodd-Frank for a massive overhaul. It wouldn’t take much to strike the pay ratio reporting from the law. Then—poof—the tax has no monitoring mechanism.

So, why would a sitting city commissioner spend so much effort on an empty gesture poking business in the eye?

What if I told you that this commissioner was the first incumbent commissioner in decades to lose his city council seat—by a whopping 10 percentage points—to an unknown newcomer. Sometimes policy is driven by politics.

De-Le-Git-I-Mizing Trump: Hillary and the permanent campaign


The media are reporting that the Hillary Clinton campaign is supporting calls by some members of the Electoral College for an intelligence briefing on President-elect Donald Trump’s ties with Russia ahead of their Dec. 19 vote.

Huh? The Clinton campaign still exists? Thirty six days after the presidential election?

Of course, because unlike with past presidential candidates, Clinton’s team see themselves as part of a permanent campaign to delegitimize the winner.

It began with the campaign’s support for the effort to discredit Trump’s win by echoing accusations that Trump wasn‘t the “real” winner because even though he won the electoral votes, Clinton won more actual votes

It continued with the campaign supporting the recount effort in three states by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. On Medium, the Clinton campaign’s counsel, Marc Elias, said that while the campaign wasn’t going to contest the results itself, it had decided to take part in the effort to “ensure that it is fair to all sides.” Oddly enough, in Wisconsin, the one state which completed its recount, Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton increased by 131 votes.

Clinton’s campaign kept up the barrage by endorsing calls by some electors for CIA briefings on Russia’s role in the election. On Dec. 12, 10 electors published a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asking for an intelligence briefing before their Dec. 19 vote.

John Podesta, chairman of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, followed up with a statement saying, “The bipartisan electors’ letter raises very grave issues involving our national security,” Podesta said. “Electors have a solemn responsibility under the Constitution and we support their efforts to have their questions addressed.”

“We now know that the CIA has determined Russia’s interference in our elections was for the purpose of electing Donald Trump. This should distress every American,” Podesta added, leaving out that there is no unanimity on this point among the government intelligence agencies. The FBI, for example, has suggested that the CIA’s assessment so far lacks definitive evidence.

Leftist New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has gone so far as to call the presidential election “illegitimate” and “tainted” by Russian interference and the actions of FBI Director James Comey.

“So this was a tainted election,” Krugman wrote on Dec. 12. “It was not, as far as we can tell, stolen in the sense that votes were counted wrong, and the result won’t be overturned. But the result was nonetheless illegitimate in important ways; the victor was rejected by the public, and won the Electoral College only thanks to foreign intervention and grotesquely inappropriate, partisan behavior on the part of domestic law enforcement.”

“Did the combination of Russian and F.B.I. intervention swing the election?,” Krugman aid. “Yes. Mrs. Clinton lost three states — Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — by less than a percentage point, and Florida by only slightly more,” Krugman wrote.

“If she had won any three of those states, she would be president-elect. Is there any reasonable doubt that Putin/Comey made the difference?”

And if pigs could fly all would be well.

Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, D.C., have piled on, asserting in the Washington Post that Trump needs to create a blind trust for his assets in order to assure the electors that he won’t be violating the Constitution when he’s sworn in.

“Above all, Trump’s refusal to create a blind trust — and his procrastination in providing a credible plan to solve the constitutional issues his business plans pose — is not fair to the electors who must cast ballots on Dec. 19, before Trump’s “busy times” will allow him to explain his arrangements in January,” they wrote. “ “He needs to assure the electors now that his businesses will not receive payments from foreign governments. That is necessary so that both Trump and the electors can do their jobs as required under the Constitution.

It’s tempting to assume that the Clinton partisans are little more than a ship of fools bitter at the results of the presidential election, but more is at work here. The agitators are trying to delegitimize Trump from the outset, setting the stage for years of hard-edged conflict.

Buckle your seat belts, America.

Media Malpractice: Reporting on Post-Election Hate


There’s not just fake news out there. There’s also a lot of reporting that’s just plain unreliable and biased, but is accepted uncritically by people because it fits their preconceived expectations and those of their like-minded circle.

Tales of hate incidents, threats and intimidation of minorities abound, with many commentators suggesting there’s a linkage between the incidents and Donald Trump’s election.

Much of the recent debate has relied on data gathered by the Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

On Nov. 29, the SPLC released reports “documenting (emphasis mine) how President-elect Donald Trump’s own words have sparked hate incidents across the country and had a profoundly negative effect on the nation’s schools”. The reports said that in the ten days after the election the SPLC counted 867 incidents of harassment and intimidation.

Most of the incidents cited by the SPLC involved anti-immigrant incidents (136), followed by anti-black (89) and anti-LGBT (43). A “Trump” category (41) referred to incidents where there was no clear defined target, like the vandalism of a “unity” sign in Connecticut, which the SPLC categorized as “pro-Trump vandalism”.

The New York Times jumped on the report, observing that, “Hate Crimes have surged across the country,” linking that assertion to the SPLC ‘s “hate crimes” reports and denouncing Trump for not being more aggressive in “condemning the hate talk and violence being done in his name.”

The New Yorker, citing the SPLC reports, said, “Since Donald Trump won the Presidential election, there has been a dramatic uptick in incidents of racist and xenophobic harassment across the country.”

“Hate, harassment incidents spike since Trump election”, CBS News reported, basing its report largely on SPLC’s data.

Willamette Week picked up the SPLC’s report, running a story headlined, “Report on Post-Election Hate Incidents Shows Oregon at Top of List; New Southern Poverty Law Center info paints alarming picture of Pacific Northwest.”

NPR’s All Things Considered also had a segment on the topic.

“Since Tuesday (Nov. 8), the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has counted some 250 incidents…. ,” said NPR’s Eyder Peralta. “While they have not verified all of them, they include anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-Muslim messages and, in the case of a Michigan middle school, a lunchroom anti-immigrant taunt – build the wall.”

“I think that the emotions that were unleashed by the Trump campaign’s use of bigotry as a tool to get elected has reached every part of our society, “ said Heidi Beirich, an employee of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) described as an expert on various forms of extremism. “I think that the emotions that were unleashed by the Trump campaign’s use of bigotry as a tool to get elected has reached every part of our society.”

Because the SPLC is widely recognized as a reputable source, or because many media outlets have taken the easy way out and simply parroted the SPLC’s reports, the media have been awash in reports citing the SPLC data.

There’s one big problem. Media don’t note that the SPLC has not verified the incidents it cites so breathlessly as evidence of a spike in hate crimes..

On its website, the SPLC admits the hate incidents it cites came from news reports, social media, and direct submissions via SPLC’s #ReportHate page. “These incidents, aside from news reports, are largely anecdotal” and “…it was not possible to confirm the veracity of all reports” the SPLC says.

And there’s no way for the public to even read the details of all the reported incidents because the SPLC’s website doesn’t provide access to them.

There may, indeed, have been a recent rise in hate incidents, and the SPLC’s reports make for bone-chilling reading. But the reports don’t “document” hate incidents if the word is taken to mean providing hard evidence.

Hanna Goldfield addressed the critical need for writing to be accurate, even if an alternative version is more “beautiful” or makes a story stronger, in a piece she wrote for the New Yorker. “The conceit that one must choose facts or beauty—even if it’s beauty in the name of “Truth” or a true “idea”—is preposterous,” she said. “A good writer—with the help of a fact-checker and an editor, perhaps—should be able to marry the two, and a writer who refuses to even try is, simply, a hack.”

Reporters should also recognize that data sources are rarely neutral observers. the SPLC, for example, has a position to plead, a message to deliver in order to generate contributions, a desire to be quoted so its influence will be enhanced.

Paul Sperry, a former Washington bureau chief for Investor’s Business Daily, also points out that although the SPLC claims to be a nonpartisan civil rights law firm, it receives funding from leftist groups, including ones controlled by billionaire George Soros. And a review of Federal Election Commission records reveals that its board members contributed more than $13,400 to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns.

In summary, there’s a lesson here for current and aspiring reporters. Reporters shouldn’t just accept and promote information that affirms their biases or makes for a story that attracts a lot of clicks.  That’s sloppy reporting that undermines trust in the media, and rightfully so.





Media Transparency: Who said that?


Untrustworthy information isn’t just about fake news, the media’s topic du jour. There’s another equally insidious trend in today’s media.

It was highlighted in a recent New York Times  opinion piece contending that Facebook shouldn’t be expected to fact-check news posts.

“What those demanding that Facebook accept “responsibility” for becoming the dominant news aggregator of our time seem to be overlooking is that there’s a big difference between the editorial power that individual news organizations wield and that which Facebook could,” wrote a woman named Jessica Lessin, identified as the founder and chief executive of The Information, a technology news site. “Such editorial power in Facebook’s hands would be unprecedented and dangerous.”

Lessin noted in her piece that her husband worked at Facebook “for a brief period.” That’s it.

But the New York Times’ Public Editor, Liz Spayd, disclosed on Nov. 30 that, in fact, Lessin and her husband, Sam, have pretty damn close ties to Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive officer.

Not only have Sam Lessin and Zuckerberg been friends since they both attended Harvard, Spayd reported, but Sam introduced Zuckerberg to investors when he was starting Facebook. In addition, in 2010, Facebook acquired a file-sharing site,, that Sam had founded and made Sam a Facebook vice president overseeing product. Zuckerberg was even a guest at the Lessing’s wedding.

Spayd ripped the Times for not disclosing to readers the Lessins’ ties to Facebook, particularly because Jessica Lessin had vigorously defended the company.

The problem is this is not the only case of the media’s failure to disclose relevant information on somebody expressing an opinion.

On Oct. 28, 2016, CBS News Tonight featured a comment by a Matthew Miller condemning FBI Director James Comey for reopening the Clinton email investigation. CBS noted only that Miller had been a spokesman for the Department of Justice.

That same day, Politico reported that Miller had gone on a 14-post spree on Twitter blasting Comey and said Comey’s letter to Congress announcing the review of more evidence in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server constituted “…an inappropriate disclosure.”

Politico also identified Miller only as “a former director of the Justice Department’s office of public affairs.”

Salon jumped on the bandwagon, too, citing a Miller tweet, “FBI is undoubtedly investigating links between the Russian hack, Manafort, & the Trump campaign”. Salon also identified Miller as “Former Department of Justice spokesman…”.

The next day, the Washington Post ran a lengthy opinion piece by Miller titled “James Comey fails to follow Justice Department rules yet again.” Miller blasted Comey, saying his action “…was yet another troubling violation of long-standing Justice Department rules or precedent, conduct that raises serious questions about his judgment and ability to serve as the nation’s chief investigative official.”

In this case, the opinion piece identified Miller only as director of the Justice Department’s public affairs office from 2009 to 2011.

In both cases, there was a glaring omission. For full transparency, CBS and the Washington Post should have pointed out that Miller was hardly an unbiased observer.

Not only has Miller served as communications director for the House Democratic Caucus, but he held the same position at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee under Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who was elected Senate minority leader on Nov. 16, 2016, making him the highest ranking Democrat in the U.S.

Before working for Schumer, Miller was communications director for the successful 2006 Senate campaign of Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

Don’t you think it would be instructive to know all this before reading Matthew Miller’s opinions?

In other words, untrustworthy news isn’t just about fake news, the media’s topic du jour.

Readers shouldn’t have to research a writer’s background on their own, as I had to do to evaluate Matthew’s credibility, because of the media’s lack of candor. But too often, media cast aside their responsibility to be forthcoming, sometimes I think deliberately, to obscure their biases.

In the end, this is all about the critical importance of the media telling what radio broadcaster Paul Harvey called ‘the rest of the story’ ”.