THE US AND THE UN: TIME TO GO OR TIME FOR A TIME-OUT?

Last month, hours before the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn the United States for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Ambassador Nikki Haley said: “I’ve often wondered why, in the face of such hostility, Israel has chosen to remain a member of this body.” An interesting question. But a better question would have been: Why has the United States chosen to remain a member of that body?Nikki Haley

It is easy to understand why the United States joined originally. The UN emerged from the World War II alliance formed to combat the Axis Powers.  On January 1, 1942, three weeks after Pearl Harbor, the United States and 25 other nations signed the “Declaration of the United Nations,” pledging to commit their full military and economic resources to defeat Germany and Japan.  During the war, 20 additional countries signed the Declaration. These 46 countries were invited to attend the San Francisco Conference in 1945, which formally established the organization.

We are now three generations removed from that genesis. During those years, the UN has metamorphosed from its original mission as a bulwark against dictatorships to a safe harbor for them. According to Freedom House, only 45% of the members of the General Assembly are full-fledged democracies. The rest range from repressive authoritarian regimes such as Russia, Iran, and China, to full blown prison camps like North Korea.

If the United States were not already a member, would it make sense for it to join the UN in its present form? Continue reading

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THIS YEAR IN JERUSALEM

The President of the United States confronted a difficult decision concerning recognition in the volatile Middle East. He was personally sympathetic to the Israeli side.  Many of his closest friends and confidantes were Jews, including some with whom he had participated in business ventures. But now his Secretary of State argued forcefully against recognition. The Secretary’s opposition was shared by almost the entire foreign policy establishment, as well as by the New York Times and the Washington Post. He was warned that if he proceeded with recognition, violence would erupt throughout the Middle East, America’s position at the United Nations would be weakened, and he himself would be accused of pandering for the Jewish vote.

Bucking the advice of his Secretary of State, the President decided in favor of recognition. The Prime Minister of Israel thanked him, and told him that his decision would earn him an immortal place in Jewish history. Jerusalem old city Western Wall with Israeli flag

These events, as recounted by Clark Clifford, occurred 70 years ago, when the President was Harry Truman, not Donald Trump; the Secretary of State was George Marshall, not Rex Tillerson; the Prime Minister was David Ben Gurion, not Benjamin Netanyahu; and the issue was recognition of the State of Israel, not recognition of its capital. With the benefit of hindsight, most would agree that Truman made the right decision in May of 1948. Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel — though almost universally condemned by the supposed experts on the region today — ultimately will also be seen as the right move. Continue reading

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JUST DESSERTS

Sometimes social change arrives slowly.

Slavery was abolished and equal protection enshrined in the Constitution in the 1860s. Yet nearly a century would pass before segregation was outlawed in public facilities, and racial equality would begin to emerge as a fact.

Sometimes social change travels fast. Thirty years ago, 57% of American adults did not approve of sexual relations, let alone marriage, between gays and lesbians. Gallup did not begin to ask respondents about same sex marriage until twenty years ago. Before then, the issue was not considered controversial enough to warrant polling. In 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act went before Congress. Section 3 of the Act declared: “The word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” It passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Two thirds of the Democratic senators and representatives voted in favor, along with nearly all Republican members. The Act became law when President Clinton signed it. At the time, Bill Clinton opposed same-sex marriage. So did his wife. So did every notable figure in both major parties.

Wedding

In 2008, when Barack Obama ran for President, he too opposed same-sex marriage, stating: I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage. He continued to oppose same-sex marriage until 2012. Hillary Clinton continued to oppose it until 2013.

That same year, 2013, the Supreme Court, in United States v. Windsor, declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, effectively ending federal bars to same-sex marriage. Two years later, in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that state laws banning same sex marriage were also unconstitutional.  Continue reading

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COMRADE DETECTIVE’S WELCOME PERSPECTIVE

Polls tell us that many Americans, particularly millennials, get their news from television comedy shows, such as Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. The same probably holds true for their knowledge of history. If that’s the case, then thank the Lord (or, in this case, thank Lenin) for Comrade Detective, the buddy-cop export from the dark side of the Iron Curtain. Though the show is a spoof, it does an astonishingly good job exposing the ideological fissures of the Cold War.

Comrade_Detective_title_card Continue reading

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LOOKING FOR TRUMP IN HENRICAN PLACES

Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 are now playing in Ashland at the famed Oregon Shakespeare Festival. These plays form half of Shakespeare’s tetralogy, tracing the careers of King Richard II; Henry of Bolingbroke, later King Henry IV; and Prince Harry, later King Henry V.

Ashland being Ashland, the two Henry IV plays boast a number of politically correct flourishes. Hotspur, that model English warrior, has become a woman, Thomas Percy’s daughter. Hotspur’s wife remains a woman; we are expected to believe that medieval England is cool with that. When Prince Harry and Ned Poins rob Falstaff’s gang, they disguise themselves by wearing Reagan and Trump masks because … well, it’s not clear why they are wearing Reagan and Trump masks but it gives the audience a chance to hoot at Reagan and Trump, which is a popular thing to do in a place like Ashland. falstaff-trump

But Shakespeare is a sturdy craft. Load it with all the trendy cargo one can muster and it still remains Shakespeare. It never fails to teach. Even without the PC touches, the Henry IV plays have much to say about our times, including our current President. Continue reading

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SPEECH KILLS: THE LATEST EXCUSE FOR CENSORSHIP

“There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them,” George Orwell famously said. We can add to that long list of lunacies a theory on freedom of speech and violence articulated by Professor Lisa Feldman Barrett, author of “How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain” in last Sunday’s New York Times.

Visiting the troublesome trend on college campuses today to protest, disinvite, and even violently remove controversial speakers, Professor Feldman maintains that the speech-suppressors have a point. Children may believe that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But Professor Feldman knows better.

…[S]cientifically speaking, it’s not that simple. Words can have a powerful effect on your nervous system. Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sick, alter your brain – even kill neurons – and shorten your life.

free-speech

Speech can shorten your life? How? Professor Feldman explains:

Your body contains little packets of genetic materials that sit on the ends of your chromosomes. They’re called telomeres. Each time your cells divide, their telomeres get a little shorter, and when they become too short, you die. This is normal aging. But guess what else shrinks your telomeres? Chronic stress.

Words that stress you out can rub you out, she maintains. Under her theory, the Middlebury mob that attacked Charles Murray and injured Allison Stanger (causing her a concussion) were not engaged in acts of unlawful violence. They were engaged in legitimate self-defense. Continue reading

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WHO IS WONDER WOMAN?

Wonder Woman continues to awe. Now in its third week of release, the movie has earned more than $500 million worldwide, surpassing superhero rivals The Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America: The Sunshine Soldier.

Despite its title, the movie’s central character is never actually called “Wonder Woman.” She is Princess Diana – or, when traveling incognito in the World of Man, Diana Prince. Whatever her name, who is this mystery woman?  [SPOILER ALERT] Continue reading

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