Reason on Campus

This week UCLA's chancellor, Gene Block, issued a strongly worded statement regarding the planned speech of a political extremist on campus.

The speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos, is a British born former Breitbart reporter who was an ardent Trump supporter with connections to the alt right. His modus operandi is to provoke and prod and generate as much notoriety as possible. He has relished campus invitations where he could rail against political correctness and minorities and bask in the controversies and confrontations that follow.

His penchant for pushing folks' hot buttons has caused him serious problems. In 2016 he was banned from Twitter for "inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse of others." In a 2016 podcast interview he defended pedophilia.

He argued that sexual relations between thirteen-year-old boys and adult men or women can 'happen perfectly consensually', because some 13-year-olds are, in his view, sexually and emotionally mature enough to consent to sex with adults; he spoke favorably both of gay 13-year-old boys having sex with adult men and straight 13-year-old boys having sex with adult women. He used his own experience as an example (Wikipedia).

Needless to say, many of his speaking engagements were cancelled, he lost his position at Breitbart and a book contract evaporated after his "unusual" views became widely known.

His plan was to address the UCLA Republicans on the topic of "10 Things I Hate about Mexico." Early this week the young Republicans voted to cancel their invitation---stating that their "leadership was polarized."

There is little doubt that Yiannopoulos was not coming to UCLA to offer a travelogue about Mexico or a thoughtful critique of Mexico's political, social or intellectual communities. Rather, he seemed intent on living up to his reputation---as the Los Angeles Times wrote this week--- a "rabble-rouser."

In the wake of the decision to cancel, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block issued the kind of statement that, in my more than four decades in the civil rights field was all too rare. A firm explanation of the university's values, an acknowledgement that the students could invite whom they want (i.e. no censorship) but that a speaker like Yiannopoulos was coming primarily to "insult, demean and spark outrage.... not to engage in reasoned discussion."

Over the course of my career I have had occasion to speak to chancellors and university presidents beseeching them to speak up when bigots, neo-Nazis, David Duke types or other intolerant extremists---left or right wing---came on campus. The aim was not to ban them but to let the campus community know how antithetical bigotry and hate were to the principles of civil debate and reasoned discourse.

More often than not, administrators were reluctant to speak up for fear of provoking a militant backlash from the rabble-rousers and their friends. One prominent university chancellor informed me, "I'm not going to comment about it if I can't prevent it from happening." An odd notion of how education and moral leadership occurs.

It is especially refreshing to see an academic leader neither accede to demands to ban unpopular speakers nor be silent in the face of extremism and bigotry. It is a very fine line to tread and Chancellor Block seems to have done it in this instance. Tolerance of differing ideas is not the antithesis of having and expressing a moral position.


Block wrote,

Free speech and intellectual debate, even when uncomfortable, are critical for thriving communities. And yet some speech, although legally protected, is intended primarily to insult, demean and spark outrage among members of our community.

Recently a student group invited an outside speaker to give a talk on campus. The title of the talk referenced what the speaker "hated" about Mexico - a country with deep ties to our city, our state and our nation. This is also a country that is an important part of the heritage of many Bruins. The expression of disdain did not appear to be an attempt to engage in reasoned discussion, but rather a move by the speaker to gain notoriety through a mean-spirited, racially tinged publicity stunt. This kind of tactic and his rhetoric are totally contrary to our values. I was grateful to learn earlier today that the sponsoring student group decided to cancel the event.

As a prominent university, we will continue to be a target for such provocateurs. I hope we will all continue to resist such provocations and further nurture our campus culture, which values ideas over hatred.

Block's letter is especially timely. Today's Wall Street Journal has no fewer than two articles (here and here) about the challenge of promoting open intellectual inquiry in today's campus environment.

 

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Community Advocates 'Very Valuable' Work

For nearly two years, Community Advocates (Joe Hicks and I) produced Kitchen Table Conversations for KCET (the then lead PBS station in LA) and its Life & Times broadcast hosted by Val Zavala. We produced nearly fifty segments in which advocates for opposing positions on tough issues would debate each other around my kitchen table.

The topics ranged from immigration to racial profiling from a border fence to a "dying middle class;" although the programs aired in 2006 and 2007 the issues seem as current today as then.

The experts ranged from Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Dan Neil to celebrated author Reza Aslan to UCLA law Professor Richard Sander, LA Times reporter Henry Weinstein to activist Najee Ali. Nearly ninety experts, all civil, articulate and well informed.

Our aim was to offer viewers an opportunity to hear experts explore a difficult issue in more than the usual soundbites offered on commercial tv during fast-paced and increasingly visually oriented newscasts. Our hope that viewers would appreciate the thoughtful discussions.

Apparently, they did.

This week a partner of Community Advocates on the public radio side of the media, Larry Mantle of Airtalk, interviewed our KCET partner, the treasured Val Zavala, on her retirement after thirty years on air at KCET. During the opening minutes of the dialogue, the following exchange occurred,

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Larry M: I have so many different highlights of things you've done over the years. Your Kitchen Table Conversations---different perspectives, left to right, really got into local issues. You hear that all the time on national stuff but to hear that on local issues; people who respected each other, who weren't yelling at each other---that's something we try to do here on Airtalk. I find that very valuable.

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Val Z: That was a wonderful chapter. That was David Lehrer of Community Advocates and Joe Hicks, God bless his soul, who passed now. We literally shot it in David's kitchen and we brought people from opposite sides and put them down and the idea was that people are honest when they are hanging out in a kitchen and so if we can create that atmosphere we can create a little bit more open and honest dialogue between different sides of various issues.

Community Advocates tried something innovative in fostering honest, engaging and vibrant debates for the public on complicated issues...and it worked. If after ten years, two of the leading broadcast journalists in Los Angeles cite those programs as "valuable...a wonderful chapter...a more open and honest dialogue"---then we succeeded.

An Evening Not to Miss

Don't miss what promises to be an informative and exciting evening----the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin in conversation with former congressman Mel Levine and former supervisor Zev Yaroslavksy.

In partnership with Jews United for Democracy and Justice (JUDJ), Temple Israel of Hollywood, Valley Beth Shalom, Stephen S. Wise Temple, and the Jewish Journal we are presenting the third in our series of no-charge Community Conversations on The Challenges of Trump's America.

Ms. Rubin is an incisive analyst, with a rapier sharp pen, whose works appears in the Washington Post and increasingly frequently on MSNBC. She is a confirmed conservative (her column is entitled the Right Turn) yet she is a leading voice in the NeverTrump movement.

Please RSVP here.

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Colorblindness Succeeds in California

Why reopen the affirmative action debate, when the current system is working for everyone?

The Wall Street Journal                                                                                  January 22, 2018

For 40 years, the debate over “affirmative action” in college admissions has seemed to play on loop. Each side airs the same arguments over and over, with the same passion. Yet there is ample evidence that what actually works to move disadvantaged students up the socioeconomic ladder is the colorblind admissions system in California’s public universities.

The affirmative-action debate ignited with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1978 decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. The justices ruled that explicit quotas—setting aside a certain number of seats for students of different races—were unconstitutional, but they allowed schools to take race into account as one factor in admissions. (I co-wrote a friend-of-the-court brief on Allan Bakke’s side when the case was before the state Supreme Court.)

 

In 1996 voters approved Proposition 209, an amendment to the California Constitution: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.” Because of Proposition 209, California’s public universities have used colorblind admissions for two decades, although they actively consider applicants’ socioeconomic status.

The results have been a stunning success. Last year the Equality of Opportunity Project conducted a nationwide longitudinal study to find which colleges were doing the most to help poor students succeed. Of the top 10 ranked, five were California public schools. Among America’s elite colleges, the University of California, Los Angeles, enrolled the highest share of low- and middle-income students (19%). In the University of California system, 43% of the freshman class admitted in 2016 were the first in their families to attend college, and 37% had family incomes under $47,200 a year.

 

This colorblind admission system nonetheless produces college classrooms that are a fairly accurate cross-section of California’s racial and ethnic diversity. In 2017 admitted freshmen throughout the UC system were 34% Asian, 33% Latino, 24% white and 5% African-American. In the Cal State system, the figures were 47% Latino, 20% white, 16% Asian and Filipino, and 4% African-American.

For comparison, California’s high-school seniors are 52% Latino, 24% white, 11% Asian and Filipino, and 6% African-American. And of course not all seniors qualify for admission to a university, let alone the UC system.

These figures for minority admissions in the UC schools exceed many of the targets they had set before Proposition 209. Since 1996, Latinos as a share of enrollment have grown from 14% to 33%, Asians from 28% to 34%, and African-Americans from 4% to 5%. Whites have declined from 41% to 24%.

This diversity has been achieved while maintaining the quality of California’s public universities. The latest college rankings from U.S. News & World Report list UCLA and UC Berkeley as tied for the top public school in the country. Four other UCs (Santa Barbara, Irvine, San Diego and Davis) are among the top dozen.

These results should be heralded far and wide, but there is an almost willful resistance to examining the data. In the California Legislature, the Latino and black legislative caucuses sent a letter to 2018 gubernatorial candidates asking them to say whether they think race should again be considered in college admissions—a result that could be achieved only by repealing Proposition 209. Three of the leading candidates endorsed the idea.

A campaign to reinstate affirmative action would inject an incendiary racial element into this year’s election. Other than riling up the caucuses’ political bases, there is no compelling argument for seeking to resurrect racial and ethnic preferences. The push is guaranteed to split the Democratic Party—not to mention the public—and generate a needless and divisive debate. Today’s colorblind system is working well for all Californians—rich and poor, minority and white—and is a model for the rest of the country.

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Bigotry in Context---The Dangers of Trump

The media "sh*tstorm" is perpetual. Donald Trump has managed to suck up the media oxygen virtually 24/7. If it isn't his "sh*thole" comments about much of Africa, Haiti and El Salvador, it's his tweets about compromises in Congress or his unrelenting dismissal of opponents with derisive diminutives.

The media has little choice but to report, analyze and comment on the daily distractions. What the media should do, but usually don't, is put Trump's actions and words into perspective. Admittedly, there is little precedent for the narcissistic self-aggrandizing occupant of the White House---what president has come close to his performance and personality? Historians suggest that he is truly sui generis. But an effort should be made to educate Americans as to what might transpire were his prescriptions to be enacted. 

There are historic precedents for the kind of jingoistic, ethnocentric bigotry that has emanated from this administration regarding immigration and its implications---short term and long term---are pretty ugly.

For starters, we should all be reminded----as the Bible admonishes----to never forget from whence we come, "remember that you were slaves in Egypt"(Deuteronomy 15:15).  

We were almost all immigrants at one point in the not too distant past. The kind of hostility and simple-mindedness that Trump (and his attorney general) have demonstrated should chill every thinking American. But the impact is attenuated by the historic ignorance that abounds.

A partial curative emerged today from one of the bulliest pulpits in the land short of the White House---The New York Times. Bret Stephens, the Times' Pulitzer Prize winning columnist has a brilliant column reminding us all that bigotry, fear, lies and distortions are nothing new in the immigration debate. In fact, virtually every one of the "America First" tactics of the Trump administration has been employed before against different sets of immigrants---what's new is the administration's ability to reach tens of millions with their hate and lies.

The target cohort that Stephens chose as an example of historically similar nativism is Jewish immigrants to the US of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  

Not unlike today's targets (El Salvadorans, Iranians, Haitians, et al.) Jews were decried as purveyors of crime (the NYPD police commissioner falsely asserted that half of all

crime in New York City was committed by Jews); Jews were viewed as socially undesirable ("social discards") as compared to northern Europeans (sound familiar?); Jews were attacked as "moral cripples" "reeking of the ghetto" who were unprepared for citizenship, and on and on.

The list of accusations from a century ago is extensive and the ring of familiarity is chilling. What Stephens brilliantly does is ask the question, what if the bigots had prevailed? What would America be missing if those of supposed "genetic inferiority" had been denied admission, if the restrictionists had prevailed?

A question that our historical perspective allows us to answer. A media bound to today's headlines can't ask what would America be missing if we pulled up the gangplanks and closed our ports of entry. We have only history as a guide, and it suggests that Trump's ethnocentric fears are insidious foolishness.  

Yet imagine if the United States had followed the advice of the immigration restrictionists in the late 19th century and banned Jewish immigrants, at least from Central Europe and Russia, on what they perceived to be some genetic inferiority. What, in terms of enterprise, genius, imagination, and philanthropy would have been lost to America as a country? And what, in terms of human tragedy, would have ultimately weighed on our conscience?

Today, American Jews are widely considered the model minority, so thoroughly assimilated that organizational Jewish energies are now largely devoted to protecting our religious and cultural distinctiveness. Someone might ask Jeff Sessions and other eternal bigots what makes an El Salvadoran, Iranian or Haitian any different.   

Stephens' piece is powerful and right on target. Today's bigots see the world through their distorted prism, it takes reason, logic and some historical context to counteract their warping of reality.  

Bravo Bret, an important piece that should be mandatory reading in every home in America! 

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Despite a Year of Anxiety, a Note of Hope

 

BY DAVID A. LEHRER | PUBLISHED DEC 20, 2017 | OPINION

 

 

 

As 2017 comes to a close, the weariness and exhaustion generated by the Donald Trump presidency seem everywhere. Dinner conversations inevitably come around to dreary discussions of Trump’s latest tweets, his disregard for democratic norms or his fantasyland distortion of demonstrable facts. Family gatherings have a pall cast over them as people contemplate three more years of disarray and mendacity.

It is easy to be depressed and assume the achievements of past decades — under both Democratic and Republican administrations — on issues of tolerance and intergroup relations are being undone by a president who has no shame in targeting minorities and the most vulnerable in overt, insensitive and mocking ways.

Despite Trump, I remain hopeful that, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. observed, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” If one steps back a bit, it seems that America has banked enough goodwill and broadly inculcated notions of tolerance that the body politic can withstand the fevered emanations from the Oval Office.

The vote in Alabama is one indication that even in the reddest of states, Trump’s act is wearing thin. His disdain for the norms of modern American modes of conduct helped sink the Roy Moore candidacy. Despite Trump’s entreaties, some 350,000 to 400,000 Alabama evangelicals did not show up at the polls this month to support Judge Moore in his bid for the Senate.

Evangelicals are the core of Trump’s support. If they are seeing through his pseudo-religious veneer, many others will, as well.

Despite his distancing of himself and his office from minority groups and his assault on them during his campaign and since his election, Americans haven’t forgotten what work remains on the intergroup front.

In summarizing a recent poll, the Pew Research Center said that “growing shares of the public say more needs to be done to address racial equality and see discrimination against Blacks as an impediment to this.”

Sixty-one percent of the public (81 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Republicans) say the country needs to continue making changes to give Blacks equal rights with whites. Support for that proposition among Democrats is at a high mark since 2010 and within 3 points of the Republican high of support from 2015. The Trump effect hasn’t blinded Americans to the work that remains.

Even on the local level, racial groups get along, despite the Trump effect. A study earlier this year by the Center for the Study of Los Angeles found that 76 percent of Angelenos believe that “racial groups in Los Angeles are getting along well.” That compares with 37 percent in 1997 (five years after the riots), 48 percent in 2007, and 72 percent in 2012. Angelenos have equaled the most positive assessment of race relations at any point in the last 25 years.

In terms of particular groups in L.A., African-Americans think we are getting along “well or somewhat well” at 73 percent, Asians at 79 percent, whites at 81 percent and Latinos at 72 percent.

The barrage of bad news is rarely contextualized and set in its historic context.

These findings, though taken early in the Trump presidency, suggest that groups can distinguish between the rhetoric of a president who cares not a whit about whom he ostracizes, condemns or harms and the real world. They have figured out that their lives are independent of the show in Washington, D.C. Even Latinos, a particular target of Trump, have a positive assessment (at 72 percent) of how we are getting along in L.A.

On a more global scale, there is reason for optimism. In a post-Trump election interview posted on Vox, Harvard’s Steven Pinker (author of “The Better Angels of Our Nature”) warned about getting too concerned with the headlines of the day and the media’s “given wisdom.” The fact is that well-established trends and attitudes transcend the vagaries of one election.

“More generally,” Pinker said, “the worldwide, decadeslong current toward racial tolerance is too strong to be undone by one man. Public opinion polls in almost every country show steady declines in racial and religious prejudice — and more importantly for the future, that younger are less prejudiced than older ones. As my own cohort of baby boomers (who helped elect Trump) dies off and is replaced by millennials (who rejected him in droves), the world will become more tolerant.

“It’s not just that people are increasingly disagreeing with intolerant statements when asked by pollsters, which could be driven by a taboo against explicit racism. [Seth] Stephens-Davidowitz has shown that Google searches for racist jokes
and organizations are sensitive indicators of private racism. They have declined steadily over the past dozen years, and they are more popular in older than younger cohorts.”

If you want to see the dark clouds on the horizon, there are plenty. The next three years will continue to be very rocky. The nightly news will stream awful stories and troubling facts. Yet, the barrage of bad news is rarely contextualized and set in its historic context. By most measures we and the world are doing better than we ever have, if not as well as we might.

David A. Lehrer is president of Community Advocates Inc., which is chaired by former Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan.

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The Moment of Truth—No More Excuses

 

While pundits debate whether the president is truly unhinged or playing a wily game of diversion, there is one realm in which the jury of rational thought has returned its verdict— Trump is a manifest threat to our norms of civil conduct and the values thatsafeguard minorities.

In his unrelenting sanitizing and elevating of bigots and extremists and his repeated racially and ethnically stereotypic comments and musings he has shown that he simply doesn’t understand or care that what he often says or does provides aid and comfort to hate and haters.

Those deplorable traits were on shocking display this week.

As one who has monitored and countered extremists and hate organizations for over forty years (from Gerald L. K. Smith in the 70s, to David Duke and the Klan to Louis Farrakhan) I can assert from personal knowledge that there has been no one in the White House in recent history that has been so willfully blind to or purposefully encouraging of haters and the causes that bigots pursue.

Unlike any president in recent history, he has blurred what has been a clear demarcation between political flamethrowers/ bigots and those who were within the accepted political lexicon of what was increasingly more tolerant America.

Over the past fifty years, in almost every instance of political extremism, rank lies, and the targeting of minorities the purveyors have been ostracized and made pariahs by our political and societal leadership. From Klan Grand Dragon Duke running for the Senate in Louisiana (as a Republican) to Klansman Tom Metzger running for theAssembly (as a Democrat) in California to Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz opining on African Americans to countless others in the public eye (e.g. Michael Richardsand Mel Gibson) who made comments that even hinted at racial, religious or ethnic animus—they were shunted aside swiftly, and as a matter of course, by leaders and opinion molders at every level.

But with Donald Trump all bets are off.

He is tone deaf to bigotry, how else to explain using a racist term ABOUT Native Americans while ostensibly honoring World War II Native American heroes-–in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson no less. He didn’t get it or he didn’t care or he was dog-whistling to his base, either explanation is unacceptable and deplorable.

He cares not one wit about whether he legitimizes haters and promotes messages that are not so subtle calls for violence and bigotry. How else to explain his tweeting crazy, incendiary anti-Muslim videos this week that originated with foreign neo-fascistgroups. Outfits that crave the “legitimacy” and attention that comes from being cited by the president of the United States? When called out by British PM Teresa May for his bizarre tweet (“wrong,” she wrote) he doubled down and admonished her (“don’t focus on me”) for daring to criticize his conduct. He can’t be shamed, not even by our closest ally.

This week his pathological need for praise led him to tweet about a website (magapill.com) that had lauded his record as president but is also the home to bizarre conspiracy theories that include “Luciferian rituals”, the Knights Templar and Jesuits. According to the website, the conspiracies are run by “Overlords” from “Bloodline Families” including the aristocracy and royalty, the papacy, and the banking families, etc. —dog whistles that are manifestly crazy and potentially incendiary.

There was a brief period of time in which one might have made excuses for Trump—he wasn’t a politician, he didn’t quite get what being a candidate for president (much less president) was all about, he was hooked on Twitter and got (gets) carried away. But the time of accepting rationalizations for the abnormal and inflammatory is over.

There simply is no legitimate explanation for his bigotry, his invoking and publicizing haters and his inability to perceive or care about the impact of his words.

There are debates to be had about taxes, Obamacare, policies towards North Korea, etc. There is no legitimate debate to be entered into about sanctioning and tacitly endorsing bigots and bigotry—that ship sailed decades ago.

Decent people—Republicans, Democrats and independents—have an obligation to distance themselves from this bigot and make clear that this conduct must end.

He is a dangerous, unhinged man with awesome power who can do serious damage to civility, tolerance, acceptance and diversity in our society. His conduct is insidious and corrosive of the accomplishments of generations of well-intentioned leaders and civil rights advocates—it is, simply put, intolerable.

THE CHALLENGES OF TRUMP'S AMERICA

BY RYAN TOROK 

THE JEWISH JOURNAL  PUBLISHED OCT 12, 2017

MOVING & SHAKING

Political pundits David Frum and Peter Beinart participated in “The Challenges of Trump’s America,” a panel discussion held Sept. 26 at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino and moderated by Rabbi Ed Feinstein.

Frum, senior editor at The Atlantic, spoke about the intense reaction he has received for his prediction that Trump would lose the presidential election and the importance of political involvement to create change. His forthcoming book, “Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic,” focuses on “Trump as a system of power.”

“Donald Trump as a personality is a combination of the disappointing, the dysfunctional, but he is just one man,” Frum said. “The United States is a giant bureaucratic state with all kinds of checks and balances and rules and regulations, and the question is, how much harm can one man do? The question isn’t to ask, who is he? … The question is, what happened around him? How is this system of power possible in a constitutional republic, and how is it enabling it?”

Beinart, a contributor to The Atlantic, a senior columnist at The Forward and a CNN political commentator, discussed the impact of Trump’s presidency nationally and internationally.

“It is very significant that Donald Trump is the first American president since the 1990s who does not publicly support the two-state solution … and has therefore liberated [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu to no longer publicly support the two-state solution, either,” Beinart said. “That, I believe, is going to have profound long-term implications. Once we permanently foreclose the possibility [for] millions of Palestinians who live in the West Bank under Israeli control but without citizenship and democratic rights, we have planted a bomb underneath the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state.”

Beinart called out Trump for bigotry and asked for unity among Jews and Muslims in the wake of rising prejudice.

“The anti-Semitism is frightening, but we have to be careful not to become narcissists,” he said. “The anti-Semitism that is rising does not have powerful members of the White House and of the United States Congress egging it on. The anti-Muslim bigotry that is emerging in the Trump era is entirely different than the anti-Semitism cause; it has the active support of some of the most powerful politicians in the United States. [Trump] goes after soft targets; we are not a soft target. Muslims are a soft target, and that’s why we must stand for them.”

Frum ended the presentation on a lighter note, emphasizing the importance of being proactive.

“I’m not an optimist by nature, but I’m determined in the Trump years to be an optimist by conviction,” he said. “The thing I resent about the question ‘What do you think will happen?’ is that it makes me a spectator. I’m a citizen and a participant and I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know what I’m going to do.”

— Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

Rabbi Marvin Hier, Alex Jones and Donald Trump

THE JEWISH JOURNAL OP/ED PUBLISHED FEB 24, 2017

The month since Trump’s inauguration has been fascinating. One can watch “leaders” of the Jewish community engage in cost-benefit analyses to determine whether they should embrace, ignore or condemn Donald Trump as he bungles his way forward.

On the national scene, it appears that the ranks of the courageous have been led by the Anti-Defamation League’s (my former employer) Jonathan Greenblatt. He has shown no patience for the insensitive acts, attitudes, and language of the Trump folks regarding Muslims, African Americans and Jews. He has calculated that being honest with his constituents outweighs having briefings by machers in the administration or headline speakers at fundraising dinners.

He must also have concluded that objecting to Trump’s vulgarity is not outweighed by the influence he might hope to have on administration Middle East policy in the 3 years and 11 months ahead. He rightly concluded that ADL would just be window dressing in a White House that is unlike any other with its “global nationalist” agenda.

On the other hand, there are the Jewish organizations who have managed to rationalize Trump’s domestic malfeasance and extremism with the apparent hope that they will retain access and influence with the crafters of America’s Middle East policy. They have sold out their domestic principles in the hope that they will be able to assist Prime Minister Netanyahu.

As columnist Bret Stephens noted in Time Magazine, about his conservative colleagues who sidle up to Trump and his folks,

This is supposed to be the road of pragmatism, of turning lemons into lemonade. I would counter that it’s the road of ignominy, of hitching a ride with a drunk driver.    

Among the ride hitchers are Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The Center is ostensibly concerned with civil rights and our domestic agenda but it can’t admit the Trump connection to extremism and bigotry.

When the White House proclamation on Holocaust Remembrance Day failed to mention Jews, Rabbi Hier facilely excused the egregious omission as a “rookie mistake.”

When issues arose about Trump’s repeated failure to condemn anti-Semitism, Hier was uncharacteristically mild, “he’s made a couple of mistakes…he should have spoken up sooner.”

Those of use familiar with the Wiesenthal Center know that vigorously opining on anything that even hints at anti-Semitism is what the Center is best at. They have no compunction about claiming that anti-Semitism is alive and well (see my op/ed here).

This week I authored an op/ed in the Los Angeles Times opining that Trump’s “too little, too late” condemnation of anti-Semitism doesn’t begin to deal his “world view and conduct [which] are the swamp from which bigotry and hate emerge.” Afterwards, I was interviewed by KNX Radio.

The broadcast piece had Rabbi Hier as the counterpoint offering that “it’s ridiculous to postulate the notion that Trump is an anti-Semite.” After all “he loves his daughter who is a convert to Judaism and his son-in-law who is an Orthodox Jew….”

Of course, that was a feint. Neither my Times piece nor responsible critics have alleged that Trump personally is “anti-Semitic;” perhaps his psychiatrist and his confessor know what he really believes, but for the rest of us, his actions and attitudes are what matter, not his subconscious.

By his actions and words he has reflected an indisputable hostility towards Muslims, Latinos, immigrants, and, as of this week, segments of the LGBT community. And that same hostility is a threat to Jews—-intolerance against one group tends to be reflected in bigoted views towards others—-the cognitive tools of tolerance are absent. As the noted historian of anti-Semitism, James Carroll, wrote in The New Yorker this week about Trump and the link between bigotries,

In fact, our temperamental President is bigotry’s cliché. Even the cult of white supremacy on which his movement depends has its origins, too, in the positive-negative structure of the Western imagination, a structure erected in the first place to keep Jews in their place 

Trump’s greatest danger lies not in his endorsing American pogroms or venal hate, but in his tolerating and advancing those who do.

He has demonstrated a disturbing inability, or unwillingness, to distinguish between acceptable, rational political discourse and hate and extremism. While he unhesitatingly attacks the media as “the enemy of the American people” he has no compunction about normalizing, sanitizing, praising and hiring bigots and extremists—-apparently they are NOT the enemy of the people.

One of his “buddies” is an internet troll who is manifestly unhinged, Alex Jones. A vile extremist who proudly proclaims that he speaks on the phone to Trump and hopes to soon have White House press credentials is [according to The New York Times] the conspiracy-theorizing, flame-throwing nationalistic radio and internet star who’s best known for suggesting that Sept. 11 was an inside job, that the Sandy Hook school shooting was “completely fake”….. 

His nuttiness, as one might expect, spills over into anti-Semitism: “Cause let me tell you, the Emanuels [Rahm, Ari, et al.] are mafia. And you know I was thinking, they’re always trying to claim that if I talk about world government and corruption I’m anti-Semitic, …..it’s not that Jews are bad, it’s just they are the head of the Jewish mafia in the United States. They run Uber, they run the health care, they’re going to scam you, they’re going to hurt you.

…..I mean it’s like, if being against Jews that are weirdo Nazi collaborators and gangsters makes me anti-Semitic then fine.. [Emphasis added]”

Any politician with an ounce of sophistication, let alone the president of the United States, would steer clear of anyone with Jones’ record and reputation. But Trump has appeared on Jones’ radio program and commented that, “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.” As noted above, Trump talks to Jones periodically; he doesn’t find Jones’ abhorrent views disqualifying.

Trump also has on his staff as a deputy assistant, Sebastian Gorka, who, when he lived in Hungary (from 2002-2007), had “close ties to Hungarian far right circles, and in the past has chosen to work with openly racist and anti-Semitic groups and public figures.” He proudly wore the lapel pin of the Nazi collaborationist regime that ruled Hungary during the Holocaust to a Trump inaugural ball. He has termed recent criticism of the White House omission of Jews from their Holocaust remembrance declaration “asinine.”

The president is clearly unable or unwilling to distinguish between normal political actors and flame throwing bigots and extremists who fertilize the agar of hate. He has hired extremists and consorts with crazies and in the process legitimizes bigotry and radicals.

Rabbi Hier notwithstanding, whether Trump’s daughter or son-in-law are Orthodox Jews, devout Presbyterians or atheists doesn’t alter the fact that Trump’s inability to parse haters and extremists from mainstream political discourse is a threat to our democracy. That distinction is what makes American democracy so durable, the extremists remain isolated and ostracized on the fringes. To the extent that they are legitimized, they poison our politics.

Rabbi Hier’s museum documents the rise of extremism in Nazi Germany, he ought to know that those who consort with bigots and extremists become their facilitators and virtually indistinguishable from them.

David Lehrer co-founded Community Advocates, Inc. after 17 years as Director of the Pacific Southwest Region of the Anti-Defamation League, where he served as counsel for 11 years prior.

Impressive Successes in Moving Up the Poor

THE JEWISH JOURNAL OP/ED PUBLISHED Jan 21, 2017

President Trump continued promoting his dystopian vision of America in his inaugural speech on Friday,

The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

…..Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation, an education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge. And the crime, and the gangs, and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

At least on one front, education, his vision of the poor being left behind and “trapped” with few avenues for upward mobility is being disproved by data that are just emerging.

This blog has written (and published op/eds) numerous times about the success that many of California’s universities—public and private—have had in admitting, nurturing and graduating socio-economically disadvantaged young people (Trump’s “struggling families”). The data that we didn’t have was how these students did after they graduated—was a college education a vehicle for upward mobility, or a salve for guilty consciences?

Well, the answer seems to be that a college education is changing the direction of kids’ lives and fortunes—especially poor kids. This Sunday’s New York Times will have a column by David Leonhardt in which he analyzes a study just published by The Equality of Opportunity Project with professors from Stanford, Brown and Harvard. They gathered data from virtually every college in America (including data on kids who didn’t graduate) and looked at the socio-economic status of admits when entering the university and their earnings after college. The study found that “working class colleges” are,

deeply impressive institutions that continue to push many Americans into the middle class and beyond – many more, in fact, than elite colleges that receive far more attention.

To take just one encouraging statistic: At City College, in Manhattan, 76 percent of students who enrolled in the late 1990s and came from families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution have ended up in the top three-fifths of the distribution. These students entered college poor. They left on their way to the middle class and often the upper middle class.

The successes that the study chronicled, and Leonhardt reported on, are nationally based. But in California, in general, and Los Angeles County, in particular, the success and accessibility of elite universities and “working class” colleges is truly jaw-dropping. Our institutions are doing an impressive job of moving the disadvantaged up the ladder.

UCLA stands out as the model of accessibility and mobility. Its median parent income is the lowest among the nation’s elite universities ($104,900) while its percentage of poor students (i.e. coming from families that make $20,000/year or less) is the highest in the country. And perhaps the key measure—it ranked number one among 63 elite universities in the “overall mobility index“—the likelihood that a student will “move up two or more income quintiles” after leaving college. It does all this while avoiding racial and ethnic preferences and maintaining its status as a world class academic institution with an international reputation.

Not to be outdone, USC is ranked 4th nationally among elite universities in the “overall mobility index.”

If a student doesn’t qualify for a UCLA or a USC, there are in California—and especially in LA County—multiple alternative opportunities for moving up. The study found that the Cal State Universities in Los Angeles County alone advance more students from the bottom fifth of income distribution to the top three fifths of earners than all the Ivies, University of Chicago, Duke, MIT and Stanford combined. The Cal States in LA County moved up 1,531 students from the class born in 1980, while the Ivies plus moved up 535.

Cal State LA is among the most successful colleges of all kinds nationwide in moving students from the bottom forty percent of earners to the top forty percent of earners, while Glendale Community College had among the highest upward mobility rates of any school in the country—no matter the school’s ranking.

The significant fly in the ointment, and the irony of President Trump bemoaning the “young and beautiful” being deprived of knowledge, is that public institutions of higher education are being funded less and less. As Leonhardt points out, “state funding for higher education has plummeted. It’s down 18 percent per student, adjusted for inflation, since 2008.”

We’ll soon see how much he truly cares about “the struggling families all across our land” and “the mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities” when offered evidence that they can move up the ladder of economic success but it won’t happen without funds to maintain and sustain those “ladders” across the country.

A Failure to Speak Up----and Its Consequences

THE WIDE ANGLE BLOG PUBLISHED Feb 24, 2017

The month since Trump’s inauguration has been fascinating. One can watch “leaders” of the Jewish community engage in cost-benefit analyses to determine whether they should embrace, ignore or condemn Donald Trump as he bungles his way forward.

On the national scene, it appears that the ranks of the courageous have been led by the Anti-Defamation League’s (my former employer) Jonathan Greenblatt. He has shown no patience for the insensitive acts, attitudes, and language of the Trump folks regarding Muslims, African Americans and Jews. He has calculated that being honest with his constituents outweighs having briefings by machers in the administration or headline speakers at fundraising dinners.

On the other hand, there are the Jewish organizations who have managed to rationalize Trump’s domestic malfeasance and extremism with the apparent hope that they will retain access and influence with the crafters of America’s Middle East policy. They have sold out their domestic principles in the hope that they will be able to assist Prime Minister Netanyahu.

As columnist Bret Stephens noted in Time Magazine, about his conservative colleagues who sidle up to Trump and his folks,

This is supposed to be the road of pragmatism, of turning lemons into lemonade. I would counter that it’s the road of ignominy, of hitching a ride with a drunk driver.

Among the hitch hikers are Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The Center is ostensibly concerned with civil rights and “tolerance” but it can’t admit the Trump connection to extremism and bigotry which endangers both civil rights and tolerance.

When the White House proclamation on Holocaust Remembrance Day failed to mention Jews, Rabbi Hier facilely excused the egregious omission as a “rookie mistake.”

When issues arose about Trump’s repeated failure to condemn anti-Semitism, Hier was uncharacteristically mild, “he’s made a couple of mistakes…he should have spoken up sooner.”

Those of us familiar with the Wiesenthal Center know that vigorously opining on anything that even hints at anti-Semitism is what the Center does best. They have no compunction about claiming that anti-Semitism is alive and well even without evidence (see my op/ed here).

This week I authored an op/ed in the Los Angeles Times commenting that Trump’s “too little, too late” condemnation of anti-Semitism doesn’t begin to deal his “world view and conduct [which] are the swamp from which bigotry and hate emerge.” Afterwards, I was interviewed by KNX Radio.

The broadcast piece had Rabbi Hier as the counterpoint opining that “it’s ridiculous to postulate the notion that Trump is an anti-Semite.” After all “he loves his daughter who is a convert to Judaism and his son-in-law who is an Orthodox Jew….” Some of Trump’s best friends……

Of course, that was a feint. Neither my Times piece nor responsible critics have alleged that Trump personally is “anti-Semitic;” who knows other than his psychiatrist and his confessor. His actions and attitudes are what matter, not his subconscious.

By his actions and words he has reflected an indisputable hostility towards Muslims, Latinos, immigrants, and, as of this week, segments of the LGBT community. And that same hostility is a threat to Jews and the republic. The noted historian of anti-Semitism, James Carroll, wrote in The New Yorker this week about Trump and the link between bigotries, “In fact, our temperamental President is bigotry’s cliché. Even the cult of white supremacy on which his movement depends has its origins, too, in the positive-negative structure of the Western imagination, a structure erected in the first place to keep Jews in their place.”

Trump’s greatest danger lies not in his endorsing American pogroms or venal hate, but in his tolerating, cleansing and advancing those who do.

He has demonstrated a disturbing inability, or unwillingness, to distinguish between acceptable, rational political discourse and extremism. While he unhesitatingly attacks the media as “the enemy of the American people” he has no compunction about praising, normalizing, sanitizing, and hiring bigots and extremists—-in his view THEY are NOT the enemy of the people.

One of his buddies is an internet troll who is manifestly unhinged, Alex Jones. He is a vile extremist who proudly proclaims that he speaks on the phone to Trump and hopes to soon have White House press credentials. He insists, as The New Yorker reported, “that national tragedies such as the September 11th terror attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Sandy Hook elementary-school shooting, and the Boston Marathon bombing were all inside jobs, “false flag” ops secretly perpetrated by the government to increase its tyrannical power (and, in some cases, seize guns). Jones believes that no one was actually hurt at Sandy Hook-those were actors-and that the Apollo 11 moon-landing footage was faked. [Emphasis added]

His screwiness, as one might expect, spills over into anti-Semitism,

Cause let me tell you, the Emanuels [Rahm, Ari, et al.] are mafia. And you know I was thinking, they’re always trying to claim that if I talk about world government and corruption I’m anti-Semitic, …..it’s not that Jews are bad, it’s just they are the head of the Jewish mafia in the United States. They run Uber, they run the health care, they’re going to scam you, they’re going to hurt you.…..I mean it’s like, if being against Jews that are weirdo Nazi collaborators and gangsters makes me anti-Semitic then fine…” [Emphasis added]

Any politician with an ounce of sophistication, let alone the president of the United States, would steer clear of anyone with Jones’ record and reputation. But Trump has appeared on Jones’ radio program [in 2015] and commented that, “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.” More disturbingly, as president, Trump continues to talk to Jones; he doesn’t find Jones’ abhorrent views toxic.

Trump also has on his staff as a deputy assistant, Sebastian Gorka, who, when he lived in Hungary (from 2002-2007), had “close ties to Hungarian far right circles, and in the past has chosen to work with openly racist and anti-Semitic groups and public figures.” He proudly wore to an inaugural ball the lapel pin of the Nazi collaborationist regime that ruled Hungary during the Holocaust. He has termed recent criticism of the White House omission of Jews from their Holocaust remembrance declaration “asinine.”

The president is clearly unable, or unwilling, to distinguish between normal political actors and flame throwing bigots and extremists who fertilize the agar of hate. He has hired extremists, consorts with crazies, and, in the process, legitimizes bigotry and radicals.

Rabbi Hier notwithstanding, whether Trump’s daughter or son-in-law are Orthodox Jews, devout Presbyterians or atheists doesn’t alter the fact that Trump doesn’t parse haters and extremists from mainstream political actors and our common discourse. That is a threat to our democracy. That distinction is what makes American democracy so durable, the extremists remain isolated and ostracized on the fringes. To the extent that they are legitimized, they are poisoning our politics.

Rabbi Hier’s museum documents the rise of Nazism in Germany, he ought to know that those who consort with bigots and extremists become their facilitators and virtually indistinguishable from them.

Trump's Too Little, Too Late Response to Anti-Semitism

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES PUBLISHED  February 21, 2017

By David A. Lehrer    

The headlines blared out “Trump Speaks Out Against Anti-Semitism” as President Trump condemned anti-Semitism after touring the National Museum of African American History and Culture Tuesday. 

This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms. The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.

Undoubtedly, some Jewish and civil rights organizations will praise Trump for his long-awaited statement. The fact that “it was like pulling teeth” [as The Washington Post noted] to “finally” elicit a condemnation that should be about the easiest thing a politician has to do, makes it nearly meaningless.

The issue is not whether Trump is an anti-Semite or is capable of mouthing a boilerplate rejection of hate--that is simply too low a bar. It should be the minimum expected of a leader in 21st century America. Who but vulgar extremists and bigots would publicly take him to task for denouncing anti-Semitism?

The real issue with Trump is that his world view and his conduct are the swamp from which bigotry and hate emerge.

The president has scurrilously attacked the media. He relies on baseless internet conspiracy theorists (e.g. Breitbart and Alex Jones) for his most bizarre assertions. He shamelessly cites apocryphal dangers (“rising crime rates” domestically, “rapist” immigrants here and abroad, Muslim demonstrators on 9/11).

Trump continually stereotypes individuals (the African American reporter who “must” know the Congressional Black Caucus members; the Orthodox Jewish reporter who was assumed to be asking a hostile question last week). He betrays a deep lack of intellectual rigor (“well that’s what they told me” in responding to his erroneous claim of a “historic” electoral college victory). He trumpets themes that invoke historic bigotries (“America First”) and omits a mention of Jews from his Holocaust Remembrance Day declaration. In all this, he gives aid and comfort to haters and wackos. 

None of this can be ameliorated by his seemingly sudden epiphany that anti-Semitism is “painful” and “sad.” His chief strategist and senior counselor, Steven K. Bannon, the former Breitbart News head, made a career out of similar distortions and lies. If Bannon’s self-proclaimed goal remains “to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today's establishment,” he’s more than willing to have Trump briefly bow in the direction of civility and then go on his merry way to undermine the mores that have become the hallmark of American presidents over recent decades--tolerance, care in use of language and respectful and accurate discourse.

We have truly reached a nadir of lowered expectations if Trump’s trite condemnation of anti-Semitism is allowed to sanitize his tawdry record of employing the tools and methodology of haters--that is what would be “horrible and painful.”    

Leaking, Whistleblowing and the Truth---an expert's gude

 THE SACRAMENTO BEE PUBLISHED  July 19, 2017

BY LEO WOLINSKY

Mark Felt may be the most famous leaker in modern U.S. history.

Better known as “Deep Throat,” the FBI’s second in command secretly met with then-little-known Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and gave insider guidance to the scandal that threw Richard Nixon from power.

History has deemed Felt a great whistleblower for helping expose dirty tricks, secret surveillance and cover-ups that let an elected president operate above the law and threatened the country’s democratic institutions.

Yet as the scandal blossomed, White House associates painted the shadowy source as a disloyal “leaker” who, rather than support the president’s agenda, undermined Nixon for personal reasons. Sound familiar?

A similar debate is swirling around Donald Trump’s White House, amid an expanding probe into whether his campaign worked with the Russians to influence the presidential election. Much of what is known publicly has come from so-called leaks – information provided surreptitiously, in some cases from within Trump’s own camp.

Are these leakers heroes or villains? In my view, as an editor who has spent years wrestling with this issue, it’s a distinction without a difference.

Everyone who provides information to the press has a motive. The “whistleblowers” look to expose wrongdoing in hopes of stopping it. The “leakers” may have more selfish motives – jealousy, revenge, taking down a competitor. Either way, leaks have illuminated major problems in government and business – many of which would never come to light.

Journalists, unlike the leakers, have a duty to verify the information before publishing. They also have to determine if it’s in context, if it’s important for public understanding and if it will endanger lives.

The best news outlets have acted responsibly. In 2005, for example, The New York Times delayed publishing revelations that President George W. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to conduct domestic eavesdropping. The Bush administration pleaded that release of the information would jeopardize investigations and alert terrorists who were under scrutiny.

When the article ran after a year’s delay, The Times omitted details that Bush officials claimed could aid terrorists. Such care is challenged in the new media landscape.

Today, journalism rules are being rewritten amid intense competition for news breaks and the rise of news sites that eschew media’s traditional role as a “gatekeeper.” BuzzFeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith defended the publication of the full text of a dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent on Trump, saying modern journalists must sometimes publish “unverified information in a transparent way.” The decision was roundly criticized.

During the recent congressional hearings into the Trump campaign’s Russia connections, Democrats have generally praised the “whistleblowers” and probed the implications of the information they revealed. Trump has hurled personal insults, and Republicans, anxious to provide cover for their president, have largely downplayed the substance of the leaks to call for action against “leakers.”

Such hypocrisy is not exclusive to the GOP: Democrats reacted to the leaked emails from Hillary Clinton’s brain-trust by excoriating the leakers. Meanwhile, Republicans reveled and Trump asked the presumed Russian leakers to bring it on.

As hearings resume and leaks undoubtedly accelerate, an informed electorate must understand the cynical game that’s being played. Feel free to criticize the messenger. But pause and think before dismissing the message.

WOLINSKY IS A FORMER EXECUTIVE EDITOR AND MANAGING EDITOR OF THE LOS ANGELES TIMES. HE DIRECTED PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING TEAMS COVERING THE 1992 LOS ANGELES RIOTS AND 1994 NORTHRIDGE EARTHQUAKE. HE CAN BE REACHED AT LEO.WOLINSKY@GMAIL.COM. HE WROTE THIS IN ASSOCIATION WITH COMMUNITY ADVOCATES INC. OF LOS ANGELES.

Concern, Not Panic

THE JEWISH JOURNAL OP/ED PUBLISHED Mar 1, 2017

There has been an epidemic of anti-Semitic threats and acts of vandalism directed at Jewish institutions in the United States over the past several weeks. The Anti-Defamation League has reported more than 90 incidents this year.

The level of concern and the number of incidents even led to President Trump opening his speech to the joint session of the Congress last night with a robust condemnation of what has transpired, “we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.”

His remarks may help quell some of the anxiety in the Jewish community which was exacerbated by his recent suggestion that the incidents may have been “false flag” operations designed to discredit him.

Obviously, simply the fact that Jewish cemeteries and centers are the targets of threats and vandalism is, in itself, troubling. What is not clear is whether they reflect an increase in anti-Semitic sentiment in the body politic or isolated acts of some of society’s losers.

It is instructive to put the headline-making events in some historical context.

Historically, inflammatory incidents such as these (toppling tombstones) which receive intense media attention tend to promote copycat incidents which take on a life of their own—often unrelated to an underlying sentiment of anti-Semitism that motivated the precipitating incident.

In 1959-60 an epidemic of anti-Semitic garnered world-wide attention, the ADL published a study, Swastika 1960 .”On December 24, 1959, a swastika was painted on a synagogue in Cologne, Germany. On December 26, the first wave of similar incidents occurred in the United States. For the next nine weeks, swastikas were smeared on Jewish temples, on Jewish community centers, on Jewish homes, on churches, on sidewalks, on college campuses, on automobiles….By the time the epidemic had spent itself, some 643 incidents had occurred.”

Among the study’s conclusions was, “It cannot be disputed that publicity given to the German desecrations and subsequent outbreaks played a major role in setting off further incidents. The offenders, as we saw earlier, often reported that they got the idea from newspapers, from television, and other mass media. It is probable that as early incidents mounted, publicity given to them precipitated other incidents as offenders of otherwise low predisposition were stimulated to participate….”

It is a striking parallel to today, except that today the threshold for a troubled actor to “participate” is so much lower. Anyone can email, call or otherwise threaten and frighten individuals around the globe with a few key strokes or a muffled voice distorter. Domestically, it hardly takes a committed bigot to enter an old cemetery and topple gravestones and then see the results of his handiwork on the 11 o’clock news.

When I advised victims of vandalism in my years at ADL, I invariably suggested that publicity be avoided unless there was already a series of bad acts—inspiring other thugs was to be avoided at all costs.  I knew from experience that press attention on an act of hate, especially if it provoked a public display of emotional injury by the victim, generated copy cats.

There are reasons for concern because of today’s incidents—but not for panic. There are no indications of a wave of anti-Semitism in the US today.

In fact, in the midst of the threats, desecrations and presidential mixed messages there was an under-reported study by the Pew Center two weeks ago which should offer some solace.

Pew published its periodic “religious feeling thermometer” to determine how religious groups feel about each other in the US. Last month’s survey had only better news; the “warmth” meter for Jews and Catholics (historic subjects of American bigotry) is high—even higher than in 2014 when the survey was last done,

Americans express warm feelings toward Jews, with half of U.S. adults rating them at 67 degrees or higher on the 0-to-100 scale…..These warm ratings are not significantly affected by the ratings of Jews themselves, because Jews make up just 2% of the U.S. adult population.

Similarly, about half of U.S. adults (49%) rate Catholics at 67 degrees or higher. But this does include a substantial share of respondents who are themselves Catholic, as Catholics make up roughly one-fifth of the adult population in the U.S. Looking only at non-Catholic respondents, 43% rate Catholics at 67 or higher on the thermometer and 44% place them in the middle range.

The Pew results are worth remembering as we watch the news and witness events that seem to run counter to what the data show. Bad acts and occasional reversals can and will happen, even if the flow of history is favorable. The media will tire of reporting the incidents and they will diminish as the troublemakers get less pay off for their anti-social conduct. The thugs and vandals are not today’s most serious problem.

What is Not Said Can be Crucial

THE WIDE ANGLE BLOG PUBLISHED Mar 3, 2017

The talk shows and cable news networks are busy conjecturing as to whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Sergey Kislak, the Russian ambassador to the US, to impact last year’s election. Did Attorney General Sessions, General Michael Flynn or Jared Kushner discuss email leaks, “fake news” and other sordid acts with the ambassador and his colleagues?

Unfortunately, that speculation ignores an even more fundamental concern—what clearly wasn’t discussed—the moral, political and diplomatic outrage of the Kremlin impacting our democratic, electoral process.

This morning while driving to work I listened to Andrea Mitchell Reports on MSNBC. Mitchell is the long-time NBC journalist who serves as their chief foreign correspondent (she also happens to be the wife of Alan Greenspan). She is a sane and sober adult in a sea filled with lots of screamers and yellers.

Among her interviews today was Andrei Kozyrov, the former foreign minister of the Russian Federation (1990-1996). A seasoned Russian diplomat who is no fan of Vladimir Putin (he made that clear) and is now a visiting scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. Parenthetically, he hired both Sergey Kislyak (the Russian ambassador to the United States who is at the center of the recent Trump-Russia controversy) and Russia’s current foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

In a frank and honest discussion of the controversy swirling around Attorney General Sessions, General Flynn and Jared Kushner, Kozyrov helped clarify why our focus on a single issue of the scandal, possible collusion, has been misguided.

What was really at stake in these encounters, as Kozyrov put it, wasn’t just the Trump campaign’s possible complicity in election tampering, but equally troubling, the impression that the Trumpites left with the Kremlin diplomat that “no one seems to be bothered by our actions.”

Kozyrov observed that Ambassador Kislyak couldn’t but come away from those meetings sensing that Trump campaign leaders really weren’t troubled by what he and his buddies had done; after all, no one said a peep about it. The former foreign minister concluded that the Trumpites’ silence would have been the lead in the diplomat’s cables to Moscow—“we can continue to meddle in the American elections, no one seems to care!”

Sessions, Kushner, and Flynn (who were adamant in stressing that they didn’t raise the issue of election involvement by the Russians) insured, by their silence, that the Kremlin would conclude that their tampering was cost free.

Kozyrov—remember, he’s the former Russian foreign minister—opined that the American “leaders” should have begun their discussions with Kislyak by denouncing the election meddling and telling him to make sure that the Kremlin stopped what it was doing immediately. By their timidity, they acquiesced to, and encouraged, what had been taking place.

Perjury and Logan Act violations are disqualifiers for high public office, but cowardice should be as well.  Our expectations for what public service demands should be higher than avoiding “legal jeopardy;” we should also expect that our “leaders” do what is moral, appropriate, and necessary—- especially when it comes to fundamental issues of democratic values and processes. Unfortunately, Flynn, Sessions and Kushner would be found wanting (they are manifestly missing a moral compass).

It’s ironic that a former Kremlin diplomat should have to remind us of what was, and is, at stake.

The interview is worth watching, it should be here shortly, http://www.msnbc.com/andrea-mitchell .

"Truth is anything you can get away with"

THE WIDE ANGLE BLOG PUBLISHED Mar 8, 2017

This week’s Jewish Journal contains an op/ed by Dennis Prager, a radio talk show host with a periodic column in this paper. He holds up the conservative side of the Journal’s political diversity. He can be generally counted on to take jabs at liberal positions and their advocates.

But his recent column is neither a defense of conservative ideology or policy positions, but rather it is a transparently specious defense of Donald Trump pursued by knocking down straw men that he blames on “leftists…and their poisoning of Jewish life.”

His claim is that there is no “wave of Trump-induced anti-Semitism or racism” related to the president, his rhetoric or his campaign. It’s virtually all the hype of “left wing hysteria…because they hate Donald Trump so much, they want to believe it.”

As evidence, he cites eight incidents where threats, graffiti or other bigoted acts were alleged to have occurred that turned out to be phony. He had to reach back to November to try and make his point.

According to Prager a “serious number” (whatever that means) of anti-Semitic acts “are being perpetrated by leftists” and “there are so many examples of hoaxes perpetrated by Black, Muslim and white leftists that they could fill this issue of the Jewish Journal.”

Prager might want to do a bit more homework.

The Anti-Defamation League, which systematically monitors and catalogues anti-Semitic and racist incidents, just issued a report which documents white supremacists’ “unprecedented outreach effort to attract and recruit students on American college campuses.” There have been over one hundred incidents of white supremacist actions on campus since the school year began with more than 61% of the incidents occurring since January.

The ADL, which is very careful about ascribing causality for anti-Semitic incidents, made clear what it thought, “these hate groups feel emboldened by the current political climate….White supremacists, emboldened by the rhetoric of the 2016 presidential campaign, are stepping out of the shadows and into the mainstream….In January, Jared Taylor [a longtime white supremacist] wrote, ‘It is widely understood that the election of Donald Trump is a sign of rising white consciousness….Now is the time to press our advantage in every way possible.’

Prager will undoubtedly dismiss the ADL’s conclusions as “left wing hysteria…they hate Donald Trump so much, they want to believe it….leftism has poisoned Jewish life.”

Indeed, there are Chicken Littles in the Jewish community who in the past have been too quick to claim anti-Semitism (I have written extensively about that reality for decades both in this paper and elsewhere). But that’s too transparent a diversion to propel forward Prager’s effort to sanitize Trump—he has to ignore over a year and a half of unprecedented incivility and unvarnished bigotry to focus on a few incidents as dispositive.

If one is truly concerned about anti-Semitism (as Prager purports to be) he ought to be troubled by a leader like Trump who undermines the mores of a society that has kept Jews and other minorities safe for over two centuries. Whether Trump condones anti-Semitism in its vulgar forms is an irrelevancy; he promotes and furthers its handmaidens.

In fact, among the most vocal critics of Trump have been principled conservatives who rightly perceive his danger. Most noteworthy among them is Bret Stephens, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Wall Street Journal who has made clear that Trump’s modus operandi is lying, “truth is whatever you can get away with.” He warned of Trump’s “assaults on what was once quaintly known as ‘human decency’” in his speech at the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at UCLA last month.

And powerfully on point, Stephens has a special message for those who (like Prager) choose to ignore the threat that Trump poses to our society; the class of pundits who are the “TrumpXplainers”, they rationalize what Trump “meant to say” despite his words being “logically nonsensical.”

As Stephens has observed, “the most painful aspect of this for me has been to watch people I previously considered thoughtful and principled conservatives give themselves over to a species of illiberal politics from which I once thought they were immune. We each have our obligations to see what’s in front of one’s nose, whether we’re reporters, columnists, or anything else. This is the essence of intellectual integrity.”

What is in front of our nose is a president who has the likes of a Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka in the Oval Office—individuals with unambiguous ties to extremists and bigots—one who was hesitant to denounce anti-Semitism, who brazenly invokes the discredited America First chant as a call to action, who shamelessly targets a religious minority [Muslims], who has betrayed a profound lack of empathy and understanding for the Black community, who has stereotyped and demeaned Latinos and insults our intelligence with his absurd and incendiary tweets.

Prager’s hostility to liberals doesn’t justify his collaboration with “illiberal politics” and his abandonment of “intellectual integrity.”

Perhaps the admonition of a fellow conservative like Bret Stephens will move him to think again about siding with Trump. That course, as Stephens has written, is “the road of ignominy, of hitching a ride with a drunk driver.”

It’s time to sober up!

The Positive News Ignored Amidst the Dreary

By Virgil Roberts* and David A. Lehrer

THE JEWISH JOURNAL OP/ED PUBLISHED May 12, 2017

Every day brings troubling headlines which justify concern and angst; from the White House to Syria to Russia, the world seems to be upended and the bad news seems to spawn more bad news.

It was in keeping with the glum times that last month’s twenty-fifth anniversary of the Los Angeles riots reminded us of the local racial and ethnic divides—from socio-economic to law enforcement strategies to educational opportunities—that plagued the city in 1992 (nearly three decades after the Watts Riots of 1965) that resonate until today.

In analyzing the media coverage of the anniversary it is clear to us that much of it focused on individual recollections of those horrid days and the issues surrounding the painfully slow economic re-development of South LA. There was relatively little coverage of the one quantitative study of which we are aware that measures today’s attitudes regarding race relations and tolerance and compares them to attitudes in the recent past.

Loyola Marymount University’s Center for the Study of Los Angeles published its Forecast LA study prior to the anniversary and it provided more insight into what is transpiring in South LA today than anecdotal recollections, however compelling the tales are.

The LMU study was sparingly cited and almost exclusively for the revelation that “more LA residents believe new riots likely…” That headline and conclusion (in both the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times) were based on the finding that “nearly 6 in 10 Angelinos think another riot is likely in the next five years.” That datum is the first time in over two decades that the fear of a repeat riot has increased, clearly not good news, but also not the whole story.

Invariably, pollsters on issues relating to race and inter-group relations ask respondents their assessment of race relations “nationally” or “what relations will be like in five years”—-opinions that respondents can only guess at based on media reports and conjecture, not their own lived experiences. Their musings can be newsworthy, but isn’t what they know about directly more relevant?

What virtually none of the media explored that was in the Forecast LA study was what the residents of Los Angeles are thinking and feeling now, not what they project into the future; the data are surprisingly positive.

Seventy six percent of Angelenos say that “racial groups in Los Angeles are getting along well.” That compares with 37% making that assertion in 1997 (five years after the riots), 48% in 2007, and 72% in 2012. Angelenos have equaled the most positive assessment of race relations than at any point in the last 25 years.

In terms of particular groups in LA, African Americans think we are getting along “well or somewhat well” at 73%, Asians at 79%, Latinos at 72% and whites at 81%.

Inter-group relations is a complex phenomenon and isn’t amenable to a single question or response, but clearly, most Angelenos think we are getting along well.

What makes that finding more startling than in other circumstances is that it comes after a bruising presidential election campaign when race and ethnicity played a significant role in both the campaign rhetoric and its media coverage.

Trump overtly disparaged the Latino community by labeling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists, and described a judge of Mexican heritage as having a conflict of interest solely because of his ethnic roots. He decried Mexican “hordes” flooding across the border bringing chaos in their wake.

He maligned an entire religion by pledging to bar all Muslim immigrants.

He described Blacks as having a “miserable life” and told the community that its neighborhoods are “war zones” where people struggle to get by on food stamps and see nothing but failure around them.

He went lighter on the Jews, but did say he “likes little guys with yarmulkes counting my money and told Jewish Republicans, “I’m a negotiator like you folks.”

Despite Trump’s lowering of the level of discourse and civility and the media focus on those views, we in Los Angeles are getting along about as well as we ever have. It’s astonishing and reassuring that this diverse community isn’t experiencing inter-group tensions that mirror the nightly news and our raised collective anxiety.

Our conjecture is that virtually every minority group leader, and most minority group members, share a common disdain for, and concern about, bigots with power because we all know we could become the next target—there is a sense of shared fate that is generated. Most minority groups have figured out that if Trump disparages one group with simplistic stereotypes and bigotry, other groups are potential targets—we intuitively circle the wagons.

Trump has, inadvertently, become a cohesive force in a way he never intended. In him, we see a reminder of what we all fear—release of the genie of hate and the turning back of the clock on decades of progress. He has accidentally become a unifier and is, in no small measure, a reason for the common ground that minorities in LA now share despite the tenor of the times.

*Virgil Roberts is a long-time civil rights activist whose work includes representing the NAACP in the seminal Los Angeles school desegregation case Crawford v Board of Education. He was recently awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from 100 Black Men of Los Angeles. and has been honored by the Los Angeles Urban League, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the University of Southern California’s School of Education, and the UCLA Black Alumni Association.

Don't Let Violent Talk Mar LA Politics Too

THE LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS OP/ED PUBLISHED July 24, 2017

Two weeks ago—before the Donald Jr./Russia revelations— the president of the United States was testing our tolerance for outrage with a video tweet of himself appearing to beat up a TV show wrestler who had the CNN logo on his face. During the campaign then-candidate Trump used rhetoric that encouraged his audiences to act out against hecklers; he revels in being a “counter-puncher” who hits back when he feels aggrieved.

He may not be the catalyst of the attitude, but Trump senses that we have become increasingly inured to threats of violence and have, apparently, widely accepted the notion that grievances can be responded to by threats and acting out.

That callousness to threats and violence can erupt in the most unexpected places.

Recently, NPR broadcast a piece about Boyle Heights and the incipient gentrification that is taking place there. A seemingly innocuous topic about the changes in neighborhoods that inevitably occur in dynamic and teeming cities.

As I listened to the report, it was apparent that is was anything but innocuous, in fact, it was rather troubling.

The reporter, Saul Gonzalez of local NPR station KCRW, was offering the national NPR audience a glimpse of LA and his vision suggested that class violence was on the horizon, and there was little resistance to that prospect.

Gonzalez painted a portrait of a Boyle Heights community that is “gritty and industrial” that is being undermined by a “world of high-end art” galleries that are coming into the community and don’t fit in.

There are genuine debates to be had about the impact of gentrification on low-income communities-especially ones with large numbers of renters. Whether people get compensated when their neighborhoods gentrify and whether there are comparably priced accommodations for them elsewhere are legitimate issues to raise and debate.

But that debate is not furthered when it devolves into vulgar class warfare and threats of violence that are accepted as part of the discussion.

Reporter Gonzalez gave a megaphone and a majority of his broadcast to an activist, Leonardo Vilchis, who railed against art galleries because they might lead to others moving into the neighborhood who might add to its value:

Put in an art gallery with paintings that cost tens of thousands of dollars and the audience that comes to this place starts looking for other kinds of amenities….They look for the brewery, for the coffee shop for the place to hang out. All of those things increase the cost and the value of the local neighborhood

The fact that the galleries are moving in to what the report itself described as “vacant industrial spaces” didn’t impact Vilchis' argument—he described the galleries as “cancer cells…who need to move out….you need to start killing the cancer cells that are creating the cancer.” [Emphasis added]

There are those who have taken his vile language seriously: mock eviction notices and flyers with human skulls in gun sights accompanied by threats such as “Boyle Heights is not safe for hipster trash” printed on them were noted in the report.

But Vilchis saw nothing wrong with those tactics—-compromise is impossible, “they” all have to leave; after all, they are like spreading cancer cells and they are all bad. He derisively dismissed those moving into the neighborhood who are sympathetic to gentrification concerns and desire to work with the community, “‘OK, I’m a cancer cell, but I want to be good,’ doesn’t change the fact that you’re a cancer cell. You need to move out.”

The fact that the NPR reporter never expressed the slightest discomfort with Vilchis’ characterization of the art gallery owners or his condoning threats of violence or the not-so-subtle bigotry against folks who don’t fit the mold of those who now live there, suggests that we now yawn at incendiary rhetoric, stereotypic expressions, and even threats of violence.

In an era when much has been written about the need to integrate neighborhoods across racial, ethnic and socio-economic lines this blatant push for homogeneity is bizarre. That is not where America or Los Angeles needs to head.

The absence of a nuanced discussion of the natural and constant growth and transformation of cities (after all, Boyle Heights was once a pre-dominantly Jewish neighborhood) including gentrification, would be too much to expect in a short radio piece. There should have been at least a bit of outrage over, or at least a counterpoint to Vilchis’ incendiary remarks. There was but one gallery owner quoted as saying “I’m not going anywhere.” Was no one else in the neighborhood concerned about threats, intimidation and the prospect of violence?

In the Age of Trump, if the president can appear to assault a reporter with whom he disagrees and hecklers can be assaulted with his approbation, even NPR is not immune from callousness to threats of violence.

It’s wrong in the White House and it’s wrong in Boyle Heights.