Day: March 2, 2018

Committee to Protect Journalism: Biggest Threat Is Donald Trump


Liberals are wrong.  The trickle-down effect exists.  As the opinions editor of a mid-sized daily newspaper in Florida, I attest that it does.

It surfaces nearly every time President Donald Trump utters the words “fake news.”  Trump’s signature rhetorical salvo at his foils in the national media drives some of our local pro-Trump readers to lump all journalists together.  Thus, our paper’s reporters, who work diligently to serve and enlighten their community, and who don’t come within a thousand miles of Washington, still become the local Jim Acosta.

Admittedly, as a journalist, I find this situation frustrating.  But absorbing and dealing with our readers’ objections about the news media is not nearly as frustrating as watching the national media’s hyperventilating, and often panicky, response to much of Trump’s Twitter-fed bombast.

That, as I see it, does more to hurt the journalism industry than almost anything Trump does.

Take, for example, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the self-described “independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide,” which also works to “defend the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.”

Back in December, the CPJ announced that the number of journalists jailed around the globe for practicing their craft had reached a record high.  As The New York Times recapped the report, 262 reporters wound up in a prison cell during 2017, three more than in 2016.  The bulk of them were incarcerated for “antigovernment activities, many of them under broad and vague counterterrorism laws,” the Times reported.

The CPJ found that roughly half (134) were jailed in just three countries: Turkey, China, and Egypt.  The rest were spread around prisons in nearly a dozen other idyllic havens of liberty – places such as Vietnam, Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

And how many rotted away in the United States’ domestic gulags?

Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.

Yet who was responsible for the repression of the media in all of these perilous pockets of despotism?

Trump, of course.

The American president, according to the Times’ account, had jeopardized journalists everywhere because he “had ‘cozied up to strongmen’ and done little to stand up for human rights.”

“President Donald Trump’s nationalistic rhetoric, fixation on Islamic extremism, and insistence on labeling critical media ‘fake news’ serves to reinforce the framework of accusations and legal charges that allow such leaders to preside over the jailing of journalists,” the CPJ said in its report.

Of particular note within the CPJ tally was the subset of 21 jailed journalists – another record – who were rounded up on accusations of spreading “false news.”  Who says Trump lacks clout overseas?

Now, most of us might think it’s ridiculous to blame Trump for jailing reporters in countries he does not preside over, has not visited, or probably could not find on a map.

But then, most of us don’t toil for or belong to the CPJ, which strangely doubled down on its dubious logic earlier this month.

After Trump, who apparently believes that the only bad controversy is a dormant one, announced his own “Fake News Awards,” in order to, as he tweeted, recognize “Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories,” the CPJ replied with its own awards that, according to its website, were intended to spotlight “world leaders who have gone out of their way to attack the press and undermine the norms that support freedom of the media.”

“From an unparalleled fear of their critics and the truth, to a relentless commitment to censorship, these five leaders and the runner-ups [sic] in their categories have gone above and beyond to silence critical voices and weaken democracy,” the CPJ noted.

Turkey’s RecepTayip Erdoğan, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, and Poland’s Andrzej Duda were some who made the cut.

Yet the worst of the worst – in the category of Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom – went to, you guessed it, Donald Trump.

Trump prevailed not because he rhetorically lashes media organizations that, at times, have been forced to correct major stories or discipline journalists who misled the public with bogus reports.  Rather, the CPJ lauded Trump for failing to lecture the likes of Erdoğan and Putin to don velvet gloves before handling the press, for not advocating for new laws that allow the media to keep sources anonymous, for not reversing proposed cuts in U.S. taxpayer funding for “international organizations that buttress international norms in support of free expression.”  (Would that include the CPJ?)  Oh, and there is that “record number of reporters in prison” thing.

What’s interesting about the CPJ’s list is who is not on it.  Where is Kim Jong-un? Bashar Assad?  Rodrigo Duterte?  How about the leaders of the other countries on the list of places where journalists sit behind bars?

Back home, prior to Trump, Barack Obama turned federal agents loose on reporters and threatened to prosecute them for their work; Richard Nixon put journalists on his infamous “enemies list”; Franklin Roosevelt created a censorship office to filter information; John Adams enacted egregious laws that criminalized criticism of the president and actually jailed journalists.

Yet we’ve sold ourselves on the premise that Trump’s frequent bashing of the news media is unprecedented among American presidents.

Because the media’s hand-wringing has led some to do their homework, we know that many, if not most, of our past chief executives shared Trump’s contempt for the journalists of their day.

For instance, in 1807, John Norvell, a Michigan editor and aspiring publisher, sought President Thomas Jefferson’s advice about how a newspaper should operate.  Jefferson replied (in the original):

So as to be most useful, I should answer, ‘by restraining it to true facts & sound principles only.’ Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers. It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more compleatly deprive the nation of it’s benefits, than is done by it’s abandoned prostitution to falsehood. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knolege with the lies of the day.

Ouch.

Still, the CPJ has a point.  The relative ease with which other governments jail or harm reporters is troubling.  In a perfect world, they should enjoy the freedom to report that American journalists expect.  But the world isn’t perfect, which is why the CPJ should admit that its Trump-shaming is silly.

Trump has no influence over how other leaders treat journalists.  We know this because he has no influence at home.  American journalists freely and perpetually report his administration’s negatives, and they openly slam a chief executive they clearly despise as a crook, a traitor, a racist, a malignant threat to world peace and mentally deranged – and in turn, they suffer no worse than an ego-bruising barrage of name-calling on Twitter or a rebuke from Trump’s feisty spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

I don’t know about the CPJ, but after witnessing eight years of supine hero-worship during the Obama reign, I think we may want to thank Trump for restoring the natural and constitutional order of the antagonistic relationship between the American media and the president.

Bill Thompson is the editorial page editor for The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida.  The views expressed are his own.

Liberals are wrong.  The trickle-down effect exists.  As the opinions editor of a mid-sized daily newspaper in Florida, I attest that it does.

It surfaces nearly every time President Donald Trump utters the words “fake news.”  Trump’s signature rhetorical salvo at his foils in the national media drives some of our local pro-Trump readers to lump all journalists together.  Thus, our paper’s reporters, who work diligently to serve and enlighten their community, and who don’t come within a thousand miles of Washington, still become the local Jim Acosta.

Admittedly, as a journalist, I find this situation frustrating.  But absorbing and dealing with our readers’ objections about the news media is not nearly as frustrating as watching the national media’s hyperventilating, and often panicky, response to much of Trump’s Twitter-fed bombast.

That, as I see it, does more to hurt the journalism industry than almost anything Trump does.

Take, for example, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the self-described “independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide,” which also works to “defend the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.”

Back in December, the CPJ announced that the number of journalists jailed around the globe for practicing their craft had reached a record high.  As The New York Times recapped the report, 262 reporters wound up in a prison cell during 2017, three more than in 2016.  The bulk of them were incarcerated for “antigovernment activities, many of them under broad and vague counterterrorism laws,” the Times reported.

The CPJ found that roughly half (134) were jailed in just three countries: Turkey, China, and Egypt.  The rest were spread around prisons in nearly a dozen other idyllic havens of liberty – places such as Vietnam, Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

And how many rotted away in the United States’ domestic gulags?

Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.

Yet who was responsible for the repression of the media in all of these perilous pockets of despotism?

Trump, of course.

The American president, according to the Times’ account, had jeopardized journalists everywhere because he “had ‘cozied up to strongmen’ and done little to stand up for human rights.”

“President Donald Trump’s nationalistic rhetoric, fixation on Islamic extremism, and insistence on labeling critical media ‘fake news’ serves to reinforce the framework of accusations and legal charges that allow such leaders to preside over the jailing of journalists,” the CPJ said in its report.

Of particular note within the CPJ tally was the subset of 21 jailed journalists – another record – who were rounded up on accusations of spreading “false news.”  Who says Trump lacks clout overseas?

Now, most of us might think it’s ridiculous to blame Trump for jailing reporters in countries he does not preside over, has not visited, or probably could not find on a map.

But then, most of us don’t toil for or belong to the CPJ, which strangely doubled down on its dubious logic earlier this month.

After Trump, who apparently believes that the only bad controversy is a dormant one, announced his own “Fake News Awards,” in order to, as he tweeted, recognize “Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories,” the CPJ replied with its own awards that, according to its website, were intended to spotlight “world leaders who have gone out of their way to attack the press and undermine the norms that support freedom of the media.”

“From an unparalleled fear of their critics and the truth, to a relentless commitment to censorship, these five leaders and the runner-ups [sic] in their categories have gone above and beyond to silence critical voices and weaken democracy,” the CPJ noted.

Turkey’s RecepTayip Erdoğan, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, and Poland’s Andrzej Duda were some who made the cut.

Yet the worst of the worst – in the category of Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom – went to, you guessed it, Donald Trump.

Trump prevailed not because he rhetorically lashes media organizations that, at times, have been forced to correct major stories or discipline journalists who misled the public with bogus reports.  Rather, the CPJ lauded Trump for failing to lecture the likes of Erdoğan and Putin to don velvet gloves before handling the press, for not advocating for new laws that allow the media to keep sources anonymous, for not reversing proposed cuts in U.S. taxpayer funding for “international organizations that buttress international norms in support of free expression.”  (Would that include the CPJ?)  Oh, and there is that “record number of reporters in prison” thing.

What’s interesting about the CPJ’s list is who is not on it.  Where is Kim Jong-un? Bashar Assad?  Rodrigo Duterte?  How about the leaders of the other countries on the list of places where journalists sit behind bars?

Back home, prior to Trump, Barack Obama turned federal agents loose on reporters and threatened to prosecute them for their work; Richard Nixon put journalists on his infamous “enemies list”; Franklin Roosevelt created a censorship office to filter information; John Adams enacted egregious laws that criminalized criticism of the president and actually jailed journalists.

Yet we’ve sold ourselves on the premise that Trump’s frequent bashing of the news media is unprecedented among American presidents.

Because the media’s hand-wringing has led some to do their homework, we know that many, if not most, of our past chief executives shared Trump’s contempt for the journalists of their day.

For instance, in 1807, John Norvell, a Michigan editor and aspiring publisher, sought President Thomas Jefferson’s advice about how a newspaper should operate.  Jefferson replied (in the original):

So as to be most useful, I should answer, ‘by restraining it to true facts & sound principles only.’ Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers. It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more compleatly deprive the nation of it’s benefits, than is done by it’s abandoned prostitution to falsehood. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knolege with the lies of the day.

Ouch.

Still, the CPJ has a point.  The relative ease with which other governments jail or harm reporters is troubling.  In a perfect world, they should enjoy the freedom to report that American journalists expect.  But the world isn’t perfect, which is why the CPJ should admit that its Trump-shaming is silly.

Trump has no influence over how other leaders treat journalists.  We know this because he has no influence at home.  American journalists freely and perpetually report his administration’s negatives, and they openly slam a chief executive they clearly despise as a crook, a traitor, a racist, a malignant threat to world peace and mentally deranged – and in turn, they suffer no worse than an ego-bruising barrage of name-calling on Twitter or a rebuke from Trump’s feisty spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

I don’t know about the CPJ, but after witnessing eight years of supine hero-worship during the Obama reign, I think we may want to thank Trump for restoring the natural and constitutional order of the antagonistic relationship between the American media and the president.

Bill Thompson is the editorial page editor for The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida.  The views expressed are his own.



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Not a 'Shooter,' but a 'Mass Murderer'



We've bought into the nomenclature of the left, and our doing so has shifted the conversation dramatically in the left's favor.



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Prescription for Death


On New Year’s Day 2006, I received an emergency call from my father’s retirement community, where he had recently moved into assisted living after wandering into someone else’s apartment.  He suffered from dementia, likely a result of decades of smoking and drinking.  But I loved my father, and he was my hero because he entered a treatment program in 1983 and quit drinking to be best man in my wedding.  We had another 23 years together as father and son, and I cherish that gift of time he gave me.

The nurse at the retirement community told me he had been found in his room, unconscious, with little or no pulse.  The EMT crew shocked him back to life, and I met up with him at the hospital emergency room, where he was smiling and joking.  He was admitted to cardiac ICU, and they started the usual battery of tests.

My father had no history of heart disease, and even at age 80, he was strong and healthy, except for his dementia.  His heart checked out fine.

Then I remembered a visit to his doctor a week before, where she recommended we have him take Namenda, an anti-dementia drug, along with the Aricept he had been taking for three years with some benefit.  I did an internet search and found that the side-effects of both drugs include bradycardia, a slowing of the heart rhythm.  Apparently, the Namenda had pushed him over the edge and stopped his heart.  I had to vigorously insist to the cardiologist that his medication regimen be modified to prevent a recurrence.

After adjusting his medications, my father lived another nine months, and we were able to have some quality time together in spite of the dementia.

I realized from that incident how dangerous prescription drugs are, and how everyone taking them needs an informed, assertive advocate to monitor his use and check for side-effects.  Several of my friends and relatives are on numerous prescription drugs.  Some of these medications are critical to life, while others simply address the side-effects of other drugs and have side-effects of their own.

The CDC publishes statistics on prescription drug use.  For the 2013-2014 period, 42.2% of people 65 and over take five or more drugs per day!  And 32.6% of people aged 18-44 take one to four drugs a day.  Of those, 8.8% are taking antidepressants (2011-2014).

To put this in perspective, the 2010 age 18-44 population was 112.8 million.  This means that 37 million or more people are taking one to four drugs a day, 3.3 million using antidepressants.  That 37 million amounts to over ten people per square mile, averaged over the whole U.S., but probably hundreds or thousands per block in NYC!  (I should have become a pharmacist.)

Take a look at a package insert for any prescription drug, and you will find a long list of side-effects, with everything from night sweats to “homicidal ideation.”  That’s a technical term meaning “you’re gonna wanna kill somebody.”  And if you are taking multiple drugs, these side-effects do not add up; they multiply.  My father took two drugs with bradycardia as a side-effect.  His body handled the first for three years, but the addition of the second nearly killed him in a week.

After every mass shooting in the U.S., the non-mainstream media look into the prescription drugs used by the perpetrator, where possible.  Judging from these investigations, it appears there may be a link between antidepressant use and extreme violent outbursts.  Suspicious bloggers slam the mainstream media for not investigating this link, citing billions in pharmaceutical advertising dollars the media don’t want to endanger.

To chase this rabbit further, I thought I would scan all the package inserts of all prescription drugs on the market, looking for the key words “suicide” and “homicide.”  Sure enough, I found that the National Institutes of Health maintain easily downloadable archives of drug labels in several categories.  I downloaded the human prescription drug label files, consisting of over 36,000 labels.

Combing through all these labels manually would be a task only the government would do, so I wrote a computer program to scan these files quickly.  The search is complicated by the fact that there are distinct labels for each form of a drug, whether caplet, capsule, liquid, etc.  After identifying all the unique drug types, 8,638 drugs remained.  The labels were scanned for the text strings “suicide” and “homicide,” resulting in 1,118 drug labels having at least one match on at least one of the two strings, with some having dozens of matches.

Thus, 12.9% of the human prescription drug labels scanned had a warning about suicidal or homicidal behavior as a side effect.

This does not tell us how many of these drugs are commonly used, and an additional analysis would be required to provide that data.  But would you shop at a grocery where 12.9% of the food had been found in lab tests to send some consumers into a premeditated homicidal rage?  What would you think if 12.9% of supposedly quality products on Amazon.com gave you a tendency to commit suicide?

We have to protect ourselves in this world because, no matter what the government says, the government is not protecting us in the least.  What have these feds approved for your medicine cabinet?  Homicide?  Suicide?  A neighbor of mine called a friend, babbling incoherently.  Turns out she had just started on a new drug, one of the side-effects being stroke.  Have you read the fine print?

And what’s in your kid’s medicine cabinet?  Could he be mixing that antidepressant with alcohol, pot, or worse?

We don’t need tens of millions of people taking prescription pills every day.  That’s tens of millions of people, each driving a 3,000-pound vehicle, some with homicidal thoughts.

In most cases, there is an alternative to prescription drugs.  It is called healthy living.  It is called attentive parenting.  Try it.  All the side-effects are positive, including a lack of school massacres.

Change your life for the better.  Get off those pills.

On New Year’s Day 2006, I received an emergency call from my father’s retirement community, where he had recently moved into assisted living after wandering into someone else’s apartment.  He suffered from dementia, likely a result of decades of smoking and drinking.  But I loved my father, and he was my hero because he entered a treatment program in 1983 and quit drinking to be best man in my wedding.  We had another 23 years together as father and son, and I cherish that gift of time he gave me.

The nurse at the retirement community told me he had been found in his room, unconscious, with little or no pulse.  The EMT crew shocked him back to life, and I met up with him at the hospital emergency room, where he was smiling and joking.  He was admitted to cardiac ICU, and they started the usual battery of tests.

My father had no history of heart disease, and even at age 80, he was strong and healthy, except for his dementia.  His heart checked out fine.

Then I remembered a visit to his doctor a week before, where she recommended we have him take Namenda, an anti-dementia drug, along with the Aricept he had been taking for three years with some benefit.  I did an internet search and found that the side-effects of both drugs include bradycardia, a slowing of the heart rhythm.  Apparently, the Namenda had pushed him over the edge and stopped his heart.  I had to vigorously insist to the cardiologist that his medication regimen be modified to prevent a recurrence.

After adjusting his medications, my father lived another nine months, and we were able to have some quality time together in spite of the dementia.

I realized from that incident how dangerous prescription drugs are, and how everyone taking them needs an informed, assertive advocate to monitor his use and check for side-effects.  Several of my friends and relatives are on numerous prescription drugs.  Some of these medications are critical to life, while others simply address the side-effects of other drugs and have side-effects of their own.

The CDC publishes statistics on prescription drug use.  For the 2013-2014 period, 42.2% of people 65 and over take five or more drugs per day!  And 32.6% of people aged 18-44 take one to four drugs a day.  Of those, 8.8% are taking antidepressants (2011-2014).

To put this in perspective, the 2010 age 18-44 population was 112.8 million.  This means that 37 million or more people are taking one to four drugs a day, 3.3 million using antidepressants.  That 37 million amounts to over ten people per square mile, averaged over the whole U.S., but probably hundreds or thousands per block in NYC!  (I should have become a pharmacist.)

Take a look at a package insert for any prescription drug, and you will find a long list of side-effects, with everything from night sweats to “homicidal ideation.”  That’s a technical term meaning “you’re gonna wanna kill somebody.”  And if you are taking multiple drugs, these side-effects do not add up; they multiply.  My father took two drugs with bradycardia as a side-effect.  His body handled the first for three years, but the addition of the second nearly killed him in a week.

After every mass shooting in the U.S., the non-mainstream media look into the prescription drugs used by the perpetrator, where possible.  Judging from these investigations, it appears there may be a link between antidepressant use and extreme violent outbursts.  Suspicious bloggers slam the mainstream media for not investigating this link, citing billions in pharmaceutical advertising dollars the media don’t want to endanger.

To chase this rabbit further, I thought I would scan all the package inserts of all prescription drugs on the market, looking for the key words “suicide” and “homicide.”  Sure enough, I found that the National Institutes of Health maintain easily downloadable archives of drug labels in several categories.  I downloaded the human prescription drug label files, consisting of over 36,000 labels.

Combing through all these labels manually would be a task only the government would do, so I wrote a computer program to scan these files quickly.  The search is complicated by the fact that there are distinct labels for each form of a drug, whether caplet, capsule, liquid, etc.  After identifying all the unique drug types, 8,638 drugs remained.  The labels were scanned for the text strings “suicide” and “homicide,” resulting in 1,118 drug labels having at least one match on at least one of the two strings, with some having dozens of matches.

Thus, 12.9% of the human prescription drug labels scanned had a warning about suicidal or homicidal behavior as a side effect.

This does not tell us how many of these drugs are commonly used, and an additional analysis would be required to provide that data.  But would you shop at a grocery where 12.9% of the food had been found in lab tests to send some consumers into a premeditated homicidal rage?  What would you think if 12.9% of supposedly quality products on Amazon.com gave you a tendency to commit suicide?

We have to protect ourselves in this world because, no matter what the government says, the government is not protecting us in the least.  What have these feds approved for your medicine cabinet?  Homicide?  Suicide?  A neighbor of mine called a friend, babbling incoherently.  Turns out she had just started on a new drug, one of the side-effects being stroke.  Have you read the fine print?

And what’s in your kid’s medicine cabinet?  Could he be mixing that antidepressant with alcohol, pot, or worse?

We don’t need tens of millions of people taking prescription pills every day.  That’s tens of millions of people, each driving a 3,000-pound vehicle, some with homicidal thoughts.

In most cases, there is an alternative to prescription drugs.  It is called healthy living.  It is called attentive parenting.  Try it.  All the side-effects are positive, including a lack of school massacres.

Change your life for the better.  Get off those pills.



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Is Trump Serious about Returning to a Gold Standard?


While President Trump is known for saying things to control the news cycle and influence public perception, he has made numerous statements in the past about wanting to revert to the gold standard.  Is he serious – and is it even practical?

What Is the Gold Standard, Anyway?

While the allure of gold is strong today, it’s nothing new.  Gold has been used all throughout history and has often been the currency of choice for settled governments and even rural communities and nomads.  The earliest known use was in 643 B.C. in present-day Turkey.

Just as it has a rich history on the global landscape, gold is also intrinsically connected to American history.  After the discovery at Sutter’s Ranch in 1848, the precious metal inspired what is now known as the Gold Rush in California.  Not only did the Gold Rush help settle the western part of the country, but it also brought America onto the global stage.

As the world was becoming less fragmented and more unified – at least in the sense of commerce – industrialized countries were looking for ways to standardize transactions and create a “world market.”  In response, the gold standard was adopted.

From the perspective of a citizen, the gold standard meant that people no longer had to carry around gold bullion and coins to handle transactions.  It also meant that you could redeem any amount of paper money for its corresponding value in gold.

Congress created the Federal Reserve in 1913 as a way of stabilizing gold and currency values, but World War I soon came and threw a wrench into everything.  Countries started printing paper money in massive quantities in order to pay for the expenses they were incurring as part of the global conflict.  This led to hyperinflation.  And while most countries did return to a modified gold standard after the war, some flaws in the system had been exposed.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression caused the price of gold to rise tremendously, which led people to exchange their dollars for gold and start hoarding the precious metal.  From 1933 all the way through the 1960s, a variety of agreements, acts, and fiscal policies from presidents like Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower eventually led to such great problems that the gold standard came to an end.

“Starting in 1971, the USA refused to redeem its dollars in gold because excessive government debt and money printing had caused the price of gold in the free market to rise way above the fixed redemption price of gold,” explains Money Metals exchange.  “Since the dollar was backed by gold up to that point and had gained the status as the most important reserve currency, most other countries around the world had already abandoned their own gold standards and instead pegged their currencies to the dollar.”

While it was met with trepidation at the time, the end of the gold standard has actually paved the way for unbridled economic growth.  It also led to gold as a secondary investment mechanism, which becomes especially popular during times of recession.  But despite operating without the gold standard for nearly 50 years, there are always calls to return.  And because of statements he’s made in the past, many wonder if President 45 is the man to do it.

Is Trump Really Considering a Return?

When the U.S. government first legalized private ownership of gold again in 1975, Trump was one of the more aggressive investors in the country.  He bought in at around $185 an ounce and claims he eventually sold his stake at somewhere between $780 an ounce and $790 an ounce.

But that doesn’t mean that Trump is done with gold.  He still has quite an affinity for it – something clearly visible in his lavish lifestyle.  And when asked about his views on the gold standard in a 2016 interview, he told GQ, “Bringing back the gold standard would be very hard to do, but boy, would it be wonderful.  We’d have a standard on which to base our money.”

Trump is far from alone in his stance.  When you look at other supporters of a return to the gold standard, many of them were on the debate stages with him during the 2016 campaign cycle – including Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Mike Huckabee.

The American people, while mostly aligned on the topic, aren’t exactly opposed, either.  A 2015 Gallup poll shows that 39 percent of people approve of the gold standard, compared to just 15 percent who disapprove.  (Nearly half of all respondents were undecided.)

“The appeal of the gold standard rests with those consumers who are growing weary of a ballooning federal deficit levels and nearly $20 trillion in national debt,” Sean Williams writes for The Motley Fool.  “With the need to have gold on hand to exchange for dollars on an as-needed basis, the Federal Reserve’s ability to print money would be restrained, limiting the amount of debt that could be issued annually.  Some pundits believe that the gold standard could be America’s ticket to getting out of debt, or, at worst, balancing its federal budget.”

Is It Even Practical?

As with most economic issues, there are pros and cons associated with a return to the gold standard.  The benefit, as Williams touched on, is that it would rein in irresponsible spending by the Fed and possibly help the country get out of debt.

The biggest negative is that it would seriously constrain what the Fed can and can’t do.  (Many would say this is actually a positive.)  While it’s easy to disagree with what the Fed chooses to do at times, the ability to influence the economy through monetary policy is important.

In terms of practicality, moving to a gold standard is certainly possible.  Most countries keep the majority of their foreign reserves in gold already, and whatever the U.S. decides to do – since most currencies are currently backed by the dollar – would almost certainly be accommodated by other countries.

But practical and probable are two different things.

It would take a lot for the U.S. to move back to a gold standard, and with so many other issues on President Trump’s plate at the moment, it’s hard to imagine that this is the administration’s biggest priority.  But if anyone were to do it, it would probably be he.

While President Trump is known for saying things to control the news cycle and influence public perception, he has made numerous statements in the past about wanting to revert to the gold standard.  Is he serious – and is it even practical?

What Is the Gold Standard, Anyway?

While the allure of gold is strong today, it’s nothing new.  Gold has been used all throughout history and has often been the currency of choice for settled governments and even rural communities and nomads.  The earliest known use was in 643 B.C. in present-day Turkey.

Just as it has a rich history on the global landscape, gold is also intrinsically connected to American history.  After the discovery at Sutter’s Ranch in 1848, the precious metal inspired what is now known as the Gold Rush in California.  Not only did the Gold Rush help settle the western part of the country, but it also brought America onto the global stage.

As the world was becoming less fragmented and more unified – at least in the sense of commerce – industrialized countries were looking for ways to standardize transactions and create a “world market.”  In response, the gold standard was adopted.

From the perspective of a citizen, the gold standard meant that people no longer had to carry around gold bullion and coins to handle transactions.  It also meant that you could redeem any amount of paper money for its corresponding value in gold.

Congress created the Federal Reserve in 1913 as a way of stabilizing gold and currency values, but World War I soon came and threw a wrench into everything.  Countries started printing paper money in massive quantities in order to pay for the expenses they were incurring as part of the global conflict.  This led to hyperinflation.  And while most countries did return to a modified gold standard after the war, some flaws in the system had been exposed.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression caused the price of gold to rise tremendously, which led people to exchange their dollars for gold and start hoarding the precious metal.  From 1933 all the way through the 1960s, a variety of agreements, acts, and fiscal policies from presidents like Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower eventually led to such great problems that the gold standard came to an end.

“Starting in 1971, the USA refused to redeem its dollars in gold because excessive government debt and money printing had caused the price of gold in the free market to rise way above the fixed redemption price of gold,” explains Money Metals exchange.  “Since the dollar was backed by gold up to that point and had gained the status as the most important reserve currency, most other countries around the world had already abandoned their own gold standards and instead pegged their currencies to the dollar.”

While it was met with trepidation at the time, the end of the gold standard has actually paved the way for unbridled economic growth.  It also led to gold as a secondary investment mechanism, which becomes especially popular during times of recession.  But despite operating without the gold standard for nearly 50 years, there are always calls to return.  And because of statements he’s made in the past, many wonder if President 45 is the man to do it.

Is Trump Really Considering a Return?

When the U.S. government first legalized private ownership of gold again in 1975, Trump was one of the more aggressive investors in the country.  He bought in at around $185 an ounce and claims he eventually sold his stake at somewhere between $780 an ounce and $790 an ounce.

But that doesn’t mean that Trump is done with gold.  He still has quite an affinity for it – something clearly visible in his lavish lifestyle.  And when asked about his views on the gold standard in a 2016 interview, he told GQ, “Bringing back the gold standard would be very hard to do, but boy, would it be wonderful.  We’d have a standard on which to base our money.”

Trump is far from alone in his stance.  When you look at other supporters of a return to the gold standard, many of them were on the debate stages with him during the 2016 campaign cycle – including Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Mike Huckabee.

The American people, while mostly aligned on the topic, aren’t exactly opposed, either.  A 2015 Gallup poll shows that 39 percent of people approve of the gold standard, compared to just 15 percent who disapprove.  (Nearly half of all respondents were undecided.)

“The appeal of the gold standard rests with those consumers who are growing weary of a ballooning federal deficit levels and nearly $20 trillion in national debt,” Sean Williams writes for The Motley Fool.  “With the need to have gold on hand to exchange for dollars on an as-needed basis, the Federal Reserve’s ability to print money would be restrained, limiting the amount of debt that could be issued annually.  Some pundits believe that the gold standard could be America’s ticket to getting out of debt, or, at worst, balancing its federal budget.”

Is It Even Practical?

As with most economic issues, there are pros and cons associated with a return to the gold standard.  The benefit, as Williams touched on, is that it would rein in irresponsible spending by the Fed and possibly help the country get out of debt.

The biggest negative is that it would seriously constrain what the Fed can and can’t do.  (Many would say this is actually a positive.)  While it’s easy to disagree with what the Fed chooses to do at times, the ability to influence the economy through monetary policy is important.

In terms of practicality, moving to a gold standard is certainly possible.  Most countries keep the majority of their foreign reserves in gold already, and whatever the U.S. decides to do – since most currencies are currently backed by the dollar – would almost certainly be accommodated by other countries.

But practical and probable are two different things.

It would take a lot for the U.S. to move back to a gold standard, and with so many other issues on President Trump’s plate at the moment, it’s hard to imagine that this is the administration’s biggest priority.  But if anyone were to do it, it would probably be he.



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Is It Time for NATO to Expel Turkey?


NATO was originally formed after World War II as a military partnership to deter and respond to Soviet aggression in Europe.  Turkey was added to NATO to guard the Soviet Union’s southwestern flank, its only southern entrance to the Mediterranean Sea via the Black Sea.  At the time, Turkey had been a secular democracy since 1923 and showed no inclination to return to its imperial Ottoman-Islamic grandeur as ruler of western Asia, a position it lost in World War I.  Turkey became the good guy in the Islamic world after the Great War, the nation that had taken Islam out of the public realm and promised equality before the law for all of its citizens.  Turkey even had (and still has) diplomatic relations with Israel, which was unheard of for a nation with a Muslim majority.  Given its strategic location due to its ability to close the Bosporus Strait and bottle up Soviet warships in the Black Sea during times of war, Turkey was a comfortable fit for NATO.

And then came Erdoğan.

While running for mayor of Istanbul, a position he held from 1994 to 1998, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan campaigned on a promise to return Turkey to its former Ottoman empire glory, the seat of the Islamic caliphate just like old times, by promoting a return to Islam in the public realm.  As prime minister from 2003 to 2014, he changed the law to allow women to wear the hijab (head scarf) in public buildings, which had previously been outlawed to keep religion and public life apart.  He went to war against Turkey’s Kurdish minority and charged army generals with crimes so that he could replace them with Islamists and avoid a coup d’état by secular army officers, who were the backbone of secularism in Turkey.  Recently, he changed the Turkish constitution to allow himself to be president, a formerly symbolic post, with all of the dictatorial powers of an Ottoman sultan and caliph.  And he is building himself a thousand-room, 600-million-dollar grand palace fit for a sultan and caliph.  Now that he has the powers he sought, those who disagree with him are jailed, or they just disappear.

As Erdoğan has strengthened Islam at home, so has he Islamized Turkey’s foreign policy.  He has allowed Islamic State recruits and trucks full of weapons for ISIS to cross the border into Syria to help his fellow Sunni Muslims fight Syria’s Alawite regime (a Shiite offspring) in the continuing 1,400-year-old war between Sunnis and Shiites.  He has jumped on the anti-Israel bandwagon, taking the side of Hamas terrorists and, although Turkey still has diplomatic relations with Israel, threatening Israel with destruction.  Most pertinent to this analysis is the fact that he would not allow the United States to use the airbase at Incirlik, where the U.S. has thousands of airmen and nuclear weapons, when U.S. President George W. Bush invaded Iraq to remove a Sunni Arab dictator, just like what Erdoğan has become.

The issue is not whether Erdoğan had a legal right to prevent America from using the air base in that war or whether the U.S. invasion of Iraq was right or wrong; rather, it is that, under Erdoğan’s leadership, Turkey is not a dependable partner that can be counted upon to come to the aid of its fellow NATO countries when asked.

Now the situation is getting much more problematic.  Recently, Erdoğan used his military to intimidate another NATO country when a Turkish naval vessel rammed a Greek Coast Guard vessel in the Aegean Sea near disputed islands.  Even worse, Turkey recently invaded the Afrin district of Syria and is now fighting both Syrian government-supporters and Kurdish rebels.  Not only do those actions threaten to divide NATO, but they could also propel NATO into a war that Turkey started.

Meanwhile, Turkey is actively undermining Europe’s civilization by flooding the continent with Muslim economic migrants who Erdoğan tells us are “refugees” in an admittedly shameless attempt to Islamize Europe.  And how can NATO count on Turkey’s discretion in the use of confidential NATO intelligence when Turkey has a close working relationship with Iranian intelligence agencies?

So what good is Turkey to NATO?  Not much!  In fact, at this point, Turkey’s negatives far outweigh its positives.  Turkey is not so much a NATO partner as a liability.

But if Turkey were to be expelled from NATO, where else could the U.S. find a location in the eastern Mediterranean for an air base to deter and counter Iranian, Turkish, and even Russian aggression in the region?  There’s only one possibility.  America’s security partner Israel also sits in the eastern Mediterranean and has a large and underpopulated desert in the south, with plenty of room for an American air base.  There actually is a small U.S. radar base there now.  Moreover, Americans are popular in Israel, so they will not be harassed and beaten up, as American airmen and naval personnel have been in Turkey while on leave.  With its modern infrastructure, prime Middle East location, Western values, and common interests with the U.S., Israel would be the perfect place for her closest military ally, the United States, to have an air base.  That’s because Israel, not Turkey, is America’s only true and dependable ally in the Middle East.  

Pete Cohon is a retired attorney living in Tel Aviv, Israel.

NATO was originally formed after World War II as a military partnership to deter and respond to Soviet aggression in Europe.  Turkey was added to NATO to guard the Soviet Union’s southwestern flank, its only southern entrance to the Mediterranean Sea via the Black Sea.  At the time, Turkey had been a secular democracy since 1923 and showed no inclination to return to its imperial Ottoman-Islamic grandeur as ruler of western Asia, a position it lost in World War I.  Turkey became the good guy in the Islamic world after the Great War, the nation that had taken Islam out of the public realm and promised equality before the law for all of its citizens.  Turkey even had (and still has) diplomatic relations with Israel, which was unheard of for a nation with a Muslim majority.  Given its strategic location due to its ability to close the Bosporus Strait and bottle up Soviet warships in the Black Sea during times of war, Turkey was a comfortable fit for NATO.

And then came Erdoğan.

While running for mayor of Istanbul, a position he held from 1994 to 1998, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan campaigned on a promise to return Turkey to its former Ottoman empire glory, the seat of the Islamic caliphate just like old times, by promoting a return to Islam in the public realm.  As prime minister from 2003 to 2014, he changed the law to allow women to wear the hijab (head scarf) in public buildings, which had previously been outlawed to keep religion and public life apart.  He went to war against Turkey’s Kurdish minority and charged army generals with crimes so that he could replace them with Islamists and avoid a coup d’état by secular army officers, who were the backbone of secularism in Turkey.  Recently, he changed the Turkish constitution to allow himself to be president, a formerly symbolic post, with all of the dictatorial powers of an Ottoman sultan and caliph.  And he is building himself a thousand-room, 600-million-dollar grand palace fit for a sultan and caliph.  Now that he has the powers he sought, those who disagree with him are jailed, or they just disappear.

As Erdoğan has strengthened Islam at home, so has he Islamized Turkey’s foreign policy.  He has allowed Islamic State recruits and trucks full of weapons for ISIS to cross the border into Syria to help his fellow Sunni Muslims fight Syria’s Alawite regime (a Shiite offspring) in the continuing 1,400-year-old war between Sunnis and Shiites.  He has jumped on the anti-Israel bandwagon, taking the side of Hamas terrorists and, although Turkey still has diplomatic relations with Israel, threatening Israel with destruction.  Most pertinent to this analysis is the fact that he would not allow the United States to use the airbase at Incirlik, where the U.S. has thousands of airmen and nuclear weapons, when U.S. President George W. Bush invaded Iraq to remove a Sunni Arab dictator, just like what Erdoğan has become.

The issue is not whether Erdoğan had a legal right to prevent America from using the air base in that war or whether the U.S. invasion of Iraq was right or wrong; rather, it is that, under Erdoğan’s leadership, Turkey is not a dependable partner that can be counted upon to come to the aid of its fellow NATO countries when asked.

Now the situation is getting much more problematic.  Recently, Erdoğan used his military to intimidate another NATO country when a Turkish naval vessel rammed a Greek Coast Guard vessel in the Aegean Sea near disputed islands.  Even worse, Turkey recently invaded the Afrin district of Syria and is now fighting both Syrian government-supporters and Kurdish rebels.  Not only do those actions threaten to divide NATO, but they could also propel NATO into a war that Turkey started.

Meanwhile, Turkey is actively undermining Europe’s civilization by flooding the continent with Muslim economic migrants who Erdoğan tells us are “refugees” in an admittedly shameless attempt to Islamize Europe.  And how can NATO count on Turkey’s discretion in the use of confidential NATO intelligence when Turkey has a close working relationship with Iranian intelligence agencies?

So what good is Turkey to NATO?  Not much!  In fact, at this point, Turkey’s negatives far outweigh its positives.  Turkey is not so much a NATO partner as a liability.

But if Turkey were to be expelled from NATO, where else could the U.S. find a location in the eastern Mediterranean for an air base to deter and counter Iranian, Turkish, and even Russian aggression in the region?  There’s only one possibility.  America’s security partner Israel also sits in the eastern Mediterranean and has a large and underpopulated desert in the south, with plenty of room for an American air base.  There actually is a small U.S. radar base there now.  Moreover, Americans are popular in Israel, so they will not be harassed and beaten up, as American airmen and naval personnel have been in Turkey while on leave.  With its modern infrastructure, prime Middle East location, Western values, and common interests with the U.S., Israel would be the perfect place for her closest military ally, the United States, to have an air base.  That’s because Israel, not Turkey, is America’s only true and dependable ally in the Middle East.  

Pete Cohon is a retired attorney living in Tel Aviv, Israel.



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