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Charlottesville and the ongoing threat of the alt-right

September 21, 2017

Charlottesville will be remembered as an ugly scar on American life.

“Racism is real,” Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina put it bluntly after a white supremacist terrorist drove his car into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators. “It is alive. It is here.”

A month later, it’s still here.

Evil isn’t defeated by temporarily changing our profile picture or tweeting 140 characters of hollow solidarity under #Charlottesville. It requires a sustained and disciplined effort to confront racism in our daily lives — when we see it expressed among our friends or neighbors — and especially when it rears its ugliness in any political capacity.

“Racism and hatred have no place in the conservative movement. Full stop,” writes Townhall columnist Jason Pye.

The uncomfortable reality is that, at one time or another, both major political parties have provided aid and comfort to national socialists and white supremacists. At its peak in the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan’s 4 million members included prominent Southern Democratic judges and elected officials at every level of government. Perhaps most infamously, the late Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia founded a KKK chapter on his way to achieving the Klan’s rank of “Exalted Cyclops.”

The roles have been reversed today, as “white power” extremists rally under the “Unite the Right” banner. This ideological evolution is difficult to explain if you make the mistake of considering it to be a legitimate political movement.

“The angry white boys do not have a serious political agenda,” National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson explains. “Their agenda is their anger, an anger that is difficult to understand.”

As further proof of this anger-driven agenda, look no further than the fascinating evolution of one agent provocateur: Jason Kessler. The self-proclaimed “pro-white” activist found a home in white supremacy only after serving as a Wall Street Occupier and backing President Obama, according to the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center.

Conservatives and libertarians must be alert to what happened in Charlottesville. Ignoring the alt-right will leave a deep and permanent scar on the conservative movement. We can’t offer moral equivocations or excuses, either.

“They are the wolves in sheep clothing looking to draw more and more people into their pack, while ripping away at the foundation of freedom and liberty at the same time,” warns Hot Air’s Taylor Millard.

There’s space for nearly everyone in the Republican Party. Our movement is united by freedom for the individual from government oppression. You can be a dreadlocked homeless activist, or a buttoned-up college Republican. However, you can’t be a white supremacist or an alt-right fascist.

We’ve been here once before. The founder of modern conservativism, William F. Buckley Jr., who started National Review in the 1950s, exposed anti-Semitism on the right — and excised it entirely. This old story must be replayed to face the new threat.

Republican organizations, large and small, must actively identify white supremacists, Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and any other alt-right extremists within our ranks, and forcibly exorcise them from the conservative movement. Don’t expect this to happen overnight.

“Anyone that expects an epiphany or a transformation to happen overnight because somebody walks in a room, I think, you don’t understand human nature,” said Mr. Scott, the first African American senator to win election in the South since Reconstruction.

The domestic terrorist attack in Charlottesville is quickly fading from the headlines, but the real work to stamp out its “white power” origins is only just beginning.

Alt-right, white supremacist followers should never be tolerated by conservatives.

California’s high-speed rail promoters should heed the wisdom of rats

August 29, 2017

By Shawn Steel

California’s high-speed rail project has broken more promises than ground. At every stage, the project has underestimated costs and overestimated benefits.

Travel times are up 40 percent. Ticket prices have risen 78 percent. Construction costs have nearly doubled – from initial estimates of $33 billion to $64 billion. So far, roughly 1,000 construction jobs have benefited the Central Valley – a far cry from the 160,000 construction-related jobs and 450,000 permanent tourism jobs originally promised.

California’s high-speed rail is a classic case of a sunk cost trap. In behavioral economics, the sunk cost fallacy describes that uniquely human circumstance by which we throw good money after bad ideas, persisting with a losing proposition because it’d be a waste to walk away now, after all we’ve spent.

Rail executives have turned the sunk cost fallacy into their sales pitch. In a revealing interview this summer, Dan Richard, chair of the California High Speed Rail Authority, conceded that the project’s funding plan relies on it.

“By 2024, we’re going to be deep into construction. We’re going to be on the verge of opening the first service. We’ll be seeing Google and others making massiveinvestments in areas around high-speed-rail stations,” he said. “The case will be there for the importance of continued funding.”

That sunk cost argument was enough to persuade the Federal Transit Administration to provide $647 million in federal grants to electrify a 51-mile stretch of Caltrain tracks that transports workers between San Jose and San Francisco.

While the tech oligarchs reap the immediate benefits of improving their daily commute, the beleaguered Central Valley gets grand promises of economic revitalization. As a remedy for the Bay Area’s sky-high housing prices, rail proponents are selling a new vision of Central Valley worker bees transported via high-speed rail to the Silicon Valley.

“Why not build new communities, well-designed communities, sustainable communities in the Central Valley?” asks Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “[Why not] have more folks live there and have an efficient and pleasant train commute into the Bay Area?”

The idea that tens of thousands of workers will spend hours commuting to Silicon Valley is fiction. Tech companies don’t create jobs for the masses. When Snapchat went public last year, the $31 billion company employed fewer than 2,000 workers. Compare that to the 58,000 employees of retailer Ross Stores, or 55,000 employees of engine manufacturer Cummins, Inc., both of equivalent market capitalization.

Of the few jobs created by technology companies, even fewer will take a train to the Central Valley. “Most new jobs are not near transit,” the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Research Association concluded in its latest report. “Despite efforts by regional planners to incentivize transit-accessible locations, only 28 percent of new office development has occurred within a half-mile of regional transit.”

With construction costs up and job creation down, California should bite the bullet on the bullet train boondoggle, like rats abandoning a sinking ship. The behavior, first observed by Pliny the Elder in the 1st century A.D. and later canonized by Shakespeare in The Tempest, is based on sound economic theory.

New research published last month in the Journal of Behavioral Processes has found that rats behave optimally in a sunk cost task. Unlike human beings, rats aren’t emotionally invested in their past mistakes. When the ship starts to sink, they don’t worry about the resources already expended.

Rats! If only California high-speed rail executives acted as rationally.

My family escaped North Korea - Trump's response was spot on

August 17, 2017

08/17/17 06:20 PM EDT

After President Trump's strong response to the increased threat from North Korea, many have been quick to call the response dangerous and inflammatory. The only dangerous and inflammatory activity has come from North Korea's increasingly volatile and violent leader. 

As an immigrant from South Korea whose family escaped the communist north, I refuse to support any policy or action that could lead to the appeasement of the unhinged Kim Jong-Un and his murderous government. 

It is unclear why many who would acknowledge that Kim Jong-Un and his despotic leadership are dangerous and out of control would at the same time ask for the United States to concede and pursue the same policy of pay-offs and appeasement that has consistently failed for the past two decades. Not only has that policy failed - it created the crisis, which we currently face.

For the past twenty years, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, the position of the United States has been consistent with that put forward by Trump: If North Korea puts the United States at risk, the United States will react in kind. Yet, as Kim Jong-Il and his arguably less-sane son and successor, Kim Jong-Un, continued their march toward full nuclearization, previous American administrations tamped down their rhetoric as Trump is being urged to do now. 

The U.S. adopted a policy of pay-offs and appeasement that cooled off rhetoric on our side, but only fanned the flames of North Korean propaganda. And worse, those policies have brought us to a point where Kim Jong-Un appears to possess deployable nuclear-tipped intercontinental-ballistic missiles.

The United States cannot and should not have a passive relationship with anyone who so boldly threatens the lives of American citizens and our allies.

Those who truly recognize the danger the North Korean regime presents cannot in good conscience suggest that our president take a passive and weak attitude towards such a real threat to not only the United States but, to our allies in the Pacific.

It is this laissez-faire attitude, which the previous administration called "strategic patience," in response to North Korea's belligerence that is to blame for the current escalation and danger to our national defense. "Strategic patience", as many have pointed out is just another way of saying, "kick the can down the road." Well, Trump isn't kicking any cans down the road.

Trump is neither the instigator nor the cause of this escalation. That blame lies with the unstable communist dictator Kim Jong-Un. I stand by and support Trump's strong resolve to protect our great nation and our allies from all threats.

Requests and outcries for a peaceful response from our president amid the growing threat are entirely misdirected. Efforts should be aimed toward the North Korean leader, whose actions threaten peace and exacerbate the possibility of nuclear warfare. His actions alone threaten the millions of innocent people living in both North and South Korea, not the United States and our president. 

We must never forget the brutality of North Korea's government and lack of concern for human life. Only a few months ago, American citizen Otto Warmbier, was laid to rest after a brutal and ultimately fatal 17-month detention in North Korea. Still to this day there are three fellow Americans who are still living this nightmare.

Tony Kim, Kim Hak Song and Kim Dong Chul are all fellow Americans who are currently still detained in North Korea. Tony Kim, a teacher and humanitarian worker along with fellow teacher Kim Hak Song were arrested and the charges are still unclear. Kim Dong-chul was a business man and is currently serving a 10 year of hard labor in North Korea. 

Defense Secretary James Mattis stated that the State Department will make every effort to resolve the global threat through diplomatic means. But, he has also said that North Korea "would lose any arms race of conflict it initiates," and that North Korea "should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people." 

I don't wish for either side to escalate this increasing tension to bring global warfare that could risk the lives of innocent people. As they say, it takes two to tango and I do not believe blaming our president for the escalation in hostility between our two nations is a fair evaluation. 

I stand by Trump and those who, like him in this circumstance, stand up for truth against evil. 

House Passes Bill on Illegal Immigration, Sanctuary Cities

June 29, 2017

Orange County’s conservative students under attack

February 22, 2017


An emerging sinister force is suppressing free speech throughout American universities. Conservative students are under attack. Now a dark cloud hovers over Orange Coast College.

OCC suspended 19-year-old student Caleb O’Neil for video recording outrageous, inflammatory, hateful statements against President Trump made by Olga Perez Stable Cox, a sex education teacher.

The free speech movement started at the University of California, Berkeley in 1963. The recent riots at UC Berkeley represent a retrograde approach for the university, which is now embracing opposing speech by violent means. Faculty members joined with street fighters to shut down Milo Yiannopoulos, who happens to be a gay, Jewish, British conservative.

It began in the 1960s. The ruthless left-wing Students for a Democratic Society and affiliates hated contrary free speech and created the politically correct culture. The university evolved from free speech to “correct speech.” A student cannot say things that would offend anyone on the left. Yesterday’s SDS members are today’s faculty.

Members of the OCC College Republicans hold a U.S. flag as a counter protest to other students, including those in the Feminist Club, who show their support for instructor Olga Perez Stable Cox during a campus rally in Costa Mesa, California, December 12, 2016.  Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Just as their ideological heroes — Cuba, Vietnam and Communist China — regularly control dissenting views, at OCC, the ruthless union faculty leaders are actively demanding that the administration suspend Caleb and instructing anyone else to stay away from the offending instructor.

Perez was caught on video in one of her three classes stating that Trump is a “white supremacist,” and that voting for Trump was an “act of terrorism.” Student Caleb O’Neil was shocked with what Perez was saying about Trump following the election. He captured Perez’s inflammatory comments on his video camera.

Little did Caleb know that he would face a two-semester-long suspension from the campus.

The three of us — Caleb, OCC College Republicans President Joshua Recalde-Martinez and Shawn Steel, serving as their attorney — met with Orange Coast College President Dennis Harkins a week after the incident. We asked what action Harkins would take against the inflammatory statements made by Olga Perez. Harkins offered no clarity. After Harkins refused to take action, the video was posted and viewed by more than a million people all over the world.

The faculty union struck back, demanding that, instead of Perez being punished, the student be expelled. Soon after, the administration expanded its witch hunt by going after three more College Republican leaders for broadcasting the video. Then the administration also targeted College Republicans President Joshua Recalde-Martinez’s mother, who works at the school, because she was a co-adviser of the club.

Edwina Recalde is the sole support of four teenage children, including Joshua. The left will stop at nothing, using Saul Alinski’s tactics to identify, trash and destroy its enemies.

OCC should be embarrassed and ashamed of what it’s doing to its own students, and to the taxpayers who support the school.

Fortunately, attorney Bill Becker of the Freedom X nonprofit law firm is stepping in to lead Caleb O’Neil’s appeal. If necessary, Becker will file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the administrators and faculty union leaders if they continue persecuting Caleb O’Neil.

The movement to reassert free speech rights begins in Orange County. We hope a new free speech movement can spread into the dark recesses of universities in America. Right now, we demand that OCC leave Caleb alone.

Joshua Recalde-Martinez is a former president of the OCC College Republicans. Caleb O’Neil is a member of OCC College Republicans. Shawn Steel is a pro bono attorney for the OCC College Republicans.