Friday, June 16, 2017

: re: Michelle Carter Didn’t Kill With a Text


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: barry levine 
Date: Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 8:24 PM
Subject: re: Michelle Carter Didn’t Kill With a Text
To: "letters@nytimes.com"


To the Editor:
    Michelle Carter may in fact be innocent by reason of insanity; that is for her lawyer to plead and for the court to weigh. Her speech, however, is not protected by the First Amendment. Broad though our constitutional guarantee of Free Speech is, it is not without bounds. Ms. Carter incited imminent lawless action. The Supreme Court has found (Brandenburg v. Ohio395 U.S. 44) that such speech is not protected, and may indeed be criminal.
Barry Haskell Levine



https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/opinion/michelle-carter-didnt-kill-with-a-text.html

: re: Russian Military Says It Might Have Killed ISIS Leader

From: barry levine 
Date: Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 6:26 AM
Subject: re: Russian Military Says It Might Have Killed ISIS Leader
To: "letters@nytimes.com"


To the Editor:
    If it is confirmed, the killing of Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi is a blow both to ISIS/DAESH and to Saudi prince Mohammed bin-Salman.  The latter desperately needs a big win on his resume to justify his position in the royal succession at his young age.  Killing al-Baghdadi would have been such a trophy. As the succession fight looms closer (Salman is 81) the only remaining trophy of such stature would be Bashar al-Assad, whom the Russians protect. 
Barry Haskell Levine


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/world/middleeast/baghdadi-russia-isis.html

Thursday, June 15, 2017

: re: Jeff Sessions Gives a Master Class in Dissembling

From: barry levine <levinebar@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, Jun 15, 2017 at 7:38 AM
Subject: re: Jeff Sessions Gives a Master Class in Dissembling
To: "letters@nytimes.com" <letters@nytimes.com>


To the Editor:
    While A.G. Sessions spiritedly denies private meetings with ambassador Kislyak, our FBI has confirmed that he met with Kislyak at least twice, and probably three times. That means that Sessions lied in his confirmation hearing to the Senate of the United States.  The current Congress shows no interest in defending its honor from such contempt. It is for us to replace it with one that will restore checks and balances.
Barry Haskell Levine



Saturday, May 13, 2017

: re: Erick Erickson: The Fantasy of Impeachment


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: barry levine 
Date: Sat, May 13, 2017 at 4:29 PM
Subject: re: Erick Erickson: The Fantasy of Impeachment
To: "letters@nytimes.com"


To the Editor:
   Although the President of the United States, as chief executive, can fire the director of the FBI  for usurping the authority of the Attorney General, or for disclosing an ongoing investigation, or for no reason at all, he is not free to obstruct justice. Firing James Comey while the latter is directing an investigation into Russian meddling in our election of 2016 is both criminal and impeachable. The President of the United States has himself told us that ending it was his intention.
Barry Haskell Levine


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/12/opinion/erick-erickson-the-fantasy-of-impeachment.html

ATLANTA — After President Trump fired James Comey, the F.B.I. director, the media and political left ignited with talk of impeachment. “We are certainly moving down that path,” said Representative Ruben Gallego, Democrat of Arizona. “The Comey Firing May Be the Beginning of the End of the Trump Administration” shouted a headline in New York magazine.
This is a fantasy.
Don’t get me wrong. I have long had concerns about President Trump. He can contradict himself within separate clauses of a single sentence, then lie about the contradiction. He lacks the depth of knowledge a president should have and seems far more concerned with what people on TV say about him than what is happening around him. Even if there is no evidence that the F.B.I. is investigating the president himself, it is reportedly looking at ties between advisers to his campaign and Russia.
But let’s be realistic. Though the firing looks bad, it was also reasonable.
Consider the case made by Rod Rosenstein, the highly respected deputy attorney general, who was recently confirmed by more than 90 members of the Senate. In a memo to the president, Mr. Rosenstein said Mr. Comey had usurped the attorney general’s authority last July by announcing his conclusion that the F.B.I.’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails should be closed without prosecution.
“It is not the function of the director to make such an announcement,” Mr. Rosenstein wrote. “Compounding the error, the director ignored another longstanding principle: We do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation.”Mr. Rosenstein likewise documented concerns from attorneys general from both parties. “The way the director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong,” he concluded. “As a result, the F.B.I. is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them.”
Mr. Comey only made things worse for himself by giving wrong information to Congress about emails belonging to Huma Abedin, Mrs. Clinton’s aide. Mr. Comey’s testimony was under oath, and the F.B.I. had to retract its own director’s testimony. No one can deny this was a bad thing.
Though they are criticizing his firing now, Democrats were calling for Mr. Comey’s head after he reopened the Clinton email investigation late in the campaign last year. If he was so bad then, is he really so good now? It also is telling that two of President Trump’s most vocal critics within the Republican Party, Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both embraced Mr. Comey’s termination.
Last, along with the F.B.I.’s counterintelligence investigation into Russian meddling, there is a Senate investigation. The chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina, and its ranking member, Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, have criticized Mr. Trump’s handling of the Comey termination and are committed to the investigation. A number of other Republican Senators, including John McCain and Ben Sasse, have also raised questions about the firing.
Instead of engaging in conspiracy theories about President Trump’s Russian connections, liberals would be better served demanding that Congress exercise its powers of the purse and investigation to ensure honesty and integrity in the confirmation of a new F.B.I. director and in the operation of the agency.
Frankly, by firing Mr. Comey, President Trump did what President Barack Obama should have done. Most Americans recognize the cynical and hypocritical reactions now being deployed over this. I suspect most Americans do not even care. Hillary Clinton’s supporters have long wanted Mr. Comey out, and President Trump’s supporters will stand by their man.
In continuing to misread the political situation and reality itself, the left is setting itself up for failure and disappointment. The odds are that the president comes out of a Russian investigation unscathed. Even if Democrats take back Congress in 2018, they would probably fall short of the two-thirds vote in the Senate needed to convict him of impeachable offenses.
Impeachment is not on the horizon, and this is not the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency. It is just one day closer to the next presidential election. And until then, and maybe longer, I’m betting Donald Trump will remain our president.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

: re: Hydrogen Cars, Coming Down the Pike


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: barry levine 
Date: Sun, Nov 30, 2014 at 6:33 PM
Subject: re: Hydrogen Cars, Coming Down the Pike
To: "letters@nytimes.com" 


To the Editor:
     The hydrogen economy in general and the hydrogen car in particular are huge boondoggles, designed mostly to reap government subsidies. While it is true that hydrogen as a fuel has a terrific energy density, that ignores the weight of the container needed for a pressurized gas with a propensity for leaking through steel.
    Add to that hydrogen's role as a potent greenhouse gas and the much greater cost of a hydrogen fueling station relative to the charging station for an electric car. There is  no and should be no market for this thing.
Barry Haskell Levine


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/30/opinion/sunday/hydrogen-cars-coming-down-the-pike.html

Monday, March 27, 2017

: re: To Win Again, Democrats Must Stop Being the Abortion Party


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: barry levine 
Date: Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 8:35 AM
Subject: re: To Win Again, Democrats Must Stop Being the Abortion Party
To: "letters@nytimes.com"


To the Editor:
   Donald Trump is on record saying that he is "very pro-choice". That he is also on record saying that he is "very pro-life"  shows not that he has moral principles, but only that he's a shameless liar. If this single issue is paramount for Thomas Groome, he should vote his conscience, of course. But to advance his own pet issue as the general formula for Democratic success is disingenuous.
Barry Haskell Levine


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/27/opinion/to-win-again-democrats-must-stop-being-the-abortion-party.html


Photo
A sticker on the ground at a campaign rally for Donald Trump. CreditDamon Winter/The New York Times
When I came to this country from Ireland some 45 years ago, a cousin, here 15 years before, advised me that Catholics vote Democratic. Having grown up in the Irish Republic, I was well disposed to Republican Party principles like local autonomy and limited government. Yet a commitment to social justice, so central to my faith, seemed better represented by the Democratic Party. I followed my cousin’s good counsel.
But once-solid Catholic support for Democrats has steadily eroded. This was due at least in part to the shift by many American Catholic bishops from emphasizing social issues (peace, the economy) to engaging in the culture wars (abortion, gay marriage). Along the way, many Catholics came to view the Democrats as unconditionally supporting abortion.
Last year’s election was a watershed in this evolution. Hillary Clinton lost the overall Catholic vote by seven points — after President Obama had won it in the previous two elections. She lost the white Catholic vote by 23 points. In heavily Catholic states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, she lost by a hair — the last by less than 1 percent. A handful more of Catholic votes per parish in those states would have won her the election.
Her defeat is all the more remarkable considering that Mrs. Clinton shared many Catholic social values. By contrast, Mr. Trump’s disrespect for women, his racism, sexism and xenophobia should have discouraged conscientious Catholics from voting for him. So why did they? Certainly his promises to rebuild manufacturing and his tough talk on terrorism were factors. But for many traditional Catholic voters, Mrs. Clinton’s unqualified support for abortion rights — and Mr. Trump’s opposition (and promise to nominate anti-abortion Supreme Court justices) — were tipping points.
In its directive, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops make clear that American Catholics do not need to be single-issue voters. The bishops say that while Catholics may not vote for a candidate because that candidate favors abortion, they can vote for a candidate in spite of such a stance, based on the totality of his views. Yet despite that leeway, abortion continues to trigger the deepest moral concern for many traditional Catholics, including me.Polls indicate that the nation holds mixed views about abortion. About 80 percent of Americans don’t want to criminalize it again. At the same time, at least 60 percent of Americans — and most likely a higher percentage of Catholics — oppose abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Yet despite the clear complexity of those attitudes, political discourse largely ignores the possibility of a middle ground between making all abortions legal or prohibiting them entirely. Ms. Clinton, like most Democratic politicians, fell into this either/or trap last year.
When asked about abortion in the third presidential debate, Mrs. Clinton focused on the importance of a woman’s right to choose, saying: “I strongly support Roe v. Wade.” But in making it appear as if she was viewing a wrenching moral decision only through a legal lens, she was losing many Catholic and evangelical voters. For them, her uncompromising defense of Roe was comparable to telling a group of Quakers, “I’m in favor of war,” without even mentioning preconditions.
Mr. Trump, in contrast, offered a graphic description of “ripping the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day,” as if this were standard procedure. (More than 90 percent of American abortions are in the first trimester.)
Amid Mr. Trump’s dysfunction as president, Democrats may have a chance to reclaim their Catholic base in the 2018 midterm elections. By tradition and by our church’s teaching on social justice, many Catholics could readily return to voting reliably Democratic. But for this to happen, their moral concerns regarding abortion must get a hearing within the party, rather than being summarily dismissed. How might that happen?
To begin with, Democratic politicians should publicly acknowledge that abortion is an issue of profound moral and religious concern. As a candidate, Barack Obama did just that in a 2008 interview, saying, “Those who diminish the moral elements of the decision aren’t expressing the full reality of it.”
Democrats should not threaten to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which forbids federal funds to be used for abortion except in extreme circumstances. They could also champion an aggressive program to promote adoption by strengthening the Adoption Assistance Act of 1980 and streamlining adoption procedures. The regulations in many states seem designed to discourage it.
Democratic politicians should also continue to frame their efforts to improve health and social services as a way to decrease abortions. The abortion rate dropped 21 percent from 2009 to 2014. That downward trend would most likely end if Republicans eliminate contraception services provided through the Affordable Care Act.
That Donald Trump, claiming to be anti-abortion, got the majority of Catholic votes to defeat a competent and decent Democrat underscores the continuing influence of abortion in American politics. If Democrats want to regain the Catholic vote, they must treat abortion as a moral issue, work for its continued reduction and articulate a more nuanced message than, “We support Roe v. Wade.”

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

: re: The Enlightenment Project

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: barry levine 
Date: Wed, Mar 1, 2017 at 7:21 AM
Subject: re: The Enlightenment Project
To: letters@forward.com


To the Editor:
  David Brooks seems to resent the Enlightenment for challenging his smug messianic telos.  But the nostalgia he's peddling is a sham; the world of the shtetl was objectively awful. It is the Enlightenment, and the separation of Church from State that permitted the invention of the modern world. Meaning is the mission of the Church, not of our government.
     What is great in America is the embodiment of the Enlightenment. The United States of America is not separable from it.
Barry Haskell Levine


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/28/opinion/the-enlightenment-project.html