Adding LGBTQ to Baltimore’s Minority Set-Aside Program Raises Important Questions That Ought to Concern Us

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh recently signed an executive order adding LGBTQ businesses to those eligible to receive special consideration in the awarding of city contracts. Although the Baltimore Sun criticized Pugh for the way she went about it––failing to conduct a study first to justify the need, this incident is a good opportunity to re-examine the justification for these programs.

In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court declared such programs unconstitutional if they are not based on a “disparity study,” showing each group is actually being discriminated against. In that decision Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote “The dream of a Nation of equal citizens in a society where race is irrelevant to personal opportunity and achievement would be lost in a mosaic of shifting preferences based on inherently unmeasurable claims of past wrongs.” Her concern speaks to what has happened since––namely, programs run on slim justification haunted by occasional cheating and a burden on taxpayers

Business ownership is fungible. Instances have been uncovered where a woman or minority was named owner of a company solely for the purpose of being placed on the approved list when the true owner was neither. One infamous case involved a man who identified as Navajo moving from Arizona to Maryland for the express purpose of becoming the “owner” of a company that he never owned. (See https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jul/27/minority-contract-set-aside-program-exploited/)

In addition to minority set asides, some states have small business set-asides. Combining all these programs leaves few opportunities for older companies that might have more to offer on the basis of experience and capital. The result is likely to mean work not done on time or at the desired level of quality and it can cost taxpayers more.

Another potential problem with these programs is setting the percentage of contracts that are to be awarded to minority-owned companies. The rational for a specific percentage ought to be based on current practices as well as the percentage of minority and women owned companies that are eligible to participate. Those numbers are likely to change from year to year and thus regular testing seems to be necessary to avoid favoritism and the exclusion of companies from bidding simply because they are not minority owned.

What O’Connor questions is whether the jurisdictions that offer these programs have the resources to evaluate the qualifications of the applicants and the quality of their work. Does adequate vetting taking place to determine whether a minority company has the management leadership, workforce experience, and capital to undertake the project?

Do they properly monitor minority contract winners to determine that they are carrying out their work in a proper manner, successfully achieving the expected results in the mandated time period?

There are dozens of opportunities for these programs to fail. The intent may be good, but does the results match the expectation?

Finally, do these programs bring us any closer to the day when such programs are no longer needed? I have my doubts. It seems that government bureaucracies generate built-in inertia in matters such as this. It is to the advantage of the employees in the offices that manage these programs to justify the need for their continuation and to overlook any discrepancies in a company’s application in order to give the mayor or governor numbers to show she or he is doing a good job.

A good way to avoid exchanging problems based on discrimination with ones reflecting poor oversight and poor work quality would be to sunset the programs, requiring a diversity study every two or three years before they are renewed.

Facing the modern KGB: What we can learn from Natan Sharanksy

Fear No Evil, by Natan Sharansky, 1998 edition (Public Affairs)

What would you do if you were arrested as a result of actions you’d taken on behalf of your religious and/or political beliefs, threatened with execution or long imprisonment, but offered leniency if you confessed and testified against your colleagues? Most of us would automatically say we’d resist, but consider the kind of pressure levied by Robert Mueller and his team of investigators against Lieutenant General Mike Flynn, who as a result of being accused of lying to the FBI, lost his job, had his life and that of his family destroyed, and has been facing prison time for two years while Mueller and the boys (there are no girls on that team as far as I know) pressured him into naming names. In other words, he was punished before he was convicted. But this is America, you are probably saying. Nothing like that could happen in America. Wrong.

If Robert Mueller hasn’t personally studied the methods of the KGB, I’ll bet someone on his team has. The KGB was masterful in their methods. Torture, you’re imagining, but would it surprise you to learn that physical torture, such as beatings and waterboarding, were not used in the case of political prisoners like Natan Sharansky, the Jewish refusnik who spent nine years in the Soviet prison system many of them in the Gulag, the Soviet Union’s desolate Siberian territory.

The KBG specialized in psychological torture, such as threats to imprison one’s family and loved ones; isolation in punishment cells where you were not allowed to lie down during the day; promises of better treatment and shorter sentences if you only name names––these methods it turns out were effective on 99% of those sucked into the system. Sharansky was the one percent who successfully resisted.

How you ask? By refusing to cooperate on any level with the KGB. He refused all offers and all threats. He accepted long stays in punishment cells even though he knew he might die as a result. He lost so much body weight that he had severe heart problems that required long prison hospital stays. He went on hunger strikes over principled issues, including demanding his copy of Psalms be returned to him or demanding that his letters home be released to his family. He protested when other prisoners were mistreated even though it meant more stays in punishment or prison cells, but he knew from day one that only by having nothing to do with the KGB could he survive his ordeal without selling out his soul.

What gave him the courage to stand up to the KGB when almost no one else could? A combination of factors, including a sharp mind that he used to become a child chess prodigy, a relationship with the woman he married only days before being arrested in 1977 whose garnered support from thousands including world leaders like France’s Mitterand and the U.S.’s Ronald Reagan, and the fact that his commitment to Judaism allowed him to separate himself from anything and everything that had to do with the Soviet Union.

Anyone wanting to strengthen their own system of belief––religious or secular––can benefit from reading Sharansky’s memoir which was first published two years after he was released in a prisoner exchange in 1986, which brings us back to 2018 and the Mueller investigation.

Hampered by one’s belief that the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice are incorruptible, and that KGB methods would never be applied in this country, good men such as Mike Flynn when arrested by Robert Mueller naively assume they can tell the truth and not be victimized. Of course, I wasn’t present at any of those interviews. So, I must speculate on the basis of what is known, and it is clear that Mueller’s methods of exacting cooperation and confessions out of people whose deeds were not criminal must be modeled on the techniques perfected in the Soviet Union. How else can one explain what has been done to Mike Flynn despite the fact that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn did so under false pretense while he was still an official of the Trump White House and who did not believe he lied. His failure to understand that others were out to get him and the President at any cost would allow them to undertake such nefarious methods is what led to his downfall. Hence, his recent confession must be understand as that offered by a man who has undergone two years of psychological torture and who has confessed as part of a deal that might keep him out of prison and save his family further suffering.

I doubt Mike Flynn will be writing about his experience with America’s version of the KGB. His plea deal will probably require him to swear he’ll never reveal the details of how they got him to confess. Natan Sharansky withstood nine years of psychological warfare on his character. How long this country must wait for the American KGB to be brought down is anybody’s guess.

Why I’m Closing My Twitter Account and Why You Should Also

An inevitable phenomenon has happened in the aftermath of the explosion of Internet-related technologies: the monopolization of service and social media providers, echoing the monopolization of heavy industry that occurred at the end of the 19th century which led to major anti-trust legislation in the early 20th century.

Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Twitter dominate their unique industries to the extent that they can get away with monopolistic practices such as undercutting or buying out potential competitors.

The leaders of today’s Internet and social media monopolies are conscious of the danger of anti-trust oversight and thus are using their financial and other resources to keep potential enforcers off their backs.

One example of how they do this is to lend their services to those in power. A prime example is Facebook’s aiding the Obama Administration target potential supporters in the 2012 election. It’s reported they even had an office at the White House. (See https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/feb/17/obama-digital-data-machine-facebook-election)

Use of Facebook’s database to target potential Obama supporters was not challenged either by anti-trust enforcers or by the mainstream media until they learned that Cambridge Analytica had been able to access the same technology on behalf of conservative causes. As a result, Mark Zuckerberg had to be brought back in line by Congressional hearings and a public wrist-slapping.

The lesson of Facebook has been clear to the other giants. Support for left-liberal politicians and causes is acceptable; support for conservatives is not.

Today it’s not uncommon to hear conservative Facebook users report that they had been censored––that their accounts had been shut down and they had been unable to post or repost. Facebook claims it is unbiased in these efforts, but the evidence is overwhelming that any hint of “alt-right” leanings puts one on the watch list. (see https://www.foxnews.com/tech/dozens-of-facebook-employees-challenge-intolerant-liberal-culture)

Twitter is one of the less important, less celebrated services, but it has aggressively engaged in censoring of conservative viewpoints. The most eggregious example is the recent censoring of Laura Loomer, a conservative activist who called out Ilhan Omar, the Muslim woman recently-elected to Congress from Minnesota.

Loomer tweeted “Isn’t it ironic how the twitter moment used to celebrate ‘women, LGBTQ, and minorities’ is a picture of Ilhan Omar? Ilhan is pro-Sharia, Ilhan is pro-FGM (female genital mutilation). Under Sharia, homosexuals are oppressed & killed. Women are abused & forced to wear the hijab. Ilan is anti-Jewish.”

For that tweet, Loomer was permanently banned from Twitter. She had to chain herself to the entrance of Twitter headquarters in New York City to obtain any press coverage of her situation. While legal action is underway to rectify the double-standard censorship by Facebook, Twitter and Google, there is another way to deal with the situation. Remove one’s presence from those organizations.

Listen to Michelle Malkin’s CRTV analysis of the way that Twitter censored Loomer while applauding a leftist hater at (https://www.facebook.com/MichelleMalkinCRTV/videos/346201796156790/UzpfSTE1MzgzMTIxMzc6MTAyMTc2NzEwNzkzMTg5NDI/) and then if you agree Twitter is a place you no longer can support, follow my example. Close your Twitter account.