A civilized society's first line of defense is not the law, police and courts but customs, traditions and moral values. Behavioral norms, mostly transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings, represent a body of wisdom distilled over the ages through experience and trial and error. They include important thou-shalt-nots such as shalt not murder, shalt not steal, shalt not lie and cheat, but they also include all those courtesies one might call ladylike and gentlemanly conduct. The failure to fully transmit values and traditions to subsequent generations represents one of the failings of the so-called greatest generation.

Behavior accepted as the norm today would have been seen as despicable yesteryear. There are television debt relief advertisements that promise to help debtors to pay back only half of what they owe. Foul language is spoken by children in front of and sometimes to teachers and other adults. When I was a youngster, it was unthinkable to use foul language to an adult; it would have meant a smack across the face. Back then, parents and teachers didn't have child-raising "experts" to tell them that "time out" is a means of discipline. Baby showers are held for unwed mothers. Yesteryear, such an acceptance of illegitimacy would have been unthinkable.

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s2smodern

Seventy-one years ago this month -- in January 1948 -- a black, 17-year-old high school dropout left home. The last grade he had completed was the 9th grade. He had no skills, little experience, and not a lot of maturity. Yet he was able to find jobs to support himself, to a far greater extent than someone similar can find jobs today.

I know because I was that black 17-year-old. And, decades later, I did research on economic conditions back then.

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s2smodern

In this era when there has been more information available to more people than at any time in the past, it is also true that there has been more misinformation from more different sources than ever. We are not talking about differences of opinion or inadequate verification, but about statements and catchwords in utter defiance of facts.

Among the most popular current catchwords are "climate change deniers." Stop and think. Have you ever -- even once in your entire life -- seen, heard or read even one human being who denied that climates change?

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s2smodern

Britain's release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi-- the Libyan terrorist whose bomb blew up a plane over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, killing 270 people-- is galling enough in itself. But it is even more profoundly troubling as a sign of a larger mood that has been growing in the Western democracies in our time.

In ways large and small, domestically and internationally, the West is surrendering on the installment plan to Islamic extremists.

The late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put his finger on the problem when he said: "The timid civilized world has found nothing with which to oppose the onslaught of a sudden revival of barefaced barbarity, other than concessions and smiles."

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s2smodern

The most important thing about what anyone says are not the words themselves but the credibility of the person who says them.

The words of convicted swindler Bernie Madoff were apparently quite convincing to many people who were regarded as knowledgeable and sophisticated. If you go by words, you can be led into anything.

No doubt millions of people will be listening to the words of President Barack Obama Wednesday night when he makes a televised address to a joint session of Congress on his medical care plans. But, if they think that the words he says are what matters, they can be led into something much worse than being swindled out of their money.

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s2smodern

There was a time when rushing a thousand-page bill through Congress so fast that no one has time to read it would have provoked public outrage. But now, this has been attempted twice in the first 6 months of a new administration.

The fact that they got away with it before, with the "stimulus" bill, may have led them to believe that they could get away with it again.

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s2smodern

Is it any wonder that American news consumers are at the end of their ropes of patience with the "mainstream media"?

Three weeks ago, when I first documented troubling questions, contradictions and doubts about Trump-hating, attention-craving actor Jussie Smollett's absurd hate crime claims, few in the "professional" journalism herd paid heed. Now, with a grand jury investigation on the horizon, everyone's a Johnny-come-lately debunker.

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s2smodern
Mike Scruggs