On the Caravan

There are certain positions embraced by large numbers of our citizens that I don’t understand – literally, “don’t get”; perhaps foremost among them is the visceral desire so many of our people have to keep immigrants out of our country.  The President is obviously currently in the process of inciting a frenzy amongst his supporters about the “caravan” of Hondurans now making their way north from their country through Mexico.

Putting aside the fact that the President is blatantly lying about these desperate people – such as calling their progress north an “invasion” (2000 penniless, malnourished, exhausted, unarmed people — including children — over 1000 miles away is hardly a challenge for the most wealthy and armed 300+ million people on earth), while indicating that the caravan was organized and/or encouraged by the Democrats and includes “Middle Easterners” (presumably terrorists) – so as to prey upon his supporters’ fear and intense dislike of Hispanic immigrants for his own political gains, it cannot be ignored that although the President exploits these feelings, he didn’t create them; a significant segment of our populace obviously does feel a deep antipathy toward non-white, non-English-speaking immigrants.

In an economy in which just about everyone that wants a job has one, it’s hard to ascribe these citizens’ abhorrence to fear of job loss.  Perhaps some of it arises from no more than a wary discomfort with what is different.  Perhaps some arises from the notion that immigrants are a drain on our public finances.  (Acknowledging that there are distinctions that should perhaps be taken into account, I have seen any number of economists opine that immigration is an overall a net economic plus for us.)  Since the vast majority of the President’s supporters and virtually all of those that form the backdrop of his rallies are of European Christian descent, it’s hard not to attribute the hostility of some (NOT all) to racial and/or religious bias.

As these struggling people continue their extremely arduous and dangerous journey north, the irony of the anxiety being felt by some of our citizens isn’t merely an “800 pound gorilla” … it’s King Kong.  I see little difference between the struggle those in the caravan are currently enduring to escape intolerable conditions in their own country to seek a better life in our country from that of the European emigres who left intolerable conditions in their countries to come here a couple of centuries ago.  Whether they braved a terribly dangerous journey to cross the sea to an extremely harsh environment because of religious persecution, famine, or otherwise, they came here, as the Hondurans currently intend, because they saw it as their only way to a better life.  The vast majority of them arrived here with no more than those in the caravan carry today.  Those of English, French, German, Russian, Irish, Polish, Scandinavian, Italian, Spanish, and other descent certainly must have considered the languages, customs, faiths, and skin tones (between northern and southern Europe) of the others strange and perhaps threatening.  They got over it.

I absolutely agree that those that immigrate here should make every effort to assimilate and contribute – for their good as well as ours.  That said, while we need immigration laws, they should be tolerant ones.

There is a dominant American DNA strand, the strand that actually made this country great:  that without regard to ethnicity, gender, religion or other particulars that distinguish us from one another, our forebears that chose to make the journey here carried the same gene in their psyches — the courage to risk everything for the promise of a better life.  These Hondurans possess the same DNA strand.  Whether they ever reach and/or are admitted to our country, they already are, in the most fundamental way, citizens of the United States …

Forbes’ Article: Roberts Requests Tenth Circuit to Investigate Kavanaugh Ethics Questions

While quite a bit has already been said in these pages about the Kavanaugh confirmation battle, a good friend has called a Forbes article to my attention that the friend felt some might find of interest.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2018/10/11/chief-justice-roberts-requests-tenth-circuit-to-investigate-kavanaugh-ethics-questions/#6b6feb161877

Kavanaugh Nomination: Current Impressions

As the maelstrom around the Kavanaugh nomination may perhaps be starting to draw to a close, a few impressions at the intersection of politics and policy:

  1. As indicated earlier, I submit that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination should be denied because no one has brought forth a tenable reason why Dr. Ford would make up a claim — of which she has testified she is “100%” certain – when she knew that she would provoke the whirlwind which will now forever mark her life and impact the lives of her family. As far as I can tell, even Republican Senators don’t – as I understand Sen. Orrin Hatch said – find her “uncredible.”  I ask my conservative women friends:  If the roles were reversed, and you knew in high school a now-liberal male judge nominated to the Supreme Court by a Democratic President, would you make up an alleged assault, purely to prevent your former classmate from being elevated to the Supreme Court?  And:  how likely is it that even after 30 years, you would be mistaken about the identity of your assailant?

 

  1. To parrot a point admittedly made by numerous talking heads: While, subject to the outcome of the FBI investigation, a “He Said, She Said” situation appears to exist, this is not a criminal investigation; it’s a job interview.  The “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that would be appropriately required to convict Judge Kavanaugh of sexual assault isn’t required to withhold consent to his ascension to the Supreme Court; what’s required are sufficient grounds to conclude that we as a people should look elsewhere for our next Supreme Court Justice.  That standard has – in my view – been easily met.

 

  1. I have been and continue to be disappointed at the majority of Republicans’ response to this controversy. Too many seemed obsessed by the timing of the presentation of the allegations.  I consider the timing of the presentation of the allegations irrelevant – a red herring to stir up the conservative partisan base.  I would have expected that the reaction of any Senator of either party to these allegations would have been:  Is Dr. Ford telling the truth, or not?  The truth, as well as it can be determined, is what matters – whether the allegations were brought forth months ago or minutes before the final confirmation vote.  Sen. McConnell is already saying that the Senate will vote “this week.”  Clearly, what he cares about is winning this fight, not truth or right – a shameful dereliction of duty on par with his failure to allow the Senate to consider President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland.  Virtually no commentators think Democrats will take control of the Senate in January, so presumably, if there is sufficient evidence of questionable behavior on Judge Kavanaugh’s part to dissuade a couple of Republican Senators from consenting to the Judge’s nomination, there are plenty of other conservative judges President Trump can nominate that will receive Senate confirmation in either this or the next Congress.  Sen. McConnell nonetheless clearly believes that he can’t take the chance – which says to me (if we needed further evidence, which I didn’t) that he prioritizes partisanship over truth and fair process.

 

  1. I found Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony on September 27 disqualifying in two additional respects not evident in the earlier proceedings. First, conceding (as just about everybody that reads these pages is well aware) that the poster of these notes can be subject to his own Irish eruptions, and that those of us with vitriolic natures sometimes need a bit of tolerant understanding when we erupt, Judge Kavanaugh’s opening statement, in which he stated that the concerns regarding Dr. Ford’s allegations involved:  “… a calculated and orchestrated political hit,” “apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election;” “Revenge on behalf of the Clintons”; and “millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups,” was … unseemly and unsettling.    This display of rank partisanship, no matter the provocation, is unfitting for a Supreme Court nominee and sullies the standing of the Court.  His elevation will cause doubt throughout his tenure whether any litigant with a position contrary to his natural inclination will get a fair hearing.  Second, and as important to me:  although Judge Kavanaugh apologized thereafter, his response to Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s respectful question (given the circumstances) whether he had ever drunk so much that he didn’t remember what he had done the next morning was purely … bullying.  He bullied her.

 

  1. Nevertheless, unless Mark Judge, the only person Dr. Ford places in the room with her and Judge Kavanaugh at the time of the alleged assault, substantially confirms Dr. Ford’s account, I’d consider it highly likely that Judge Kavanaugh will be confirmed.  Mr. Judge’s concern if he untruthfully supports Judge Kavanaugh’s account:  if Democrats assume a majority in the House of Representatives next January, they are very likely to commission a more thorough investigation of Dr. Ford’s allegations, which will certainly include checking with anyone that Mr. Judge might have talked to about the Kavanaugh-Ford incident.  Any material discrepancy uncovered between Mr. Judge’s informal exchanges and his account to the FBI could well ultimately have serious repercussions for Mr. Judge … and then-Justice Kavanaugh.

 

  1. I find it ironic that Republican Sen. Jeff Flake – sufficiently a pariah in some circles within his own state’s Republican party that he chose not to seek reelection – has, despite Sen. McConnell’s myopic preoccupation with Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, perhaps saved a number of Republican seats in the upcoming midterms by forcing the FBI investigation of the sexual allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. We have been on the road, but even out in the great southwest, we sensed the paroxysm that would have resulted had the Republicans slammed through Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation without investigation of or regard to, and perhaps in disregard of, Dr. Ford’s claims.  Although the partisan skirmishing is continuing, some of the partisan steam seems to have been let out of the pot.  Unless the FBI comes up with credible evidence to support Dr. Ford’s claim, not only will Judge Kavanaugh be confirmed, but Republican candidates in close races may escape the wrath that I submit might have been visited on them for a Republican process deemed partisan and incomplete by a substantial number of Americans.

 

If I were President Trump and Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination fails, I’d immediately nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative favorite.  Unless there is anything disqualifying in Judge Barrett’s background that has so far been unreported, a rejection of Judge Kavanaugh will sufficiently vent liberals’ furor while stoking conservatives’ anger that Judge Barrett’s nomination will sail through.

Postscript to Taking a Knee

Around Memorial Day, I did a post on “Taking a Knee,” relating to NFL players’ demonstrations during the national anthem, and it engendered as much response – pro and con, from people on both sides for whom I have the highest regard — as any note I’ve entered thus far. 

With so much in our nation and the Catholic Church worthy of discussion, I enter this now only because of an op-ed published yesterday on NBC News by former NFL player Nate Boyer, a six-year Army veteran and Green Beret with tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Perhaps all but me are already aware of this, but Colin Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee during the national anthem as his manner for protesting police brutality toward African-American males arose as a result of a discussion with Mr. Boyer.  Apparently, the first week that Mr. Kaepernick staged his protest, he had sat on the bench during the national anthem, and Mr. Boyer had taken him to task for his apparent disrespect for the nation and our service men and women.  Messrs. Kaepernick and Boyer had their discussion not long thereafter.  I found this quote attributed to Mr. Boyer, in which he described the players’ exchange after he understood what Mr. Kaepernick was actually intending to protest by his gesture: 

“I expressed to him, maybe there’s a different way of demonstrating, where you’re showing more respect for those who laid down their lives for what that flag and anthem stand for.  I suggested kneeling, because people kneel to pray; we’ll kneel in front of a fallen brother’s grave.”

Mr. Boyer makes clear that he disagrees with what Mr. Kaepernick did, but supports Mr. Kaepernick’s right to do it.  A link to his recent op-ed is posted below.

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/colin-kaepernick-national-anthem-america-how-military-service-influenced-my-ncna906956

Link to Senior Administration Official’s Anonymous NYT Op-Ed

It is likely that everyone that has an interest has already read the anonymous op-ed piece published today in the New York Times authored by a senior political appointee of the Administration (i.e., an official that cannot be labeled a part of the President’s fantasized “deep state”).  Nonetheless, this was worth posting in the event that there is anyone having an interest that wishes to access it.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/opinion/trump-white-house-anonymous-resistance.html

McCain’s Final Message

Although I suspect that most that care to have already read this, there is no better summation of America’s place in the world and current struggles than Sen. McCain’s last message.

My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for sixty years, and especially my fellow Arizonans,

Thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them.

I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else’s.

I owe that satisfaction to the love of my family. No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America. To be connected to America’s causes – liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people – brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.

“Fellow Americans” – that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process.

We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.

We are three-hundred-and-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.

Ten years ago, I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with the heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening.

I feel it powerfully still.

Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.

A Monday’s Sundry Thoughts

Of assorted items in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:

  1. An Op-Ed piece by Mike Solon, former adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, entitled, “Tax Cuts Bust ‘Secular Stagnation’,” in which Mr. Solon asserts that the 4.1% second quarter GDP growth “… should finally discredit three popular claims made by opponents of the president’s policies: that tax cuts would blow a hole in the deficit, that corporate tax cuts would serve only rich investors, and that secular stagnation was a valid excuse for the slow growth of the Obama era.”

That we have had recent and fast economic growth is a fact.  I’m a bit surprised that Mr. Solon is willing to claim lasting vindication for the Republican measures so quickly.  A significant majority of the economists quoted in Journal pieces over the last six months have opined that the tax cut and attendant spending bill have given us a short-term economic boost akin to one’s feeling after downing an expresso … while they fear we will have a similar economic letdown as the burst wears off.  That said, this is an instance where the long term score will be what it is.  I intend to paperclip this piece to my January calendar for each of the next few years to see how Mr. Solon’s assertions bear out over time.

  1. An article entitled, “China Says It Isn’t to Blame for Failure of NXP-Qualcomm Deal,” citing China’s State Administration for Market Regulation’s recent failure to approve Qualcomm’s acquisition of NXP – which the regulator claims was due to its concerns with the deal’s anti-competitive aspects. The piece indicates that the regulator denies that its failure to approve the acquisition was related to the U.S.- China trade friction.  The account included the following:  “[Despite the regulator’s denial,] people with knowledge of the situation have told the Journal that the friction is the main reason for [the regulator’s withholding of approval].”  The article added the following observation by a China economist:  “For Beijing, which is seeking to develop its own semi-conductor industry, blocking the NXP acquisition pays an added dividend:  It hinders the growth of Qualcomm, which has a commanding position in cutting-edge chip technology.”

I can’t fault China for utilizing legal (or at least colorably legal) measures that serve as counter-measures to our retaliatory tariffs and/or slow our advancement in a strategic industry; it’s Foreign Policy 101:  “You make a move, then I make a move.”  As per a post I made a while back, I do question the Trump Administration for literally saving China telecom giant ZTE, whose activities in this country create national security issues for us and better enable China to compete against the U.S. in the race to 5G technology.  The billion dollar fine that the Administration has assessed against ZTE is pittance in the scheme of things.

  1. Yet, I would submit that the most noteworthy item was a story in the middle of the paper entitled, “In Afghanistan, U.S. Sees Signs of Peace.” The piece is not really very long, but manages to state all of the following in neutral terms:  Afghanistan’s “beleaguered” soldiers have failed to recapture significant new ground from the Taliban; civilian deaths have hit historic highs; Afghanistan is struggling to build a reliable air force and expand its elite fighters; the number of Afghan districts controlled by the government has dropped from about a half to a third in the last six months; our troops want the Afghans to close some remote check points because they’re easy targets for the Taliban; a suicide bomber killed at least 20 people at the entrance to an airport a few hours before our Gen. Joseph Votel, who oversees U.S. Afghan war operations, arrived there;  “[i]n western Afghanistan, local officials warned the American commander that the Taliban were making gains with the help of neighboring Iran”; “U.S. officials in southern Afghanistan said they needed more time to prop up an Afghan military capable of securing the country without American help”; and “[NATO] allies in the north warned that internal Afghan political divisions posed as big a risk to stability as the Taliban.”  [My italics].

At the same time, as the account dutifully records the above facts, it reports that American officials “don’t believe that the numbers tell the whole story”; that U.S. and Afghan officials have stated that the Taliban have shown a new willingness to negotiate; and that Gen. Votel indicates that the U.S. forces’ assessment “… has to account for both an objective and subjective evaluation of the situation,” that “[i]f we only focus on objectives aspects, you will miss something,” that “[w]e’re seeing some things that are moving in the right direction,” and that the state of play still leaves him feeling “cautiously optimistic.”

What follows is in no way a criticism of President Trump; I would submit that he inherited an untenable situation created by President George W. Bush that might well have been better handled subsequently by President Obama.  It’s most certainly not intended as a criticism of Gen. Votel or the American command; they’ve been given a mission, and no one ever effectively executed an endeavor by being pessimistic.  However, the juxtaposition of objective facts and American statements in this piece (which I recommend be read by anyone able to access it) sounded for me – and perhaps would for others with longer memories – unnerving echoes of 1960s’ accounts of the Vietnam War.  This is one area in which I suspect that Mr. Trump and I might privately agree:  it’s hard to see how we can achieve stable and durable conditions in Afghanistan enabling us to depart; if we can’t secure the situation, our people are sacrificing to simply postpone the inevitable; like the North Vietnamese, the Taliban and other Afghan factions understand that we’re fighting in their homeland, undoubtedly recognize that we’re weary, and realize that they can win by simply waiting us out; but – unlike the Vietnam conflict, where the North Vietnamese were simply satisfied to have us leave – it’s hard to see how any agreement enabling us to withdraw won’t ultimately facilitate terror’s following us home.  A terrible dilemma; an area in which I have genuine sympathy for the President, and heartache for our people fighting this battle …