Tag Archives: Trump Administration

Clearing the Swamp More Efficiently

Alligators at the deli.jpg

Remember when t’was said the current administration was only going to hire the Best People?  Yes? Well, unfortunately for that self-same administration, so does everyone else.  First, there’s the view from well above the field (or swamp):

“Already, 57% of Trump’s “A Team” staffers have left the White House in just its first year and a half, according to statistics maintained by Brookings Institute’s Kathryn Dunn Tenpas. That nearly equals the turnover among top staffers for the entire first terms of Barack Obama (71% turnover), George W. Bush (63%), Bill Clinton (74%) and George H.W. Bush (66%).”   [CNN]

Please note that Trump has blown through five communications directors, counted as one turnover by Brookings, and that the contrast is being made between 18 months of one presidency and a full four years of the Obama, Bush II, Clinton, and Bush I presidencies.  CNN continues:

“Focusing just on Cabinet secretaries, the numbers are equally stunning for Trump. He’s already seen seven Cabinet officials — three in his first year, four in his second — leave in his first 18 months in office. Obama had zero Cabinet departures in his first year and four in his second. George W. Bush lost only four Cabinet members in the entirety of his first four years.”

Business Insider has been tracking the departures.  Additionally, the resignations during the previous administrations were a bit smoother than the Price firing, the Flynn abrupt departure, and the McMaster mess.  For example, the change from General Colin Powell to Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State for George W. Bush was a planned transition.  Of the Obama resignees, we’d have to include Eric Shinseki, forced out of the VA as a “scandal” casualty; and, General David Petraeus as a victim of his own infidelity, the others left for work in academia or the private sector.  Or, in the case of Secretary of State Clinton, to pursue her own political career.   It might be easier for us if the current cabinet and top level officials would TAKE A NUMBER.

On the waiting list — Wilbur Ross.  There’s this description of his problem:

“A watchdog group has asked for a government investigation of whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made a “false statement” to the Office of Government Ethics about his stock holdings and violated insider trading rules when he engaged in a short sale of a shipping company with links to Russia.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and Acting Director of the Office of Government Ethics David J. Apol to investigate whether Ross made a false statement about divesting himself of his stock in Invesco, the firm he managed before taking office in the Trump administration.

The group’s executive director Noah Bookbinder and chair Norm Eisen also asked for an investigation of Ross’s sale of his shares in Navigator Holdings, the shipping firm, in October 2017. That company did business with a Russian energy firm whose directors included a Russian oligarch who was subject to U.S. sanctions and a son-in-law of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.”

There’s enough for investigators to chew on in those three quick paragraphs to keep them busy for a bit.

And to this we’d add Secretary of the Interior, the Flag Flying Ryan Zinke.  Here it comes:

Zinke, a former Montana congressman, initially proposed the development in 2012 Politico first reported. The project, a large commercial development on a former industrial site, is largely backed by a group funded by Lesar, and a foundation established by Zinke is playing a key role in the plans. Interior IG’s office originally confirmed late last month that it was assessing the allegations, but did not not confirm a formal investigation. [The Hill]

The Secretary has already had a brush with travel expenses and other allegations of taxpayer funded/subsidized hanky-panky.

Waiting as an alligator, or to be consumed by the others —

Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.  Nothing says ‘job security’ quite as tentatively as to have the word “embattled” precede your name in the press reports and releases.

Kirstjen Neilsen, Secretary of Homeland Security has some explaining to do about migrant children taken by the US government from their parents at the southern border, and not returned in good order, or in a timely manner.  A change in the composition of the House of Representatives after the mid-term elections could cause some oversight improvements in the way the DHS handles its immigration policy.

Betsy DeVos, has some explaining in the offing concerning her attitude toward student loans and the repayment thereof.   In short, it probably doesn’t do to complain about having one of your yachts banged up about the same time one is proposing to cut back on the assistance given to students who’ve been ripped off by for-profit educational schemes.

At any rate, it would be very helpful for all of us who are trying to follow the current administration through its swamp if the alligators would queue up politely, take a number, and let us proceed in a more efficient manner.

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559 Questions for Senator Dean Heller

On June 18, 2018 Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) was pleased to let us all know he had taken a baby step away from the Trumpian child separation policy at the US – Mexico border:

“Senator Heller doesn’t support separating children from their families, and he believes that this issue highlights just how broken our immigration system is and why Congress must act to fix it.” [LVRJ]

As of August 9, 2018 Time reports there are still 559 migrant children (of an original 2,551) who have not yet been reunited with their parents. 386 parents have already been deported.  There are 26 parents for which the government says it has no information at all.  The authorities say they’ve heard from 299 parents in the previous week.  As of August 9, 2018 the Trump mis-administration still had no plan in place to reunite children with their parents.

Then, on August 10th NPR reports:

“More than 360 immigrant children in U.S. custody are still separated from parents who were deported by the U.S. government. About 200 immigrant children are still without their parents for other reasons. This afternoon, the government presented its plan to San Diego federal judge Dana Sabraw about how to reunify deported parents with their children. Part of that plan includes a heavy lift for the ACLU, which brought the case to reunify the families.”

Wait a minute. Why is the “heavy lift” assigned to the American Civil Liberties Union?  Simple, the administration wanted to make the ACLU assume the burden of proof that the parents really wanted their children back.  The ACLU responded:

“…they say that the parents who have been deported were either confused or in some cases coerced, tricked into agreeing to deportation because they believed that meant they’d be reunified with their kids. And the ACLU has consistently pointed to the fact that, you know, in large part, the government has really – they’ve had to have been ordered for most of this to be able to act. The government really hasn’t done much willingly. But the ACLU is also privately acknowledging at this point that they also need to talk to these parents individually. And they recognize that they’re going to be part of this solution to reunify these parents.” [NPR]

Focus: The administration officials haven’t done much. They’ve had to be forced to do what little they have done, and now they want the burden shifted to the attorneys for the plaintiffs… I haven’t been to law school, however, this sounds more than a little like the southbound product of my ever faithful metaphorical northbound bull.

Meanwhile back on July 25, 2018 Senator Heller spoke on the Senate Floor about the separation policy:

Heller said on the Senate floor today that he’d heard concerns from more than 3,500 constituents over the family separations. Thousands of children, some still in diapers, have been separated from their family members as a result of the Trump policy.

“My constituents have spoken to families split apart at the borders and some are being held in Southern Nevada,” he said. “And they are, frankly, asking for help. So being reunified with their children is their top priority.” [LVSun]

It doesn’t seem to have been a top priority for the administration.  August 10th was also the day the federal authorities finally announced they had a “plan,” or at least the outline of a plan. [MJ]  That would be one day after it was reported that ICE withheld phone numbers of deported parents from the ACLU attorneys. [HuffPo]

We have three touch points here, and for the sake of clarity let’s note that on the first touch point, June 18th, Senator Heller is his usual vague self — the policy is bad and Congress should fix it.  Nothing more specific is on offer.  By the second touch point, July 25th, Senator Heller has signed on to some legislation which purports to “solve the problem.”  It doesn’t address the general issue of immigration reform, and frankly does little beyond repeat the protections of the Constitution already in place — children should not be separated from parents during the administrative and/or legal review of their cases.  Finally, the court ordered plan (or at least the outline of the government’s plan, by August 10th obviates the need for Senator Heller’s showcase bit of legislative co-sponsorship.  Courts have ordered what the Senate couldn’t get around to doing, i.e. ordering the administration not to separate children and parents, and not to remove them (especially out of the country) during the adjudication of their cases.

Return with us now to another touch point.  It is June 27, 2013 and the US Senate has just passed a compromise Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill.  The measure included:

The Gang of Eight bill would essentially revamp every corner of U.S. immigration law, establishing a 13-year pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, with several security benchmarks that have to be met before they can obtain a green card. The measure would not only increases security along the border, but requires a mandatory workplace verification system for employers, trying to ensure no jobs are given to immigrants who are not authorized to work in the United States.  It also includes a new visa program for lesser-skilled workers – the product of negotiations between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and labor unions. And it shifts the country’s immigration policies away from a family-based system to one that is focused on more on work skills.

Sound familiar?  The 2013 bill had many of the features still under consideration today, and Senator Heller was a “yes” vote on the comprehensive bill on June 27, 2013. Thus it seems fair to ask, if the Senator held a favorable view of the 2013 bill then why has he not encouraged, sponsored, co-sponsored, or promoted an updated version since?  Instead, Heller charges that comprehensive immigration reform isn’t possible because Democrats don’t want immigrants to work. [TP]

In an audio recording of a March 2 speech, obtained by Politico and released Friday, Heller claimed that no progress can be made on immigration reform for the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. “Republicans want illegal immigrants to work but not vote. Democrats want them not to work, but to vote. Think about that for a minute,” he told the audience. “That’s why we can’t come together on a solution for this.”

This statement is demonstrably false.

Well, we could “think about that for a minute,” and reach the same conclusion.  Senator Heller is playing to the Trumpian audience.  The statement is, in fact, demonstrably false; but useful as part of a dog-whistle/bull horn/fire siren stump speech to the faithful.

Here is where the incumbent Senator gets himself entangled in his own rhetoric.  It’s hard to generate sympathy for his protestations concerning the Zero Tolerance/Maximum Pain policy of separating parents and children at the southern border when it’s noted he’s perfectly willing to play the “immigrants as the ignorant tools of corrupt Democrats” card.

It’s also difficult to find any reason for a round of applause for his co-sponsorship of a fairly narrow, and decidedly right wing 2018 version of immigration policy reform, when doesn’t come all that close to what he was willing to support in 2013.   The hard sad fact is that comprehensive immigration reform bills passed the Senate in 2006 and 2013 and failed to find sufficient support among House Republicans to pass them. [Politifact]

We could come to a solution on this if we ignored (or replaced) Senators such as Dean Heller who wish to beat their drums while continuing to blow on their dog whistles, and elected members of the US Congress who would be willing to take up the issue as it was addressed in 2006 and 2013 — and DO something.

 

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Filed under Immigration, Nevada politics, Politics

Soy Beans: Wherein DB goes off again on her soy beans while readers roll their eyes.

soy beans

A note to patient and loving readers: These are soy beans.  I know, I’ve regaled you with soy beans before.  However, please allow me some latitude to discuss them once again.  The blessed little beans are illustrative of many issues related to the mis-administration of the Angry Man Baby occupying the White House and his minions.  

Let’s begin with what we do with soy beans, and please let’s get past the soy sauce and soy milk bit.  A sixty pound bushel of soy beans will yield about 11 pounds of crude soy bean oil and 47 pounds of soy bean meal.  The beans are about 18% oil and 38% protein.  Trust me, this is good — and it’s especially good for animal feed.  [NCsoy] Thus, most of the commercial use of soy beans goes for animal feed and a smaller amount goes for human consumption wherein we get back to the soy sauce, soy milk, soy flour, and our tofu.  But wait! There are other commercial and industrial uses for soy by-products as well and here’s a partial list:  Biodiesel fuel; biocomposites creating everything from countertops  to furniture to flooring to particle board and even to recycled newspaper. A person could sit at a kitchen counter containing soy while reading a newspaper containing soy, printed with soy ink, while the toddler marks the kitchen wall with a soy based crayon.  A person could escape all this because there are hydraulic fluids and lubricants which are soy based, and even automobile upholstery can be manufactured with soy containing elements.  In short, DB rants about soy beans because they can be environmentally friendly little Glycine Max’s which don’t have just a market, but have several markets — agricultural, commercial, and industrial.

Who grows these things?  We do. The United States of America leads the world in soy bean production with about 108 million metric tons per year.  Brazil produces about 86.8 million metric tons annually.  Argentina grows approximately 53.4 metric tons per year, and China adds another 12.2 million metric tons annually.  India comes in around 5th place in world production with 10.5 million metric tons, then Paraguay chips in another 10 million.  Canada produces approximately 6 million metric tons, Ukraine adds another 3.9 million, and Bolivia grows 3.3 million metric tons.  Last but not least Uruguay comes in with annual production of 3.2 million metric tons.  [WorldAtlas] Notice something about the names of the countries on this list?

One thing that pops out is that one country, China, has been singled out as a competitor, while the others are traditional American allies in diplomatic terms.  Remember that thing about integrated and distributive bargaining?  Recall that integrated bargaining requires negotiators (on trade and other matters) to consider their mutual interests along with the issues upon which they have issues to resolve.  Hold this thought.

Now consider Farmer Jones in eastern Nebraska who grows soy beans and sells his 60 pound bushels to a grain dealer — in dollars.  The financial markets kick in, as with every other commodity there is “future trading.”  At the moment, China, the largest soy bean importer has reduced its purchases of US soy beans, the price of soy beans got so cheap that other countries started to increase their orders from American dealers.  [Bloomberg] Sounds good so far, but caveat emptor.  This puts soy bean values at “fire sale” levels for our allies in Brazil, Argentina, India, Paraguay, Canada, Ukraine, Bolivia, and Uruguay.  So, let’s talk about Brazil for a second or two.

Back in 2011 the US and Brazil signed an Agreement on Trade and Economic Development.  Here comes that integrated bargaining component again, because the framework isn’t just about who sells what individual products to whom, but how the two nations can expand direct trade and investment relationships, incorporating reducing trade barriers and sharing innovations.  It appears to be working, at least if we note the report from the US Trade Representative: “U.S. goods and services trade with Brazil totaled an estimated $88.2 billion in 2016. Exports were $55.2 billion; imports were $33.0 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade surplus with Brazil was $22.3 billion in 2016.”   And, there’s some other nice bits:

The top export categories (2-digit HS) in 2016 were: mineral fuels ($5.0 billion), aircraft ($4.8 billion), machinery ($3.6 billion), electrical machinery ($3.1 billion), and optical and medical instruments ($1.7 billion).

U.S. total exports of agricultural products to Brazil totaled $899 million in 2016. Leading domestic export categories include: wheat ($316 million), prepared food ($54 million), dairy products ($47 million), cotton ($47 million), and feeds & fodders nesoi ($42 million).

U.S. exports of services to Brazil were an estimated $24.9 billion in 2016, 11.4% ($3.2 billion) less than 2015, but 235% greater than 2006 levels.  Leading services exports from the U.S. to Brazil, in 2015, were in the travel, transport, and telecommunications, computer, and information services sectors. [USTR]

Thus, the Brazilians are exchanging their Brazilian reals (current exchange rate 0.26/dollar) to buy US mineral fuels, electrical machinery, processed food, medical equipment, telecommunications systems, computer gear, and IT services from us, among other trade goods and services.  Now, ask the question: Do we really want their soy beans on the market at fire sale prices earning fewer “reals” when we want them to exchange those “reals” into US dollars to buy travel, computer, and IT services?  Fuel? Medical equipment? Aircraft? Our agricultural products? At what point does our “winning” come back to haunt us?

Or, consider this from our competitor’s side of the frame. China.  Again, with our little soy beans:

While the Asian nation is targeting a slew of American farm goods in this round of taxes, soybeans are the top agricultural commodity the country imports from the U.S. by far. The oilseed, used to make cooking oil and animal feed, accounts for about 60 percent of the U.S.’s $20 billion of agricultural exports to China. Before the tariffs were announced, a study by the University of Tennessee forecast that a 25 percent duty would spark a drop in American shipments of at least $4.5 billion. Brazil, already the world’s biggest soybean shipper, is set to be the biggest winner, filling the gap left by the U. [Bloomberg]

Wow, there comes Brazil again! Now the Chinese are exchanging their yuan (current exchange rate 0.15/US dollar) for Brazilian reals in order to buy their Brazilian soy beans.  And those grain deals? — they aren’t being made with US grain dealers in dollars, they are being made using yuan/reals.  Lower demand for the US dollar? There’s a delicate balancing act playing out in international currency markets every day. In our integrated system of international trade the old distributive system of winners and losers doesn’t serve very well. The agricultural market is connected to the futures market, the futures market is connected to the commodities market, the commodities markets are connected to the financial markets, the financial markets are connected to the currency markets… “foot bone connected to ankle bone, ankle to leg, leg to hip, hip to back bone,” right up the economic body with the old song as metaphor for the global economy.

And, we haven’t even talked about whether or not we want China to pick up more of our national treasuries to keep financial markets steady?  So, this is why DB gets excited about her soy beans, and other components of US trade and economic development.  It’s not that I am fascinated with soy sauce on my chow mein, or even on my potstickers, but because the little beans are illustrative of wider, larger, economic issues which seem much more important than whether my soy sauce is embellished with hot peppers.

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Filed under agriculture, Economy, Politics

Civility Snivility

Civility?  They want civility?  Yes, and I want for disabled people not to be mocked.  I want for third world nations not to be referred to as sh*tholes.  I want members of Gold Star families not to be vilified.  I want women not to mentioned in reference to their private parts. I want members of Congress not called low energy or low intelligence.  I want immigrants not referred to as invaders and sources of infection.

I want gang members prosecuted alongside human traffickers but not conflated with asylum seekers.  I want members of our armed forced recognized for their voluntary service but not forgotten the moment someone notices they were promised housing, education, and support services for their families.  I want Dreamers to Dream. I want migrants to work. I want pastors, rabbis, imams, and priests to pray for a righteous world where “justice is love when it’s out in public.”

However, if a person keeps talking about my Mexican-American neighbors as though they were rapists, murderers, and thieves, instead of hard working much respected naturalized citizenry restaurant workers — don’t expect much “civility” from me.

If a person disparages my Native American friends protesting the pollution of waters and the exploitation of land, rather than thanking them for their stewardship, then don’t expect much “civility” from me.

If a person wants fancy military parades, but is content with “just a few” homeless veterans, who may or may not be self medicating to overcome PTSD; who may or may not be unable to relate to family, friends, and employers who cannot (and will probably never) be able to truly understand their combat experience, then don’t expect me to be all that “civil.”

If a person thinks banning Muslim immigrants, and even visitors, from our land will somehow “keep us safer,” then I’m inclined to believe I’d be safer without the persons who want to ban them than from those visitors and immigrants themselves. Somehow, I feel safer with people who want Due Process for everyone, not just for their friends and related indicted co-conspirators.

If a person conflates a five year old migrant child with a twenty five year old Los Angeles street gang member then don’t expect me to be all that “civil.”  If a person believes that separating children from their parents without even a hint of a plan for family reunification is good “civics,” then count me out of the “civility” discussion.

Racism isn’t civil. Sexism isn’t civil. Misogyny isn’t civil. Bigotry isn’t civil. Intolerance isn’t civil.  Prejudice and bias aren’t civil.  Crude epithets and coarse nicknames applied to political and social opponents aren’t civil.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7

So, a member of the current mis-administration couldn’t get served in a restaurant?  How many members of our African American communities have found restaurant food service difficult to come by over the decades?  Unto this very day.  Another member of this mis-administration was heckled verbally after she chose — and this was the height of tone deafness — to eat in a Mexican restaurant.  So sorry Mz. Pearl Clutcher, but how many babies were not being fed at their mother’s breasts while she wanted to eat her burrito in peace?

And you want me to be “civil” lest I offend the baby snatchers, bigots, and racists?    Just for the record, I advise folks that I do upon occasion disparage baby snatchers, bigots, and racists, so please gird your loins accordingly.  I invite those I’ve annoyed to go read a handy supermarket tabloid to find succor for your politics of personal grievance, or find some KKK flyers to sustain your dark hearts.

In turn, I will be ever so much more civil when I get answers to questions like:

Where are the girls?

Where are the babies?

When will the children be reunited with their parents?

When will the administration stop manufacturing specious crises to foment support for ill advised, and uncivil policies?

And, again — Where are the little girls? Where are the little children?

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.“— Mark 10:13-16  Amen!

 

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The Grammar and Bigotry of Trump’s America

When I listen to someone say, “I’m not racist, but…,” what I hear is, “I’m a racist who has found a way to rationalize my bigotry.”  It often goes like this: “I’m not racist, but we have a real problem protecting our border.”  Let us parse.

Perhaps some people weren’t paying attention when Sister Rosetta Stone and Sister Mary Elephant explained coordinating conjunctions.  There is certainly evidence the current White House occupants and staff weren’t attuned to grammatical instruction. [NYT] That said, “but” is a coordinating conjunction presenting a contrast or an exception.  It’s the exception part that gives the game away.  The basic construction of the sentence underpins the notion the speaker is granting himself or herself an exception to the general classification of racist to which he or she doesn’t wish to be associated.  In other words, what the person is about to say is generally considered racist, and what comes after the coordinating conjunction will be good old fashioned self preserving rationalization.  Now that we’ve parsed we can move on to that rationalization.

Borders can be both statutory and personal.  We have statutory borders marking territorial jurisdiction.  We have land and maritime boundaries with Canada and Mexico. We have maritime boundaries with the Bahamas, Cuba, and Russia.  The boundaries of personal space appear to give some bigots the most problems.  Witness: The person who called the police when a black man was sighted moving into his new apartment in New York City. [CBS] Three black women were reported as burglars when leaving an Air BnB because a neighbor got nervous. [CNN] A white woman created a scene in Oakland, CA  calling the police because there were people at Lake Merritt barbecuing while black. [Root]  For white bigots there are two invasions.  One occurs when a non-white person seeks to pass a statutory land or maritime boundary, and the other happens when a non-white person seeks to do the normal things normal people do in spaces too close to the hyper-sensitive bigots.

Simple minds conflate the two. “I’m not a racist; nevertheless, I’m experiencing an invasion of my space by people who don’t look like me.” Sister Mary Elephant would inform us “nevertheless” is a conjunctive adverb. Those who aren’t burdened by their own bigotry would inform us a van filled with farm workers doesn’t constitute a host of Midianites at the city walls.  A family seeking asylum doesn’t meet the definition of a horde of Goths at the gates.

However, to a basic bigot the visibility of people who speak Spanish at gas stations, [NBC] or who are  persons who “look Muslim”  doing complex mathematical computations on an airplane, [WaPo] or are two Native American youngsters on a college tour in Colorado, [CNN] who make a white woman “nervous,’ is central to their sense of space.  If only the bigots could exclude the dark skinned, straight or curly haired, Spanish speaking, or quiet, people from getting too close to their spaces they would feel comfortable again.  They could “take their country back.” They could MAGA to their heart’s content.

The increasing possibility that the neighborhood will have more black or Hispanic residents, or that the malls will have more diverse shoppers, or that the parks will have more non-white barbecuers, frightens our bigots.  In some cases it makes them melt down in public, and sometimes we get the belated apology which rings hollow after a racist rant in a Fresh Kitchens restaurant in NYC. [TMZ]

Sadly, this isn’t the worst we can do.  It’s bad enough when people are falsely accused of burglary or shoplifting because a bigot felt nervous. It’s bad enough when an award winning Italian economist is profiled for working on differential equations.  It’s bad enough when people aren’t free to enjoy that All American pastime — grilling meat with home made renditions of Uncle Freddy’s Secret Sauce, the recipe for which he wouldn’t even share with Aunt Hazel. It’s bad enough when two kids on a college tour make a bigot nervous just by looking like the Native Americans they are.  The poor bigot said she was nervous because they didn’t look like they belonged on a college campus.  Question: Madam, are you really telling me YOU don’t think they match YOUR notion of who should be allowed on college campuses?  It’s one easy step from this exclusionary view to the worst possible outcomes. It’s even worse when the bigots are allowed to establish the standards by which we measure the humanity of our fellow human beings. 

One doesn’t have to leap over a gaping chasm to move from “they don’t look like they belong,” to “they’re animals.”  It’s the conflation game.  We’ve already seen the movie. As Maria Hinajosa explained, it was titled Sophie’s Choice.  There is absolutely nothing comforting about seeing the current administration choosing to use its prosecutorial discretion to force the separation of children from their asylum seeking parents.  Further, to use this discretion as a so-called ‘deterrent’ to efforts by future asylum seekers from South and Central American is blatantly exclusionist, and serves no other purpose than to make the bigots more comfortable.  There will be fewer of ‘them,’  even if we are speaking of toddlers.  We’ve heard this before as well.

When the Wagner-Rogers Act was being debated in Congress in 1939,  most labor and religious organizations were in favor of the bill to allow the entry into the US of 20,000 Jewish refugee children in the wake of Kristallnacht in Germany.  American nationalist organizations, such as the DAR and American Legion, opposed it.   Laura D. Houghteling, the wife of the US Immigration Commissioner opined, “20,000 charming children would all too soon grow into 20,000 ugly adults.”  She would, without doubt, take some joy hearing the President describe children of refugee parents as “they’re all animals.” [RollingStone] The bill failed.

Since when has it become acceptable in this nation to use children, some mere toddlers, as deterrents to force non-white refugees into a decision not to come to this country, not to escape peril, not to hope for a safer environment for those children?  Why is it acceptable to farm those children out into a foster system or “whatever.”  What’s a “whatever?” A warehouse?  When did we become a nation that punishes children for the hopes and dreams of their parents?

Perhaps it’s when we chose to listen to the carefully inserted coordinating conjunctions in the grammar of bigots.  “I’m not a racist, but I’d be ever so much more comfortable if everyone looked and sounded just like me.”

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Filed under Immigration, Politics, racism

No Toleration for Intolerance, and other matters

No, I don’t feel one tiny little bit of need to be one tiny little bit magnanimous or even a tiny little bit of need to be tolerant of the Oaf in the Oval Office — or the politicians who enable him.

I feel no need to be tolerant of those who rally the uglies.  The uglies are those who think calling out African American congressional representatives (see: Frederica Wilson and Maxine Waters)  and addressing them with epithets is appropriate from an Oval Office occupant.  And, what’s with calling out Jemele Hill of ESPN?  What do these three have in common?  Oh, yeah, I get it.  It’s obvious.  The Oaf’s performance in Pennsylvania was enough to curdle any and all positive feelings toward a once proud office and a once proud political party.  It’s OK to be outraged, in fact if a person isn’t outraged then it’s time for a reality check.

I feel no need to be tolerant of a government which cannot seem to find voice when our closest ally on this planet is told that a nerve agent attack in Salisbury “looks” like the Russians did it, but “we” will wait for a conversation with Prime Minister May before making a statement.  WE have already heard from the Prime Minister. She was all over the TV landscape yesterday with strong words in their Parliament. She was concise. She was forceful. She was measured but emphatic.  WE can take her word for it. She doesn’t need to reveal sources and methods in order for US to believe her.  In fact, I used up my blogging time yesterday watching BBC News, and following their news and analysis.  There wasn’t anything nebulous about the coverage.  However, WE have an Oval Office Occupant who can’t bring himself to say anything negative about one of the most egregious thugs on this planet.   Why it is even necessary to ask: Now, will we implement the sanctions against Russian passed almost unanimously by Congress last year?

I feel no need to take his sycophants like Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Moscow Oblast) seriously.  Rep. Nunes is perfectly free to make a complete fool of himself with his issuance of a report clearly intended to exonerate the Oval Office Oaf.  Except it won’t.  Representative Nunes evidently believes it is more important to protect the OOO than to determine to what extent the current mis-administration was aligned with Russian efforts to interfere in our electoral processes and institutions.  Rep. Nunes is marching alongside those who find it impossible to conduct serious inquiries and thereby suggest serious legislation to resolve problems which led to the Russian interference.

I feel no need to support an administration the prime characteristic of which is the cacophony of a one man band playing off key and out of rhythm.   The Oval Office Oaf doesn’t even have the courage to fire people face to face.  He sends a body-guard to fire the former Director of the FBI, he sends a tweet to fire a Secretary of State, he is a coward.  He may want “conflict” but he can’t handle confrontation.

Item:  He conducted a skit about DACA at the White House.  He was all for a compromise, he would take the political heat, he would sign a bi-partisan bill. Until — he got a bi-partisan bill delivered to him for his approval and suddenly he didn’t want to take the political heat, and he caved to the racist opponents of immigration reform.

Item: He conducted a skit concerning gun reform at the White House.  He was all for several proposals which might reduce the lethality of mass shootings. Until — he met with the leadership of the NRA, and suddenly he was carrying their water in oversize pails.  There’s precious little reason for anyone to visit the White House to present proposals on most important subjects because the Oval Office Oaf will make comments and express concern only to reverse himself faster than a used car lot inflatable air dancer in a hurricane.

I feel no need to be tolerant of an administration beset with moral and ethical issues. Granted there have been embarrassments in all administrations.  However, this one is beyond the range of our previous imagination.  One year into an administration and key members can’t get a security clearance?  At least one person who was under investigation for “serious financial crimes,” was fired from the White House only to find immediate employment with the re-election campaign this week.  Who hires people who are under investigation for “serious financial crimes?” Four Cabinet officials have been ‘reprimanded’ for their questionable travel and expenditures. Four, and it’s only 400+ days into an administration.

Presidents need not be saints, and Heaven knows a few of ours haven’t been, but pay offs to a porn star?  That’s a new one.  Yes, supporters of James Blaine in the 1884 election would chant “Ma Ma Where’s My Pa?”  The rejoinder from advocates of Grover Cleveland’s candidacy was “Gone to the White House, Ha Ha Ha.”  However, none of our former Presidents faced allegations of sexual misconduct from 19 women.

And then there’s the money.

“…an investigation by The New York Times into the financial maze of Mr. Trump’s real estate holdings in the United States reveals that companies he owns have at least $650 million in debt — twice the amount than can be gleaned from public filings he has made as part of his bid for the White House. The Times’s inquiry also found that Mr. Trump’s fortunes depend deeply on a wide array of financial backers, including one he has cited in attacks during his campaign.” [NYT]

His claim that he’s had “nothing to do with Russia” is pure nonsense.   For all the salacious interest in the Oval Office Oaf’s sexual misconduct — the more fruitful segments of current investigations are likely encapsulated in the Nixon era maxim “follow the money.”

In the mean time, I do not intend to “follow the President,” and I do not wish him well as he undercuts environmental protections, consumer protections, financial consumer protections; our standing among nations, our relationships with our allies, and our prestige in the world.  Nor do I intend to grant him any accolades for continuing his divisive, irrational, and racist rhetoric.  One campaign filled with that was sufficient.

I do take some comfort knowing that 65,853,516 people in this country may agree with me.

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A Wish List For 2018

There are several things I would like to see in the coming year.  The following, a not so modest list of them:

  1. I’d like to see the commercial media, print and broadcast, dismantle its long nurtured cottage industry employed in Clinton Bashing.  This has been an on-going activity for the last two and a half decades at least, and I’m finding it tiresome.  I am sure the chattering classes find it amusing to resurrect and inject their old talking points; and there’s a certain comfort in returning to old themes, much like one’s favorite blanket on the bed or pillow on the couch.  However, the plethora of Clinton columns a year past the last election, only indicates to me that Secretary Clinton is living rent free in several editorial heads.  Perhaps, it seems as though they couldn’t live with her, and now they can’t live without her.
  2. It would be pleasing to wake up some fine morning to discover a news broadcast in which the various travel and singular expenditures of the present administration are explored in some detail.  I recall an old bit of wisdom from the sheriff’s department about people who get caught criminal littering: One could be an accident, Two is an indication of trouble, and Three times and it’s deliberate.  Thus we’ve had a Health and Human Services secretary resign, which should have been a message to others — but, we now know the Secretary of the Treasury indulged in excessively expensive travel, followed by a Secretary of the Interior doing likewise. Were this not enough, we have a director of the EPA indulging in what gives every appearance of being truly excessive “security” expenditures.  What does he have to hide?
  3. A little patience is required for my third item: A thorough and accurate report from the Special Counsel.  Perhaps Trump’s opponents are hoping for too much, and his followers are hoping for an exoneration which is not to be.  Whether the President* himself was entangled in a web of deception and conspiracy is relevant but not, I think, the core of the matter.  The important point is that a hostile government, the Russians, sought to interfere, did interfere, and continues to interfere in our democratic institutions and practices.  The more important point is what we, as a nation, intend to do about it. This leads to my 4th wish.
  4. I wish for personal, professional, and tangential issues to be separated from the essential process of addressing Russian interference.  This will take more than beseeching private Internet corporations to “do their duty.”  Further, it will take more than a narrow focus on whether or not that interference had an appreciable effect on the 2016 election.  We need to know what the Russians did, how they did it, and what we can do to prevent “it” in future election cycles.  We need state and local election officials who are aware of the nature of Russian (and other) attempts at interference, who have the resources both in terms of funding and expertise to prevent meddling.  We need federal officials who will take this threat seriously and who will engage with state and local officials to be of assistance in these efforts. What we don’t need is a sham commission rehashing old conspiracy theories about “illegals” voting and fraudulent voting myths. What we do need is a task force with components from the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, and the Intelligence Community to take foreign interjections seriously, investigate them thoroughly, and to make thoughtful, rational, suggestions for protecting our most basic freedom — the right to vote.
  5. We need the improvement and enaction of the Voting Rights Act.  Nothing is so central to our Republic, nothing so necessary to the health of our Democracy.
  6. We need a rational statement of what constitutes citizenship, and it’s not the legal fiction including a corporation.  The decision in Citizens United is a major problem for our system of government.  No, my friends, corporations are not people.  They may have property rights, and rights pertaining to their organization and operations, but they are not people — as in We The People.
  7. Wouldn’t it be fine to end 2018 with a new attitude toward rules and regulations. Corporate propaganda has generalized anything commercial interests don’t like into “burdensome regulations.”  However, there are some burdens we should bear with a sense of civic pride.  No, we do not wish our rivers to be polluted and our forests unnecessarily despoiled for profit. Nor do we want our elders placed in care to be ignored, mocked, and mistreated.  Nor do we want to eat contaminated food, or drink contaminated liquids. Nor do we want employers to allow, perhaps even encourage, unsafe working conditions.  Too often the generalizations have been presented to us as ‘fact,’ without a challenge from public quarters asserting the rationale for the rules in the first place.  Those challenges deserve more publicity than they are currently receiving.
  8. Although it’s an election year, wouldn’t it be beneficial if we were to receive more information about POLICY than POLITICS?  The failure to emphasize what a candidate is offering and to focus instead on poll numbers and other electoral data means that politicians are allowed to speak in broad, and often meaningless, generalities.  In this circumstance a politician becomes little more than a human megaphone, his or her popularity based on the cheaper expedient of polling than on a serious consideration of what is on offer.   Granted there have always been demagogues among us — but we really don’t have to encourage them.

And so ends this little list.  We can only hope.

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It Isn’t Over Even After All The Fat Ladies Sing: The State of the Resistance?

Maybe I’m just the eternal optimist, but I have serious doubts about those lamenting the “fatigue factor” in resistance to the Trump administration and the Republican controlled Congress.   First, I’m not sure we’re measuring the right things.

Granted the Women’s March was spectacular, but to bemoan the lack of huge responses on the streets in the period between that march and today is to miss one of the important features of that event.  Speaker after speaker encouraged people to actively engage in the political process.  I’ve wondered — how many people in this country even knew that Congress had switchboard numbers for access to Senators and Representatives before those speeches?

The march for science was smaller, but there again — have we ever been able to mobilize any significant number of people in science related fields to hit the streets before?  Then there was the immediate and profound reaction to the Muslim Travel Ban — instantaneous and powerful.  We ought not to measure the impact of the “resistance” by numbers on pavement.  Perhaps quantification is simply going to be elusive, as is the ripple effect.

We can list the number of Indivisible organizations, and we can delineate other related organizations — some general and some interest oriented.  However, what we can’t quantify is the effect of demonstrating resistance on people who would otherwise sit quietly on the sidelines.  How many people now have made their first ever phone call to a Representative or Senator’s office?  How many people took the postcard idea from the Women’s March and stocked up on post cards for other, future, comments to elected officials?  How many people who weren’t “interested in politics” before the “Resistance” now pay attention to news broadcasts and articles about our politics — and have spoken about these topics to others.  These activities aren’t easily quantifiable, and perhaps we don’t even need to measure resistance attempting to “make the numbers.”

Nor should “resistance” be limited to single issues or even a particular legislative agenda.  For example, a young friend on a neighboring Reservation was particularly moved by the DAPL movement — she made signs, talked about the issue with others, and for the first time in her life expressed an interest in “politics.”  Count her as part of the Resistance.   Somewhere out there is a grandmother disturbed by the prospect of her autistic grandson losing special education services he desperately needs — if she made one phone call or sent one postcard — count her as part of the resistance.  If a father of a young daughter who was born with a congenital heart defect is worried about her “pre-existing condition” and made a call or sent a letter, then count him as part of the resistance.

There’s a temptation to dismiss that which we can’t count, or to disregard what we can’t see.  However, the ‘resistance’ is out there.  Sometimes quiet, sometimes smoldering, and sometimes flaming up.  There’s another angle we should appreciate:  Human contact.

Someone went to a demonstration…he or she met someone there unknown before…they exchanged phone numbers?  They exchanged addresses?  They agreed to meet again, or to contact each other if some topic emerged in which they shared an interest?  This isn’t necessarily “party building” but it’s just as much a part of resistance as more highly organized formats.  If the human contact is initiated the more organized formats will follow.  They always do because at some point all the “interested parties” don’t fit around a kitchen table.

We may never know whether, for example, it was a call made to Representative Bilgewater’s office from a phone bank operation or from someone’s recliner in the living room that made the Representative truly aware that there was serious opposition to his bill.  Honestly, it doesn’t matter.  The origin of the calls is of less importance than the fact that they were made.  The calls matter, the engagement matters, and the engagement is resistance.

One thing we can measure is the interest being generated in running for political offices.  The graphic on the Rachel Maddow Show is instructive.  In 2009 there were 78 Republicans interested in a seat in the House of Representatives contrasted with 40 Democrats.  As of June 2017 there are 209 Democrats seeking seats and 28 Republicans.  There are more women running. there are scientists running, there are people who were happy being on the county commission and hadn’t considered a congressional run before recently tossing their hats into the ring.  This is resistance.

Vive la Resistance.

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Dear Sir: Your Presidency is a failure

Dear Mr. President: Your presidency so far is a failure.  Not necessarily in legislative terms.  Not necessarily in terms of a poorly articulated agenda.  However, when we look at what is supposed to be your “wheelhouse,” your “strike zone,” business management, you’ve tossed the playbook.

You’ve not made the distinction between a boss and a leader.  Let’s discuss it in business terms — a boss directs employees and manages the production in a system of rewards and punishments; a leader uses mentorship and encouragement to get employees to work towards shared goals. [BND] It doesn’t take much consideration to reach the conclusion that productivity is higher for the latter than the former.  One piece of advice on bosses/leaders which is well worth a reminder is:

“A good boss elevates everyone around them, provides the resources they need to do their job well and acknowledges them often,” Borba Von Stauffenberg added. “Additionally, a good boss allows each team member to be brilliant by staying out of their way but is willing to get in the trenches with them when needed.”

The next time the president is tempted to launch a Twitter rant or issue threats to members of Congress or to members of his administration he would do well to read the last sentence with great care.  There are some other precepts from the business community which call for more consideration in this administration.

A good “boss” or leader communicates a clear vision to employees.  Good leadership can be measured by looking at how well the employees understand why they are doing what they are doing.  Needless to say,  the manager who resorts to threats and badgering may “make the quarterly numbers,” but will fall well short in terms of overall success.  An element of this is the establishing of equally clear performance objectives.  What did the president want in regard to health insurance reform legislation? Was it outright repeal? Was it repeal with a plan to cut Medicaid? Was it a plan to cut taxes without cutting Medicaid?  Answering these questions requires reading Tweet Streams that are constantly changing and range from alternative one to alternative three.

A good boss/leader listens.  Listening means the boss gets answers to operational issues and systemic problems from the shop floor.  Once received the advice should be acknowledged, credit must be given where it is due, and the employees are recognized as human beings, not merely “human resources.”   If your Secretary of State is saying one thing and you are saying something else entirely, then you’re not listening.  How much longer can this situation continue before a subordinate decides there is such a paucity of trust and support that further efforts are futile?

There are personal traits which are associated with good business management which aren’t really in evidence in the Oval Office at the moment.  One is the capacity to acknowledge faults and weaknesses,  and to work to minimize these when it comes to team building for successful operations.  A good manager will leave meeting participants feeling that their contributions were appreciated and that they were personally respected.  That infamous cabinet session during which members each offered sycophantic accolades to their Dear Leader wasn’t at all reassuring that we’re led by those who feel respected themselves.

Trust, respect, and operational success are never a given when employees and subordinates feel there’s a bus coming around every corner.   The following is as good a summation as any:

“Terrible bosses throw their employees under the bus. Good bosses never throw their employees under the bus.  Memorable bosses see the bus coming and pull their employees out of the way often without the employee knowing until much, much later… if ever, because memorable bosses never try to take credit.”

Attorney General Sessions may be thinking of this summary at the moment?  Additionally, notice that last sentence above, the one about never trying to take credit for all the successes and deflecting blame for any failures.  That requires getting one’s ego out of the way.  While the boss may be personally responsible for the advancement of the company, he or she should not take things personally.  For example, the chaos created when a major supplier goes out of business may cause issues, but that’s no reason to rail at the manager of the procurement department.

Not to put too fine a point to it, but even a cursory examination of articles on good leadership and business management yields a pattern of management practices which are violated on a daily basis by this mis-administration.  It’s about time for the board of directors to start speaking of putting some additional pressure on the Boss to review and revise his management practices.

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Pennsylvania Avenue Jr. High

I’d be surprised to discover there’s a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or teacher (anyone who’s had contact) with a middle schooler who hasn’t heard the Great Whine, or forms thereof.  It is a bit disturbing to hear the Great Whines emanating from the White House.   For those who haven’t had a 12-14 year old in close proximity recently, the Great Whine comes with perfectly predictable elements.

I didn’t do it.  Yeah, right.    Like the sheets and towels aren’t blue-gray after a pair of denim jeans (just your size) were tossed into the washing machine?

Okay, but everyone does it.  No.  Only people immature and foolish enough to think that parents don’t notice other parents aren’t getting memos from the school about children who sling toilet paper around the rest room do it.

Yeah, but So and So was the one who made me do it.  Please.  This household believes in Free Will.  You did it, you own it. We also believe in the Pottery Barn Rule — you break it, you buy it.  Next time you might want to have a quick thought before succumbing to some silly antic or prank.

It’s no big deal.  Uh, yes it is. When you screw up it’s a big enough deal.  If it were not a big deal no one would be noticing it, much less commenting.

But, it’s not really bad.   Wrong again me bucko.  If it violates the norms of civilized behavior, causes harm to anyone or anything, is a misdemeanor or perhaps even a low grade felony…it’s bad.

It’s not fair.  Oh yes it is.  Even if your friend didn’t get his skateboard confiscated because he flunked his last English test, even if your friend didn’t get grounded for throwing tomatoes at the neighbor’s cat, even if your friend (real or imagined) didn’t get into trouble for leaving left-over pizza out on the living room table overnight… you are not the victim of a misinterpretation of Universal Divine Law.  You screwed up, and there are consequences.

The problem with the Pennsylvania Avenue Junior High is that the stakes are so much higher than those associated with the usually small misdemeanors of young adolescents.  Yes, there are highly questionable meetings with agents of a hostile foreign power.  There are profound questions about the enforcement of sanctions imposed on that country for invading a sovereign nation, occupying that nation’s territory, and attacking the election processes of western democracies, and for egregious violations of human rights.

There are questions concerning the enforcement of those sanctions by a government the leadership of which may have financial connections of a nature as to make the desires of the foreign power of greater importance than the needs of our own nation. These questions need answers.  Those findings may range from  the inconvenient to the felonious, but applying the Cliché of the Day: We need to follow the facts.

 

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