Curb Your Nostalgia for Political Process

Tuesday, January 15, was the congressional hearing/job interview to determine William Barr’s fitness to serve as our new AG. I watched most of the proceedings on TV with occasional gaps to deal with some loads of laundry. For a warm, mushy minute the hearing harkened back to the calm, respectful order of less partisan days. Hard to believe there is nostalgia for a political process that can seem as uneventful as watching paint dry, except that recently such occasions have offered something more akin to fireworks.

Everyone treated William Barr with seriousness and regard because he certainly has the chops for the job, having been AG thirty years ago (in a Republican administration) and having lived a life of public service. William Barr had with him his 8 year old grandson, apparently a child with some charisma, but the presence of family did not prevent the confrontational tone of the Kavanaugh hearing.

These days we cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of comfort. Underneath the welcome civility of a well-conducted political ritual, the content revealed during questioning was more problematic. While Barr obviously trusts Mueller to refuse to conduct a “witch hunt” style investigation, he made no promises that the public will ever learn what the special prosecutor has found. He said it nicely. He said he could not answer the question until he saw the report, but he firmly insisted on his absolute power over whether to release the information and over exactly what information he will release. Then there is the question of why he, or indeed anyone, would want this job.

So I was yanked from my sentimental swoon and reminded that, while these hearings seem civil on the surface, they are an empty form. Democrats will only be allowed to ask questions. Republicans have the votes to confirm William Barr without any assistance from the Democrats and nothing would be negative enough to deter them.

We are being humored, swayed by phony protocol, until we forget that we still have no power to approve or disapprove Trump appointees. Republicans in the Senate are just putting on a show at taxpayer expense, but have actually bought themselves a rubber stamp. They need the show hearing because without it everyone would see that there is no such thing as regular order and wishing for it will not make it so.

It seems Republicans are also willing to reveal that the money we spent on a special prosecutor does not give ‘we the people’ access to Robert Mueller’s findings. My heart sank; I had not considered this until it came up in discussions over the past few weeks. (And then there was that moment when Lindsay Graham – in a very calm tone – asked Barr to promise to investigate Mueller’s staff because of rumored bias – the word liberal is understood – and Barr agreed that he would.) We cannot afford to let sentiment cloud our vision. Our power to check this administration will not really exist until we win at least the Senate in 2020.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – USA Today

Wealth Distribution Goes Awry

We are living in a time and a nation where there is a disparity in wealth distribution, when the distribution of wealth has gone awry. We have all heard that the top 1% have wealth that is out of all proportion to what the other 99% of us share. We see what such a disproportionate access to economic resources does to every aspect of our society. When the rich fix the machinery of the economy so as to deliver the main share of wealth, that is supposed to circulated throughout the culture, into their own pockets, bank accounts, investment instruments, and perhaps their businesses, the entire economy is disrupted.

Rich folks seem to be emboldened by their wealth to believe that they have done something to deserve the riches they have amassed; that money equals entitlement and is proof that they have been somehow chosen. It could be that wealthy people have poured money into politics to get laws passed that ensure that wealth moves up the ladder; that they get all the cream off the top. But then they have some kind of selective amnesia and they forget that they made sure that the croupier would shovel the largest share of chips in their direction.

Once a few individuals come to feel that they are superior to all of the lowlier folks in their culture, once they are isolated into a class of their own, they, of course, do not want to lose any of the wealth they have amassed. Since they see everyone else as less worthy they become disinclined to offer benefits to the unlucky and the lazy, which means everyone poorer than they are. They want to pay workers as little as possible because it comes out of their pockets as they see it. They lose sight of what will happen if there are no consumers in the marketplace. They seem to think that their funds will magically keep multiplying.

They don’t like things like unemployment insurance, health insurance, a minimum food and housing allowance. Since they do not live in the same neighborhoods as poor members of their culture the problems of poverty that affect middle class people do not impinge on the wealthy. They lose their empathy. And they forget that everything is interconnected; that eventually the filth and disease of the neglected will infiltrate their privileged domains. They buy land and build an isolated and self-sufficient kingdom. But will their kingdom rely on the labor of the less-well-off. If their paranoia makes such an arrangement suspect they might actually have to become laborers again at some point. Perhaps they don’t entertain profound thoughts at all while yachting and partying and paying lobbyists and super PACs to keep the right people in power.

Without consulting history it seems as if this problem is unique to 21stcentury America, but obviously this is not so. Wealth distribution can fail whenever wealth and power get concentrated in a relatively small group of citizens of a nation. When wealth gets stuck in the pockets of a group of powerful people eventually something happens to redistribute that wealth. It could be accomplished with sensible laws and raised taxes on the wealthiest class. It could be accomplished by order of a dictator like Mao who turned the Chinese economy upside down with his Cultural Revolution. It could be accomplished by a war which brings all classes together with a common purpose so that the classes mix, and empathy and community feeling are engendered. Or a revolution.

I keep hoping we will find a relatively benign and political solution to our own growing wealth inequality that is creating a greedy class and is pinching everyone else. Democrats are the party that would like to find ways to distribute wealth more fairly but Democrats are out-of-power. They have won a toehold in the House of Representatives but, without any support from the opposition in the Senate important initiatives will not be enacted. Our only hope is to prepare an agenda and find a path to win a majority in both houses of Congress and, the Presidency in 2020. We have had plenty of wars but they are not the threat-to-all-humanity kinds of wars that serve as class equalizers. And we might get ourselves a dictator but the current applicant for the job will have no interest in redistributing any wealth.

I have been reading Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts and there is Winston Churchill dealing with this exact situation early in his political career (1909-1910). He was born to the aristocracy, but his family had no money. His father was a well-known political figure but he stayed with his class. Winston switched to become a Liberal and defied his class and was subjected to predictable criticism, fortunately minimized because he was such a great speaker and original thinker with more energy than anyone else in government at the time. (It is even more bizarre to be reading this as the Brexit deal fails and Theresa May loses, not her seat but her power.)

Churchill also lost his bid to redistribute wealth in 1910 and he called for the government to be disbanded, and for a new election. He did win a seat in the new election and he was given a post in the Home Office. The ‘People’s Budget did eventually pass but reform was slow. We know that the British did pass social reforms that offered a safety net to British citizens.

Churchill, pg. 129

“The paternalist in Churchill wanted, in Masterman’s critical but essentially accurate phrase, ‘a state of things where a benign upper class dispensed benefits to an industrious bien pensantand grateful working class’”

Pg.129-130

“In April 1909 Lloyd George unleashed the naked class war that Churchill had predicted five months earlier, with his Finance Bill, soon nicknamed by Liberals the ‘People’s Budget’. In order to raise the extra £16 million, income tax would rise from 1s to 1s 2d in the pound (that is from 5 to 5.83 per cent), a supertax would be introduced on high incomes, as well as taxes on tobacco alcohol, motor cars and petrol, and a halfpenny per pound on the value of undeveloped land, with death duties of 25 per cent on property valued over £1 million, and a 20 per cent capital gains tax on land. This represented wealth redistribution on a scale unprecedented in recent British history…” “If that opposition could not be mollified or overcome and the Lords refused to pass the budget there would be a profound constitutional crisis.

“Tomorrow is the day of wrath!” Churchill told Clementine on 28 April, before a key vote on the Finance Bill. “I feel this Budget will be kill or cure: either we shall secure ample pounds for great reform next year, or the Lords will force a Dissolution in September.”

Pg. 130

“If I had my way I would write the word ‘insure’ over the door of every cottage and upon the blotting book of every public man, because I am convinced that by sacrifices which are inconceivably small, which are all within the reach of the very poorest man in regular work, families can be secured against catastrophes which otherwise would split them up forever… when through the death, the illness, or the invalidity of the bread-winner, the frail boat in which the fortunes of the family are embarked founders and the women and children are left to struggle helplessly in the dark waters of a friendless world.”

Pg. 131

“’The wealthy”, he said, in the course of a nearly 7000-word speech, ‘so far from being self-reliant, are dependent on the constant attention and waiting of scores and sometimes even hundreds of persons who are employed in ministering to their wants.’

In a speech in Leicester

“The issue will be whether the British people in the year of grace 1909 are going to…allow themselves to be dictated to and domineered over by a miserable minority of titled persons, who represent nobody, who are responsible for nobody, and who only scurry up to London to vote in their party interests, in their class interests, and in their own interests.”

“He now wanted the House of Lords to be stripped of its equality with the Commons, and therefore no longer capable of vetoing legislation sent to it by the democratically elected lower Chamber.”

“Churchill’s speech shocked many Tories, and led to protests from both the King and Prime Minister.”

Pg. 132

“In October, Churchill stoked the fire further and told a Dundee audience that it was ‘an extraordinary thing’ that 10,000 should own practically the whole land of Great Britain and that the rest should be trespassers on the soil on which they were born.”

Pg. 133

“On 4 November 1909, the People’s Budget passed the House of Commons.” (Paraphrasing)-If the Lords turned down the Budget the consequences would be a general election.

Pg. 134

“The Budget was rejected by 350 to 75. Parliament was dissolved two days later and an election called, voting to get under way on 14 January 1910, which the Liberals would fight on the slogan ‘The Peers versus the People.’

Pg. 135 (some early 20thcentury trash talk)

“Curzon complained that Churchill had the ‘manners of a mudlark’. Lord Newton spoke of the ‘nauseous cant of Winston Churchill’ and the Duke of Beaufort said he would like to see Churchill and Lloyd George ‘in the middle of twenty couples of drag hounds’.” (Since Winston and his wife Clementine belonged to the aristocracy, although they were quite poor, they suffered social setbacks as a result of Churchill’s politics, but Clementine was supportive of her husband.)”

I will read on and see if Churchill deserves any credit for the benefits Great Britain offers today. It seems like history is a sort of time machine which reminds us that we fight the same fights over and over again; that class struggles have existed as long as there have been human societies. It was both stunning and discouraging to see the parallels between the beginning of the 20thcentury and the beginning of the 21st. A Churchill, however, seems to be exactly what we need right now and I hope the Democrats find one.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – 99 Get Smart

Humble the Democrats

This manufactured crisis is not about a wall at all. It is about humbling the Democrats and train them to heel. Trump does not work with dissenters. He only works with what he calls “facilitators”. We have called them “cult” members, and this seems closer to the mark. To Trump being a leader means that everyone does his bidding. The Republican Party has been acting like a pack of zombies in thrall to great white (and orange) kahuna. He appeared in their midst like one of those benighted and shipwrecked souls who happen to land on a deserted island where the inhabitants seem to think he is a god. They were occasionally cannibals, but they don’t eat him, they seat him on a throne and never notice his small hands and his fake hair.

When the neighboring tribe arrives for the yearly celebration and trading session they see through this pasty king but the islanders refuse to accept the judgments of their neighbors. The hosts fall on their guests and, at spear point, demand that they stop saying bad things about their king. Although the neighbors see that this man is just a person, and a rather poor specimen at that, the tribe insists that they either swear allegiance to their new king or die. What do they do?

This is the situation the Democrats are in. Our president had a moment of shock when so many Democrats were elected to the House, but he still has his intact tribe in the Senate. He had a deal for his wall along the southern border before the Democrats took their seats but he refused to sign it. He refused to sign it because he had a plan to use it in an MMA-style wrestling match with the Democrats for control of the government. He believes that if he wins this match the Dems will be in his pocket and will not be able to assert their authority again on any issue at all. I’m not sure why he believes this, but the Democrats would lose a lot of “face” if he were to win, and it might make it almost impossible to have a massive standoff again.

Obviously Trump understands that the Democrats are running as humanitarians against a newly-cold Capitalism that takes the money and runs and a white supremacist president who scorns compassion if it requires him to part with a single penny of taxpayer money that could and should reside in the bank accounts of the rich and powerful. Look at the bait he dangles in front of the Democrats. He says 800,000 Americans will not get paid until you agree to the wall. He says no asylums will be granted until I get my wall. And the coup de grâce – he will use the money earmarked for rebuilding nations and neighborhoods after natural disasters. This is the kind of red meat that motivates the Democrats. And to win they have to ignore the pain of these victims of a leader who is trying to bend the Party to his will. They can’t listen to the impassioned cries, but they have to broadcast them to the nation hoping that we will fight for the rights of the president’s hostages and for the Party.

Only a leader, who does not care about the pain of his people, puts on a stubborn face and insists that he has to do this. And he does have to do it in a way, because he knows that the Democrats brought those “crazy” young radicals into Congress with them and that they intend to find all the ways that he has trashed our Constitution and our laws, and because he does not have a democratic bone in his body. A leader, to Trump, is a great white god; he is a puppet master who holds all the strings. Congress is his. It is there to do as he says, or the people will suffer. The courts are his. How does this man who seems so squishy and weak exert his will so successfully? It is because he will do anything; he has no compunctions, is amoral, so he can use tactics no one else would touch.

What did those people do when their neighbors held spears to their throats. They grabbed the spears, tied up their neighbors in a great big ridiculous-looking bundle and set the ersatz king adrift with a promise to lick his bones if he ever showed his face in their midst again. If the Democrats don’t stand up to this guy and win, America could cease to be our republic and we will lose the dreams of our forefathers to our own great orange king. If we lose we may never be able to get back to being the land of the free and the home of the brave, and we would be losing to a man who learned his leadership skills from the mafia.

Photo Credits: The Daily Beast

Women’s Rights – “Slip-Sliding Away”

Men are still determined to dominate women and some men pay an awful lot of attention to the things women do to stay healthy in body, mind, and spirit. Of course there are women who do this too, but whenever I have been to a Planned Parenthood rally, it has been men who are the most rabid protestors. Religions also try to control what women can do with their bodies in the name of keeping them from sin, I guess. Catholics and Evangelicals would not seem like natural allies, but when it comes to being against ending pregnancies, they are, and they have no interest in the circumstances. Things move so fast that we often get over things that seem shocking and adapt to them quite quickly. We are, also, so distracted by the constant requirements of our President, who must always be the center of attention, that we are letting the states take action on women’s rights that we will really regret; actions which will affect us all.

Now that our government is so often controlled by Republican men, women’s rights are up for grabs in the very places where laws that championed the rights of women were once upheld. It seems to be the fashion that if you don’t like a law, you get creative and find a work-around. Most of this action occurs in the states and perhaps we just feel good that this stuff did not happen in our state. It is really euphemistic to call these activities creative. They actually are ways to break a law. These laws get challenged and end up in court but our courts are being stuffed with Conservatives so sometimes discriminatory laws get upheld. You would think that we would never allow ourselves to become accustomed to legal dirty tricks designed to take away rights, but these are such issue-rich times that we lose our focus.

Specifically, I am talking about what so-called pro-life people have done to sidestep Roe v Wade because they can’t overturn it. As soon as this decision came down from our Supreme Court opposition began. Initially opposition was loud and sometimes violent. Opponents called women who chose to have legal abortions, baby killers, murderers, and tried to block women who needed to end a pregnancy (a personal, private right given to women by law). Emotions ran so high that eventually a doctor who performed abortions was shot and he died. Fear was used as a deterrent to seeking an end to a pregnancy, a sort of cultural terrorism against women already in crisis.  Some women could afford to seek out a clinic that was not under attack but the poorest women could not. We don’t keep statistics on how many women were dissuaded from ending a pregnancy by activists but I suspect this has happened.

Recently the anti-abortion coalitions (formal or informal) have left terrorism behind and they have been thinking outside the box. They still label women as baby killers but have come up with some very effective strategies to close clinics that provide abortions. They have used TRAP laws, mainly in southern states. These laws set standards for women’s health clinics that the clinics cannot afford to meet. The laws decree that clinics affiliate with a nearby hospital when the law’s drafters already know that most hospitals will not allow this. Alternatively, the law requires the clinic to hire high level professionals and buy equipment too costly for their budgets, equipment also unnecessary for the procedures performed there. In West Texas so many clinics had to shut down that there was only one clinic left. I doubt that it is still operating.

As I have already stated, on these matters Catholics and Evangelicals find they are allies, and many of the most obdurate voices are male. These odd allies have been attacking women’s rights on the issue of contraception. Many believe that contraceptives are abortifacients and are therefore also being used to kill babies (perhaps before they are even conceived) (sarcasm). Pregnancy can be planned, but it is often pretty random. Men who don’t like to use protection may be the worst offenders. It only takes one sperm and one egg and a baby could result unless the process of cell division is stopped. Apparently preventing a sperm from fertilizing an egg is considered against God and nature. These folks want to take women back to either abstinence or the highly ineffective rhythm method. (Look it up if you don’t know what it is.) It is total myth that all women in any age practiced abstinence.

The newest pseudoscientific attack on the issue of abortion centers around the determination of “personhood”. When can a fetus feel pain or pleasure. When does a fetus become a “person”. Ohio and Iowa have recently set that mark at 6 weeks and have introduced bills known as “heartbeat” bills which contend that a fetus becomes a person when it has a heartbeat. Scientists say this happens at 6 weeks. Newer attempts are setting “personhood” at conception. Interesting that these people who are often right wingers dismiss science on climate and embrace science that puts women in their “rightful” place, “barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen”. The contention here is that as soon as a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall and meiosis begins – voila, personhood happens. Legislators are now asking, “is that tiny “person” entitled to all the rights granted to persons in our documents. Oh, Oh.

This could be bad, really bad. And that is already proving to be true, although on a very small scale so far. There have been several cases where women who claim to have had a miscarriage are being arrested and charged with murder.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/22/abortion-pregnancy-law-prosecute-trump

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/indiana-has-now-charged-two-asian-american-women-feticide-n332761

https://www.thenation.com/article/women-are-being-arrested-and-jailed-self-abortion/

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/28/opinion/stillborn-murder-charge.html

All this happens under the radar in the Trump administration, more properly called “The Trump Show”. But we had better not ignore these mental shenanigans practiced by the anti-abortion faction because instead of overturning Roe v Wade these constant attacks on the law could render it moot. Women would once again lose control over their own health, their own bodies, and their own lives. Do we really want to kiss the 60’s goodbye? I still have a newsprint, stapled copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. Perhaps one day it will be illegal to own it.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – News and Media Committees

National Emergency or Armageddon?

National Emergency or Armageddon?

Can “we the people” declare a national emergency as our President is threatening to do? Only if we put our bodies out in the streets and/or in the halls of government. Only if our elected representatives use their bully pulpits to turn the tables on the President. We can see our own president as either a National Emergency or Armageddon for our democracy/republic.

Other leaders have found the loopholes in our documents that allow them to use political trickery, “creativity”, semantic license, to expand their powers. Isn’t that the whole point of the trending movie, Vice, which shows how Dick Cheney smiled his oily smile and annexed power; mostly new frontiers of power for a Republican president (Bush) and, incidentally, the Republican Party?

Donald Trump, in the name of whatever he means by “winning”, is finding ways to invest even more power in the office of the Presidency. The powers Trump uses are real, because each time pundits tell us that he can do what he is doing without facing legal repercussions, but they also tell us that he is pushing the envelope in ways that will change presidential power, possibly forever. Previous leaders have used a presidential power to declare a National Emergency sparingly, as in we have had few instances where our leaders actually have used the power to call a National Emergency at all.

In the past this power was used to order the internment of Japanese Americans in WW II (along with the seizure of their property), an instance we are not proud of. Obama called a National Emergency for a flu epidemic, perhaps, in retrospect, an overreaction, but not a power grab. In fact, neither of these instances involved a power grab.

However, now we have a President who has already emptied our agencies of thousands of federal employees by simply not replacing people who leave. In this way he has made government smaller, with little attention paid. He uses up cabinet members like tissues in a bottomless box. If they are not toadies, they cannot stay. It is never good when a leader surrounds him/herself with only “yes” men/women. He is stuffing the courts with young conservative pseudo-judges who will serve for a lifetime. It is never good when a leader stuffs the courts as an offensive play, although it is sometimes necessary when playing defense, as we have seen. We often see this very strategy when a country is becoming more authoritarian.

Trump sidelined Congress by using the party apparatus to insure a Congress that only did his bidding. As soon as we the people placed one house of Congress in the hands of our representatives in order to oppose his policies he shut down the government on the bogus issue of funding the wall. He had had a document on this desk to fund the wall and avoid the shutdown; he refused to sign it, even though he had already signaled that he would. Again he sidelined a house of Congress, this time a house that opposes him, by setting an agenda that distracts mightily from the agenda the Democrats want to pursue.

This shutdown is a “twofer” – bringing the contentious issue of the wall front and center, and hooking into Democratic (and national) compassion for furloughed public employees who might lose everything. It might even be a “three-fer”, because of the chaos of uncollected garbage, closed and unsupervised National Parks, failing national security systems at our points of entry, and since there are no judges available to adjudicate asylum matters at our southern border that perhaps foments more chaos there (hence making a wall seem more necessary).

Furloughing 800,000 federal employees further empties out the government. Now all we have in Washington is Trump, his swampy cabinet, and his supine Senate proving to the upstart Dems who actually still has the power (white men). And of course, we still have Trump, who is playing “king of the mountain” in his usual mobster fashion.

This could be seen as an excellent move in what already seems like a slow-walk authoritarian coup. Trump is not just holding federal workers hostage, he is using dubious policy as a wall to hold back the Dems in the House of Representatives (now full of minorities and women). He may be a crazy old coot, but he is our crazy old coot, and he sometimes seems to be crazy like a fox. This could be less National Emergency and more Armageddon folks. Why do we appear to have so few options?

Photo Credit: From a Google image search – NYT

Facebook Conversation with True Believers: Still Divided

FB Conversation with True Believers: Still Divided

On New Year’s Eve I did something I don’t usually do. I allowed myself to get embroiled in a Facebook conversation with friends of a friend. We grew up in the same community and went to the same schools, although they are a bit younger than me. It still shocks me to find so many people who consider Fox News a legitimate media outlet. And it seems that many Americans now get some of their “news” from You Tube, a source that has come under scrutiny recently for having lots of fake accounts, some traceable to Russia and China.

Anyway I did not acquit myself very well and I certainly did not win. I felt ridiculed and belittled. I need to have more give-and-take conversations where I learn to marshal my best arguments so I can offer snappy comebacks that cause brain explosions in my opponents (OK, hyperbole). But this is one of those times when I think of better things to say the next day than I said at the time. I know people who have a talent for thinking brilliantly on their feet and I may have to make that my next goal.

I went back and copied down the conversation so you could see how it went and perhaps invent some excellent answers I could have given that I didn’t. One thing that always impresses me about Fox News listeners is how absolutely certain they are that they are in possession of all the real facts and that what they believe is incontrovertible. I do not have confidence that my ideas will provide the absolute correct answer. It was not a great way to celebrate New Year’s Eve, but it was interesting. Some things seem to have been edited out of the conversation, like when one of the girls called me a “moron”, and another addressed me as “little miss nancy pants”.

This was my friend’s post:

I’m taking a poll. Who thinks that we need a wall?

Here are the comments:

DE-K:  Me!!!! (1 like)

Me:  We don’t need a wall. (no likes)

DE-K:  Even Obama stated we needed one when he was President. What changed, Why don’t we need one now that he isn’t the President.

Me:  Not that many people are getting across the border now. What we have at the border is a processing problem. Too many people, not enough judges. Obama does not back Trump’s wall now. But Obama is no longer our President. Perhaps you think we should have zero immigration at the southern border. That would require new laws.

JL: posts a meme of a man tying on clown shoes – “Before you judge Senator Schumer walk a mile in his shoes.”

DE-K:  Let these illegal immigrants keep killing Americans and while they’re doing that, how about we let the terrorists plant some bombs or even better, fly some more airplanes into some buildings and kill more thousands of people. Perhaps you believe open borders are best for America (an emoji?) Done.

Me: Trump wants 5b dollars for a wall, but it will cost much more. We are not talking enough people to justify a wall. What about more border patrols, using digital drones. A wall is using a 5th century solution for a 21st century problem. [I heard a pundit say this on MSNBC so I stole it.] The Berlin Wall got torn down. Russia controlled its borders with an Iron Curtain which was not a physical wall at all. It was just done with fear. A wall will close us in, not just close our neighbors out. It’s a waste of tax dollars.

LD:  Watch CNN much (3 emojis-laughed ‘til I cried) (1haha)

Me: Too tame, MSNBC for me, and I read and think and write. Fox News gives me a stomach ache and brainwashes people. [I shared two blog posts, one on How We Got Our Immigration Policies; one on The Wall.]

HD:  Let’s hire them all and put our own people out of work. Muslims call us infidels and guess what. We are. Trump wants America first, most insane Americans want to sell our country out so we become salves (slaves?) to Islam. Wake the F up. (2 likes)

HD:  and Happy New Year (1 thumbs up, 1 peace sign, 1 blown kiss)

DE-K:  Helen, you’re hilarious!

Me: This is why I don’t usually discuss politics on Facebook.

(some of this may be out-of-order because some comments are hidden away)

Me: American(s) also kill lots of Americans, immigrant crimes rates are not that big, although killing fills us all with grief. Border guards say that tunnels under the wall are a bigger problem. You are listening to Fox (non) News.

MDD:  Google how many miles are not fenced on the southern border. Texas alone has 500 miles in one spot. These people are walking across the border in steady numbers every day. Go look at You Tube. When do you think this will end? We need the wall. People need to educate themselves. (2 likes)

Me:  Then let Texas pay.

LD:  You must not have family in Texas. But I do. Build the Wall!! (1 like)

DOS (My name) You obviously have not lived in a border state. They commit most of the crimes in these states!! Terrorist have already been facially identified. And a new caravan started yesterday in El Salvador containing the gang leaders from M 13 a very ruthless gang. Get informed on the truth!!!

Me: (DOS) This stuff is not true.

DOS:  I lived there for 35 years and saw this daily. It is very true and hard to believe that you have that opinion. (2 likes)

DOS: We have been paying millions to care for those people. The wall will enable us to STOP paying for illegals and have money for AMERICANS!!! (2 likes)

Me:  Our laws allow immigrants to seek asylum in America. I’m done. You can’t change my mind and I can’t change yours. I am outnumbered here but not in real America. (1 haha) [If only I had really been done.]

Me:  (LD) Move, it will be cheaper for all of us. (1 like)

DE-K:  I’m positive that if any one of her (Miss N) family members were killed she would change her opinion in a heartbeat. (1 like)

LD: (NB) I think you should move to Venezuela maybe then you will care what happens in America.

PM-B:  No, but technology yes!!

Me: What is wrong with you people OMG! There are no terrorists at our southern border. Yes, when an undocumented immigrants kills someone it’s terrible. But we cannot wall out the future. I don’t want to be an Islamic slave nor do I want that to happen to anyone. But I just don’t believe a wall will buy us the security we crave. We are surrounded by oceans. People can come on boats. There are airplanes. Airplanes laugh at walls. I think we need to brainstorm some really effective ways to secure our borders. For now it may work to keep everyone out but by the time we turn the world over to our kids that may not work anymore.

I was left with an unhappy feeling about how this conversation turned out and my role in that. I don’t think I presented my best arguments. Lately people in major media keep prodding us to talk to each other. In this conversation we just talked past each other. I keep thinking that at least I presented another view. I have about two of these conversation a year and I can never decide if I could have won a smidge of respect at least if I presented better arguments, or that it is not possible to sway a “true believer” and that I should just quit trying.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – The Sun, Townhall

How We Got Our Immigration Policies: What Now

Introduction

The sonnet at the base of the Statue of Liberty was written by Emma Lazarus at the urging of her friends for an auction to raise money to build a pedestal to put the statue on in 1883. It was engraved on a bronze plaque which was added to the base of the statue in 1903. But apparently America was already sort of in the “fake news” business, since we have not exactly had a love affair with the various immigrant waves that have arrived on our shores, or our desert roads. Since I kept being wrong about what things we have done to immigrants before now, I decided to do some research.

The very first article I found was extremely helpful offering a timeline of immigration events, laws, actions, and even a few statistics. There is also an infographic (not included here). Although I would like to blame all the times America got exercised about immigrants who did not enter America legally (and a few times when we even got hot under the collar about legal immigrants) on the Republicans it is not possible. For one thing during the Civil War the Democrats were the Republicans, sort of, so things get murky.

Clearly we did not get where we are in 2018 in one giant step. In many administrations Presidents and Congresses have dealt with trying to solve the problems of people who immigrated to America without going through proper channels. And the more complicated the rules have become the more people seem to try to go around them.

Sometimes there may have been popular pressure on the government as people felt overrun by waves of one immigrant group or another and the fact of all these new folks settling in seemed to threaten current demographics, or change a favored neighborhood beyond recognition. Other times immigration crack-downs seemed to have been related to historical events such as the Great Depression which made it difficult to take care of even the citizens who had been here for decades and the Second World War which made many Americans paranoid about people from Japan. There was possibly also an element of revenge after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Finding all the reasons for immigration freak-outs would require more research and still might not offer a complete picture. Perhaps you had to be there in those moments.

Late 1800’s to early 1900’s

The timeline I found says that the first dedicated immigration detention facility in the world appeared in America in 1892. People had to stay somewhere between apprehension and deportation. The first guards appeared on the US-Mexico border in 1904.

Calvin Coolidge (Rep)

 “1924 Johnson-Reed Immigration Act (also known as the National Origins Act and Asian Exclusion Act) – Restricted immigration further to the number of immigrants admitted from any country annually to 2 percent of the number who were already living in the United States before the 1890 census. Intended to “preserve American homogeneity,” the Johnson-Reed Act provided a pathway to citizenship for European immigrants while restricting Asians, Arabs, and most Africans completely.”

Herbert Hoover (Dem) and Franklin D Roosevelt (Dem)-The Great Depression into WWII

Entering illegally or overstaying a visa became a misdemeanor in 1929 (just before the Great Depression). During the Great Depression Herbert Hoover (Rep) and later FDR (Dem) “rounded up and deported 500,000 Mexicans and Filipinos, even though 60% of them were US-born citizens. 1942 was the beginning of the Japanese internment under FDR (Dem) (World War II). But FDR also began the Bracero Program which issued temporary visas to Mexicans to work in agriculture. This program ended in 1964.

Harry S. Truman (Dem)

In 1946 the US Army School of the Americas (SOA) began training Latin America soldiers and leaders in Georgia. It eventually earned the reputation of being a school for despots and is often considered to be responsible for the destabilization we still see in South America today.  In 1952 an immigrant’s criminal record or radical political views could be grounds for deportation/detention. It also became possible to grant noncitizens release from detention on bond based on community ties.

Eisenhower (Rep) and Jimmy Carter (Dem)

Eisenhower (Rep)(1954-56) targeted 1 million Mexicans for deportation in the charmingly named Operation Wetback (sarcasm). Under Jimmy Carter (Dem) (1980-81) a new round of mass detentions took place, this time Cubans, Haitians, and Central Americans.

Ronald Reagan (Rep)

Ronald Reagan (Rep) took office in 1981. Reagan wanted to deter Latin American immigration so he began the detention of asylum seekers. A renewed War on Drugs brought militarization to the border. Reagan set up the McAllen Detention Center in Puerto Rico to hold Haitians in 1981. In 1983 he signed the Mass Immigration Emergency Plan which required that there always be 10,000 beds ready to use for immigrant detention. And in 1983 the first private prison company (CCA) Correction Corporation of America (which became CoreCivic in 2016 was allowed to house detained immigrants. GEO Group formed to set up more private detention prisons. In 1986 the Immigration Reform and Control Act was signed and granted blanket amnesty for undocumented immigrants. It also sanctioned employers who hired them. In 1987 GEO won the first government contract which gave GEO taxpayer money to detain immigrants. Busy times.

Bill Clinton (Dem)

Bill Clinton (Dem) in 1994 doubled the Border Patrol and constructed five miles of border wall in the wake of which data showed an increasing number of deaths in the border lands.

“Together known as “The 1996 Laws,” this set of laws has had the greatest impact on expanding the U.S. immigration detention system by expanding the list of “crimes of moral turpitude,” including non-violent drug and other charges, for which both legal immigrants and undocumented non-citizens can be subjected to mandatory detention and deportation. These laws can be applied retroactively, and also impose 3-year, 10-year, and lifetime bars on returning to the U.S. after deportation.”

George W. Bush (Rep) Post 9/11 attacks on World Trade Center

Under George W. Bush (Rep) in 2003 the Supreme Court upheld the right to detain immigrants during deportation proceedings. The Department of Homeland Security was created in 2003 also. Under G.W. private prisons began to be administered by the Bureau of Prisons.

Barrack Obama (Dem)

Under Obama (Dem), 2009 the quota for emergency beds that must be maintained at all times went to 34,000. Obama temporarily ended family detention, but the detention centers remained open. He established DACA in 2012. In 2014 he resumed family detention because of increases in unaccompanied minors, women and children. When the US Justice Department and DHS tried to phase out use of private prisons in 2016, their stocks plummeted. Obama detentions were over 40,000/day  and he had deported over 3 million people, more than all other Presidents added together up to that date.

Donald J. Trump (Rep)

When Trump was elected in 2016 prison stocks rose again. [However by January, 2017, under Trump detentions are over now 44-45,000/day according to The Daily Beast. Family separation is new, although supposedly suspended for now, and it appears that Trump would like to end all immigration through our southern border. He wants a “wall” along the whole southern border.]

Here’s the irony, in Oct. 2017 California, home of the first private prison for immigrants passed the Dignity, not Detention Act. We can see that as American population grew immigration law became steadily more intense until we arrived at where we are now. Countable.com asked me today what I would do with children and unaccompanied minors if they were not detained. I liked when we found families to take them in but this doesn’t even make the list as an official policy and how do you find the number of homes we need.

All of this timeline information, except where noted, was mined from the following article:

https://www.freedomforimmigrants.org/detention-timeline/

Not the Whole Story if Trying to Place Blame

Presidents don’t always write laws or enact laws. A President may initiate a law or rule or act but this is more likely to begin in Congress and then end up on the President’s desk for a signature. This was an excellent article for setting up a timeline and I have tried to condense the contents for you. But what is missing are the political forces that led government representatives to write these bills and put them forward for a vote. Who favored the policy and who did not. We can find all of that, there is a Congressional Record and there are history books but it would require some major digging and will have to be put off for another time, another article. Once again I will repeat that sometimes you had to be there.

Private Prisons (The Daily Beast article)

What sent me on this journey through history was an article in The Daily Beast  12/27/2018 which delineated the role of private prison corporations in the detention of immigrants, a phenomenon that has exploded. What it also makes clear is that these for-profit (on the stock market) private prison corporations are paid through government contracts, in other words, taxpayer dollars. We are basically unable to process the numbers of asylum seekers, visa overstayers, immigrants arriving without going through channels, and so they have become prisoners. They are apparently not required to work but life is so boring that many opt to work. They are paid $1/day, or if they work in the kitchen, $3/day. Much of the data about payments is kept away from the public but from what Spencer Ackerman and Adam Rawnsley were able to uncover we have spent 807 million for private contracts to 19 different facilities where immigrants are detained. The Daily Beast article also contains an informative infographic by Sarah Rogers.

Conclusions

Obviously Trump did not create current immigration policies and although he has escalated them he is not alone in this. That has been the trend for the last 150 years. But Donald Trump is fear mongering by exaggerating the dangers of immigration at our southern border. He would, seemingly, like to end all immigration through the southern border for the time being. Americans don’t see how it is possible to keep increasing detention facilities and detention time frames. We are unhappy with the imprisonment of asylum seekers. We are unhappy that they have to stay in detention too long because there is not adequate staffing on the judicial side to adjudicate asylums or deportations. Separating mothers and fathers from their young children is really very upsetting to most Americans. It does not sit well with our sense of justice to see a two year old in a court that will decide his/her fate without legal representation or anyone who speaks Spanish. Our system is not working. Imprisonment is obviously not the answer. In fact our whole set of laws to foil undocumented immigrants is a soul-sucking mess. Once again the law-and- order people have had their say and their message is always the same, “lock ‘em up”. We can do better, but first we have to stop doing this.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – thedailybeast.com -CoreCivic-Cleveland.com

Addendum- Kennedy-Johnson Presidencies – 1965

 

I left out a number of rules, laws, and firsts from my quick reference immigration list but a colleague pointed out one very important act that I neglected to mention. This is the Hart-Celler act of 1965, initiated in the Kennedy administration and passed after Kennedy’s death by the Lyndon Johnson administration. The Immigration and Naturalization Act abolished earlier quota systems based on national origin and established a new immigration policy based on reuniting families and attracting skilled labor to the US. “In removing racist national barriers the Act would significantly alter the demographic mix in the US,” according to Wikipedia. This act was widely supported in Congress. 74% of Democrats said yes and 85% of Republicans voted yes. But the policies passed in this act are at the heart of our current immigration controversies. Many Americas are unhappy that white folks will soon be the minority in America (although no one minority group will represent the majority) so they want drastic changes in quotas. President Trump would like to go back to quotas that give Western Europeans the advantage in immigration, and many Republicans back this approach. This bill also focused on the policy that Trump has called “chain migration” because it gives an advantage to family members of immigrants already in America. Trump and most Republicans would like to end the practice of “chain migration,” ostensibly because it aids terrorists, but also because they want to change the complexion of America in order to bring back the ‘whiteness’ factor that, to some, represents the true face of America.

 

 

Fact or Propaganda in the Age of Trump

Deciding if a statement was fact or propaganda used to seem easier. However, being bombarded by fake news is beginning to have a disturbing side effect, not unforeseen, but unsettling even so. We never felt that politicians were completely honest with us and sometimes we didn’t trust any words that came out of certain mouths (Nixon for me). But now when I hear almost anyone who is supposedly offering me facts to support a point, I, always a skeptic, find myself thinking that things I used to accept as facts are sounding like propaganda. In fact, everything is starting to sound like propaganda.

I hear what General Mattis is saying about what will happen if we leave Syria and Afghanistan abruptly and I want to accept his advice on this matter, but this is a man who stayed on Trump’s staff for 2 years for mostly unfathomable reasons. In fact I don’t know who I trust to tell me about what we should think or do about Syria or Afghanistan, or Yemen, or the Taliban or ISIS. Even Richard Engle, often immersed in these conflict areas, does not always present a consistent viewpoint. If we leave Syria and Afghanistan will the Taliban flourish? If we leave Syria will threats from ISIS grow unchecked and bring their particular form of terror back into our living rooms once again? The Washington Post tells us that looting in Iraq and Syria has made ISIS wealthy and that they have that money stowed away somewhere.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/retreating-isis-army-smuggled-a-fortune-in-cash-and-gold-out-of-iraq-and-syria/2018/12/21/95087ffc-054b-11e9-9122-82e98f91ee6f_story.html

This implies that ISIS is good to go and will be back to terrorize the world once again. Or will they? My only strategy is to wait and see what happens because I’m not sure why people are predicting the various possible outcomes to removing troops that they are offering us. Do they stand to gain something from the stance they are taking? Are they offering us sincere assessments based on opinions? Are these educated opinions backed up by actual facts? I do think that abandoning the Kurds to Syrian genocidal tendencies is a good reason to think about staying. I also think that withdrawing into a position of isolation from pressure points in the Middle East and elsewhere leaves Putin’s Russia and Assad in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and even China to fill the vacuum this creates. But this week our President dropped the sanctions on a Russian oligarch whose name is way too familiar to us, Oleg Deripaska, friend of Paul Manafort. Not to mention his behavior to what is clearly a Saudi assassination of a journalist. We don’t even know if our own President is an ally of America or any of our allies.

Ted Lieu (D-CA) just said we should leave because only Congress can deploy American troops and Congress did not deploy these troops. That would not top my list of reasons to leave now that we are there, and yet I am very worried that our Constitutional guardrails are disappearing. Of course we never could believe everything we hear from Washington or in the media, but now I find myself trying to see the political motivations for the “facts” that are being delivered daily. Is someone taking a stand because they stand to gain personally or politically? Are they spouting propaganda? Let’s just say my skepticism is at Def Con 5.

Listen to Mitch McConnell, looking like he got a good night’s sleep and dripping sugar trying to convince Democrats to join Republicans and find a way to end this shutdown on TV this Saturday morning before Christmas. Turning down the volume makes it stop but then you can’t hear what he’s saying. He is trying to hook into Democrat’s humanism about government employees who won’t be paid in order to bribe them to accept language that will please Trump.

Some pundits still think that we should make a deal for DACCA. Have they been paying attention? A deal made with a liar is not deal at all. Our president has no compunctions about making a deal and then backing down on it once he gets what he wants. We cannot trust this man. When people go on camera to make his policies sound reasonable it drives me crazy. We are not being governed by a reasonable person.

Democrats do not want a wall, do not want to fund a wall, no bargaining, no deals. Democrats have offered money for border security which is pretty generous considering the kinds of border security that we see on offer. What Trump considers border security looks to me like a humanitarian nightmare.

We do feel bad for government employees but we cannot allow the Republicans and Trump to take human hostages every time they want some unpopular thing. I know I don’t trust Mitch McConnell one little tiny bit. He is always a political animal. But I find myself having real trouble separating facts from propaganda. What is fake and what is real? I expect this effect of Trump’s mind games to worsen with time and I am shocked that it is starting to affect me. I see these effects even in the way foreign nations are acting and reacting to the media and to leaders with authoritarian tendencies.

Our President seems bent on revenge against the whole wide world, and the American people who did not cheer him at his rallies; but we cannot cheer a man who acts as if he hates democracy and every democratic value. We are in a standoff with our own President and he is trying to make us doubt all that we have ever believed in. And it seems to be working.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Vox

 

Are Democrats as Bad as Republicans?

Are Democrats as bad as Republicans? It seems to depend on who’s talking. I hear people, mostly young people, saying that those at the top of both parties favor capitalism and this is making them greedy. Powerful members of both political groups take money from lobbyists and special interests. Senior members of both parties have stock-piled wealth, 20-somethings point out. This makes them indebted to and vulnerable to the those who are looting the middle class and ignoring the poorest Americans. If those in power control the capitalists they hurt their own bottom line.

Voters still matter for now it seems, because parties continue to conduct expensive campaigns to get elected. Given enough time and power parties may find ways to turn voting into an empty gesture. Some feel we are already there. For now what trickles down to voters in terms of policies depends on which power broker goes to Washington to represent us. Neither party has championed workers and the environment as they should have.  I expect nothing from the GOP as they have actively stripped workers of benefits and power; and because they are avowed climate change deniers who seem determined to plunder the planet until every drop of fossil fuel has been burned. Perhaps Democrats, who have tried harder to help the fight against fossil fuels and the development of alternative energies, have made some progress, although not enough; but they have not done nearly enough for workers, especially workers who are parents.

It seems that the real contrast between what various people say about our political parties does tend to be generational (and yes, this is an over-generalization). We know that people of all ages nodded yes to Bernie Sanders’ progressive and worker-focused ideas. But, the children of the Boomers had heard their parents express liberal compassion and, it seems, these children became disillusioned by what Boomers actually accomplished. They looked to their parents and grandparents to be more authentic, to hold the greedy at bay.

Our children (who are hardly children any more) resent the Boomers, feel we “sold out”, abandoned our ideals, and traded them in for financial success and material comforts. Boomer parents and grandparents perhaps convinced themselves that they did what was required of mature people in America and that they did this for their children. They found that their education made them desirable employees and before they knew it they got seduced by big paychecks, promotions, investments, McMansions, vacation homes, power, and convinced themselves that they did this for their families and, of course, providing for their families was important. Perhaps they even convinced themselves that America had cleaned up its act. But it is also possible that conservatives and 60’s and 70’s activists fell for the Gordon Gekko “greed is good” mantra (1987 movie, Wall Street). Did we not see the handwriting on the wall, the empty factories, the workers who lost their pensions? Did we think these were isolated events in an otherwise healthy economy? Did we not notice that wealth was being squirreled away by a few who became rabid protectors of unfettered capitalism? If we had not “sold out”, but had stuck to our activist roots would our economy be different now?

There were roughly three groups of Boomers. There were some who came from wealthy and conservative or liberal families, were educated at top schools, and followed in the footsteps of their families. They tend to make up the rich and powerful “class”; the owners and the CEO’s of businesses. These Americans are capitalists and actively malign socialism.

In the second group were the activists, the hippies, those who demonstrated against the war in Vietnam, and attended women’s liberation  consciousness raising groups, and wanted to fight poverty and racial prejudice and inequality. Many of this second group of Boomers had also been to college, although they may not have been from wealthy homes. Some may have risen to be CEO’s and some may have worked in government jobs and as teachers. This group is not quite as susceptible to fear mongering about socialism.

And in the third group there were the Boomers who went to work after high school and started families while they were quite young. They believed that they would have a great job in a factory for all of their lives (if they stayed healthy), that their pay would steadily increase, they might even be promoted, and that they would have benefits like health care for their families and good pensions when they retired. The third group of Boomers were most injured by a transitioning economy (manufacturing to service) and affirmative action (they say). Many have slipped from solidly middle class into the lower end of the middle class. And yet many of this third group voted for and still support Trump. They are the biggest fans of capitalism and the most frightened by the idea of socialism.

Could any of the Boomers have stopped the migration of manufacturing to nations with cheap labor and plentiful consumers? It seems to be a common understanding that high taxes and union demands for more money contributed to the flight of our factories. However, having China open up to capitalism was probably a far greater motivator. Our government did not really try to stem the exodus because those in our government stood to profit from these new markets.

Most middle class parents thought their children wanted the lives they (the parents) had. But after all the parental talk about “the establishment” and the “military-industrial complex”, the millennials and Gen Xer’s seemed to be angry because their parents did not see the dangers of unregulated capitalism and find ways to rein in the most ardent capitalists who were aligned with the military (such good customers).

Young people are idealistic. They easily feel betrayed by what they see as hypocrisy—the failure of their elders to honor stated values. Many young people see capitalism as a pernicious economic system that hoards wealth and sees people with less money merely as “workers”, rather than people with responsibilities and interests. Union busting has been pursued systematically and successfully by the powerful and wealthy. Small wonder young people are hunting around for another economic system. They also see where greed has gotten us in terms of some scary climate change realities and the frightening possibilities recently predicted. Younger people are aware of the unwillingness on the part of those in power to help us switch to energies that are cleaner than the fossil fuels we have relied on. Younger people accept that fossil fuels have created the global warming that is changing climates and biomes.

These same young people seem embarrassed by materialism. They do not seem to believe in hoarding. They do not subscribe to the doctrine of perpetual growth—that an economy must always offer more—higher prices, higher wages, higher profits, more and better stuff. Where does the constant drive to grow take us? Will a nation fail if it cruises once in a while instead of always going full throttle? (You can almost hear the old capitalists saying, “sacrilege”.)

Millennials and Gen Xers find imperialism despicable—a crime against the humans whose lives are changed by a land and power grab. Annexing territory, now that the earth has been everywhere carved up into nations, has pretty much gone out of fashion, although heavily populated nations may have eyes for more territory eventually. These young Americans (20 and 30 somethings) are not proud of America’s sins, which is how they think of things like regime change and proxy wars, or persistent racism, or acting as missionaries to spread democracy/capitalism (and perhaps even Christianity). In these matters they blame Democrats who did not fight against these policies as much as they blame Republicans who insisted on them.

Our offspring are the future of America and the world. The things they don’t like that they see in the parental generations may determine what America (and the world) will be like in the future. Unless corporations win; and then they will be serfs. It is one thing to choose an organic and low-demand lifestyle for yourself. It is another thing altogether to have a low-income life thrust upon you.

Sadly, since the flaws in economic systems reside in us, rather than in the systems themselves it doesn’t matter if we become socialists, communists, or remain capitalists. It is the messages human minds hear and channel that need work. These message determine the laws we make, which in turn determines the level of corruption those at the top can indulge in. What we used to call the “puritan ethic” or the “protestant ethic” should be replaced with an economic code more suited to the post-industrial age. There may not be enough consumer demand to justify three shifts and long work weeks. Robotic workers which take the place of human workers may provide the leisure hours we once imagined were coming. The idea of “manifest destiny” suited the promise of an almost empty continent and the white supremacist entitlement felt by even our poorest colonists. Now, unless we go to space, there are no new lands to populate. We could change our goals so that we pay attention to the quality of our lives rather than producing endless quantities of unnecessary and unaffordable goods. If we consider all of this, a progressive agenda makes good sense. Short of revolution can it be accomplished?

I am speaking for younger generations I do not belong to and I am sorry about that. I may not have this right, but I am trying to understand an age that could either bring exciting and life-changing developments, or could put us in a new dark age, with capitalists and CEO’s as our “aristocratic masters” for decades. I recently read America: The Farewell Tour by Chris Hedges which inspired some of my thoughts, as he has no great love of capitalism and no great fear of socialism. He is the child of a calm and confirmed pair of activists, though they are not boomers and he is not as young as most Americans who hold similar views. His book has left me with food for thought. This is what books do for us. They send us off into ideas and analyses that continue to occupy our minds. He agrees with younger Americans that the Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans. I am not there yet and whether or not I get there depends on what the Democrats do next.

This is a view from the cheap seats.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Happy Quilters

 

The Wall

 

The wall. We all spend way too much time thinking about the wall. I wish we never heard about the wall. I hate the idea of the wall. I hate the cost of the wall. But what I hate most about the wall is that we are expected to build something this expensive that most of us do not want because of one old coot who can never admit that he might be wrong. He can lie about things we heard him say and tell us that he never said those things, but for some reason, he cannot employ the old switcheroo about building the wall. The meaningless mantra keeps repeating like a bad refrain, or a bad taco (if there is such a thing).

First of all the numbers of migrants seeking asylum is not big enough to warrant spending 5 billion dollars, which will easily turn into 30 or 40 billion dollars. We are a big country populated by only about 350 million people. Even if 300,000 people wanted to come in, as they did in a recent year, that is a tiny percentage of our overall population and we still have plenty of room for more people. Building a wall is overkill. It is a solution requiring no imagination or knowledge or creative thought. It’s using a sledgehammer on a tack.

We have immigration laws, but we also have a bottle neck at the border which creates chaos. We can’t process more than a few immigrants at a time. No one qualifies for instant asylum. There are courts and paperwork and waiting periods. Why isn’t there a bigger processing center at our southern border if people need such detailed processing. Instead our southern border looks very much like our northern border with Canada, but it doesn’t function like it. We don’t have caravans of anxious people presenting themselves at our border with Canada because Canada has a stable government and a healthy economy. People who come from South American countries are also our neighbors, but we treat them like invaders. Why? White supremacy? Racism? Our inability to sort true asylum seekers from criminals, or predict who will be criminalized once they are here?

The problem with a wall is that, although it is built to keep people out, it can also be used to keep people in. The Great Wall of China is so ancient that we can romanticize it. It’s a wonder of the ancient world built so wide that there is a road along the top. I’m guessing lots of poor people were enslaved to build that wall. It was designed to keep out the Mongol hordes or something, which I think it didn’t even do, but now it delineates a northern border in China that you can see from space. It has most likely been used to keep people from leaving China for longer than it was ever used to keep people out of China. Castle walls were built to keep out invaders but there are many stories of people who died of starvation while waiting out a siege inside a walled city or town. Three words: the Berlin Wall. The very idea of a wall makes me claustrophobic, although not as much as it would have before there were airplanes, which laugh at walls.

Back to our old man, Trump, who knows that America needs to shore up Social Security. Here is a man so selfish that he wants to take health care away from people who need it because he supposedly believes that it should be turning over profits for private business. He is one businessman trying to make nice with other businessmen because he would like to be in their good graces, or something, I guess. Assigning motives to this man is not usually very difficult. You only have to look for what benefits he will get from a particular decision.

We all suspect he is putting the funds for the wall over the funds to save programs like the ACA that benefit the American people in order to wreak Republican vengeance on behalf of the GOP, who have screamed bloody murder about it ever since it was enacted (in a non-bipartisan way, because that was the only chance Obama had). We all also suspect he is doing this to stick it to Obama, because it rankles that he is admired by so many. But excuse me, doesn’t that just make we the people pawns in a ludicrous power game that one person seems to be playing all alone.

Politicians used to think twice before ending a program as successful as the Affordable Care Act, but Trump keeps taking it apart piece-by-piece and he is quite willing for us to see that we have no value in the grand scheme of things. This ability to focus like a laser on his own personal interests allows him to insist that we take 5 billion dollars that could be better spent to stop children and seniors from dropping off a humanitarian cliff and spend it to build a wall that will not solve our immigration problems.

As for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, they have constituents to answer to. They know what Democrats want them to do. They are not authorized by the people who elect them to say yes to money for a wall. I am proud of the way they have supported their constituents, which I see as all Democrats, and that they are not talking about compromise. There are times when compromise is the correct path, but with a egomaniacal president and a rabid, off-the-rails Republican party this is definitely not the time to deal. This is the time to form a really effective wall of our own; a wall of no. We cannot afford to compromise with a party that has the very worst set of policy ideas and has been stubbornly clinging to those same terrible policies for decades. If we come up against a reformed Republican Party that will be open to change the Democrats can find their flexibility once again. As for me I think, just as the wall is not worth building, the Republican party is not worth saving.

From a Google Image Search – The Berlin Wall – National Post