Onset of the Second Year

Let's Make America Great Again

Let’s Make America Great Again

Here it is January 3, 2018 and the beginning of the second year of the 45th U.S. Presidential administration.

The headlines throughout the first brought shock, amazement, outrage, disappointment, fear. They incited resistance by some followed by affirmative action by others who had more power and resources. The defenders of the Reich (oh, I mean regime) did their best to make excuses for the unacceptable or disparage representations of what was blatantly put before a world audience by the model. But the slow progress to our journey into darkness continues.

What are we being told when traditional journalists who broadcast their researched editorial opinions that are negative toward the President find themselves removed from their positions?
Fortunately, the phrase “fake news” is now considered a punch line for satirical monologues and comedy acts. But it appears the new McCarthy Era is going through birthing pains to resume its place in our society.

This morning’s reportage of the schoolyard taunts between the leader of the U.S. and the leader of North Korea about whose button is bigger again makes us wonder how far in the future is the reality of nuclear war because two narcissists want to implicitly compare their genitals via amount of power they have.

The smoke issued from the White House in the form of threats this year (and a type of bombastic display) are numerous. Merely attempting to locate the link regarding the firing of a CBS news anchor revealed this list of related searches:

  • colbert on trump
  • trump threatens media
  • trump threatens venezuela
  • trump threatens paul ryan
  • donald trump threatens pope
  • colbert late show trump
  • trump threatens nuclear war
  • trump threatens north korea

There may be some specter of hope for positive change on the horizon. In the process of confirming which administration is currently in charge of our country, some interesting headlines tumbled into my search results, headlines that urge reflection and consideration. What those headlines suggest is altogether more positive than the negative emotions created in the past. They imply that the time for accountability has arrived. They suggest the time for more assertiveness by the republic has arrived. (Think, “When in the course of events . . .”)

Those research headlines said:

There are probably a lot more that are similar; these were sufficient.

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Hispanic Migration Circa 2006

[November 25, 2017]

Barriers to immigration

Barriers to immigration

The current rhetoric against allowing immigration into the United States from our southern border cites the negative attributes of undocumented (and therefore, illegal) immigrants. How those conclusions were reached when first pronounced in 2015 should have been called into question. But the immediate (and ongoing) reaction was polar. They were either completely accepted as near gospel or they caused so much outrage and revulsion that there was a major distraction and omission. Few voices were raised that asked, “Where did you get the statistics to support that?”

Quite interestingly, a study was conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center that resulted in a report called “Survey of Mexican Migrants, Part Three: The Economic Transition to America.” It was compiled during July 2004 to January 2005 by soliciting responses from a total of 4,836 individual at Mexican consulates in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Raleigh, and Fresno. The respondents were applying for an identity card and it is believed most lacked authorization to work in the United States. (There are presently 51 Mexican Consulates in the entire United States.)

In the original attack on Hispanic migrants, one of the assertions was “. . . they’re taking our jobs, . . .” According to the report, “The vast majority of undocumented migrants from Mexico were gainfully employed before they left for the United States. Thus, failure to find work at home does not seem to be the primary reason that the estimated 6.3 million undocumented migrants from Mexico have come to the U.S.” If this was the case, we need to ascertain the real reason for seeking employment in the United States. Perhaps we have something that is not available or is in small quantity in Mexico.

At the time of the study, migrants were concentrated in a handful of industries, those being agriculture, hospitality, construction, and manufacturing. However, the characteristics of the migrants and the nature of the demand for them began to change. Two such changes that were noted were:

“The more recently arrived and younger migrants from Mexico are better educated than their predecessors, less likely to be farm workers, and more likely to have a background in other industries, such as commerce and sales.

“Also, they increasingly come from a greater variety of regions in Mexico and make homes in new Mexican-migrant settlement areas, such as New York and Raleigh, . . .”

Suffice it to say, there will be an argument about these migrant settlement areas. Undoubtedly the argument will be that the population is deteriorating the areas and causing blight. However, given the findings of the Pew report, those types of conditions are highly unlikely for people who see themselves as upwardly mobile.

And Then There Are the Dreamers

Earlier this year an announcement was made with regard to the requirements for allowing immigrants into the United States. They now must pass incredibly stringent requirements with regard to language proficiency, amount of education already attained, and more. We need to ask ourselves whether we would be accepted into another country if it held similar immigration standards. These conditions are to be applied to all immigrants.

Just an aside: There were no exceptions mentioned when it came to considering those who seek asylum, whether from Mexico or any other country.

Putting these issues aside, let us consider the status of the Dreamers. They are young Mexicans who were brought to the United States as infants or were born here. They are not criminals nor any of the other adjectives applied in broad brush strokes to Mexicans. They are undocumented. They are among those covered by DACA. They are focused on being the best of breed and proving themselves to be so in many respects. They are not taking jobs from anyone. They are competing for existing jobs and striving to prove themselves worthy of a position in the company where they desire to work. But their tenure is challenged by revisions to the immigration policies of the United States and suspension of DACA.

There was mixed reaction to DACA (formally, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) when it was implemented in 2012. It should be noted that it was not an act but a program. It was implemented through an announcement, not made law by Presidential Executive Order. According to Wikipedia, a group of states sued to enjoin the implementation of DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans). Legal opinions regarding DACA are divided. Truthfully, I was among those opposed to it for many reasons, principally because of the drain on American resources and what appeared to be a scheme being used to make illegal entry acceptable for reasons of compassion (don’t harm innocent small children and infants). Having read the 2006 articles that document the positive impact of the population, my opinion is changed.

The challenging situation is the theory that fueled introduction of the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (RAISE) as it modifies the previous points-based system for legal residency as it accords a higher number of points “to people who are highly skilled.” Regarding the immigration system prior to August 2, 2017, Senator Cotton (co-author of the RAISE Act) said “For some people, they may think that’s a symbol of America’s virtue and generosity. I think it’s a symbol we’re not committed to working-class Americans. We need to change that.”.

The status of DACA, however, is that it was suspended. A Memorandum on Rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was issued in September 2017 by the Department of Homeland Security. Both DAPA and DACA will be wound down, according to the Memorandum. Adjudication (review) of applications will be done on a case-by-case basis. No new requests and applications for Employment Authorization Documents filed after September 5, 2017 will be rejected.

The Generalizations cf. Realities

Generalizations tend to get us into trouble when we use them to speak of large groups and assign attributes to them. Rhetoric that foments suspicion, divisiveness, and hate does nothing for creating a healthy environment for mutual support and growth.

It would be prudent to consider those who comprise the population of this country as people who have valuable skills and talents that can be used for improvement. The 2005 statistics show that just the narrow segment of Mexican immigrants are a desirable group of people who can and already are involved in making this an even better country. That’s just one segment. There are many others that offer similar benefits.

It may not have been part of the original installation but it still [Statute of Liberty poem] makes a statement about what our land represents to those who choose to come here as well as what the represent in terms of seeking renewed opportunities they’re willing to strive to earn.

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Conversations About Diversity from the Bench

The Charlie Rose Show from last night aired an October 2016 conversation he had with Justices Ginsberg and Sotomayor. The essential element of their conversation was diversity. As the conversation progressed, they considered the different types of diversity as they have come before the court over time.

getting direction

Getting direction

They looked at how long we have struggled for the acceptance of women and for women to be considered essential to the human social fabric rather than coincidental. Have you ever wondered why women could so easily be excused from jury duty? Think about what that means. Think about how that attitude impacted women’s ability to climb out of subservient roles.

The conversation also looked at the matter of inclusion of LGBT in the diversity formula. It was brief but it was necessary. That part of our current discussions impact so many who now have the right to speak of their choice and not live in the shadows of society. But those who desire to serve their country must still be three times as good in order to prove their half worth, as was true during World War II and even before.

Charlie asked them to consider their roles as contrasted and compared to Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas. Their responses were striking, to say the least.

The matter of which type of experience is better for a justice also came up – appellate level, trial court, or state supreme court. It became apparent that being able to see the picture from the trial court level is essential. One important, although subtle, aspect of hearing a case at the Supreme Court level is the fact that the many amicai who are affected by the case at bar and its outcome are allowed to present their voices to the justices. Those voices, as well as the arguments of plaintiff’s and defendant’s counsel, contribute toward the ultimate decision.

And we all had a chuckle when they shared the anecdote about being introduced as the sisters who came to the function.

It’s been a long struggle. No, it’s been a long battle. Notably, they said the difference between the ones who graduate from Ivy League schools and the ones who sit in the button factory is merely one generation. Yet so many stories, so many essays are written about those struggles and that one-generation difference.

And then there are groups that *still* have not achieved that leap past that first generation. They continue to be buried in the past and, as was noted during the conversation, kept in a cage where they are not free to do anything except restrained.

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Initial Talk with Congress

Many are talking about the new President’s address to Congress on February 28. No, it didn’t mark the completion of 100 days. No, it wasn’t a State of the Nation (per se). It was just the newly-elected President talking to Congress.

Perhaps the event was in remembrance of Washington when he went over to Congress to ask his friends about how to do something and they ran him out because, with a great deal of effort and redrafting of the organizing documents, there are three separate and distinct parts of our government. Each acts separately in order to keep checks and balances and so that the government doesn’t become a dictatorship – each part echoing what the other says and sometimes in unison.

Which identity

Which identity

Nevertheless, the President went to Congress to talk with them. It wasn’t in order to get their advice about anything. It was a new, toned down campaign speech that reiterated what’s been said over the last two years. But this speech added a little more to the campaign rhetoric.

Although the tone was drastically different from what we’ve been hearing during the combative and corrosive campaign there was something different. Yes, there was the signature blaming and faulting to indicate and rally more supporters because things are such a mess. But the rambling, train of thought diatribe that is typical of this President wasn’t presented.

Actually, the speech was a bit unsettling. It wasn’t because of the rhetoric. It was because it seemed to be a repeat of another address to Congress from the past. It was as though it was written from a template. The language (except for the blaming) was not the typical content from this President. The tone, ah yes, the tone and the organization (yes, there was organization) of the thoughts and message were a different voice. Someone wrote this speech for the President. That isn’t surprising given the fact that his attention needs to be on many issues and he desperately needs to focus, keenly focus, on the matters of State. So having a speech writer create this message would not be a surprise.

Still, the message followed a distinct pattern. It was as though the template had little boxes that prompted the writer to “insert issue here” and then flow on to flush out some details. Then another box prompted “insert issue here” in a new section.

It was very formulaic, all the way down to pointing out selected examples of day-to-day citizens who were sprinkled into the audience in order to create a positive charisma and build the supporter base. Wasn’t that the tactic Obama used in many (if not all) of his speeches?

On a positive note, the President appears to finally be listening to someone on his staff about the image he’s presenting to the public. He’s getting coaching from someone about staying on point. He’s being urged to use a script more often so that the logic of what he’s saying is more obvious. The meandering trains of thought that go off point just aren’t winning any credibility for him. Unfortunately, he still doesn’t seem to be listening to his advisers too often. He still does things without a script and he’s very fast with that Executive Order ink pen.

The content of the speech is what most are hashing out in these days that followed the template presentation. Many of the matters that are the subject of the Executive Orders were included in the speech. There were (to be expected) claims of vast improvements over the last administration (which buried the country into the worst situation in history, we were told). Government contracts will be closely scrutinized and only approved when the fees are as bare-bone low as things can possibly be cut. (I’m not certain what that means in terms of quality of end product.) Government contracts for defense spending will be increased while government jobs hiring will be frozen. In fact, he seemed to indicate that there are superfluous government jobs and those will be cut. (You know, perhaps that‘s the reason why the Department of Labor Jobs Update alerts (OPA) stopped arriving after January 25.)

Back to the content of the speech and what people are saying about it. Traditional news coverage noted that the President sounded much more “presedential” in this speech. Another media source made mention that he is learning fast [about not rambling].

The staffers were quite pleased with the performance. That’s the other hallmark of this President. Everything seems to be targeted at getting TV ratings and reality show headlines. Although the speech was nearly a 180 change in tone and style, those who have been alienated by the man’s demeanor, attitude, and rantings are not so easily swayed and brought into the fold. Congressional GOP members are still uneasy. DNC members are still unimpressed. And late night talk show comedians are still having a field day. Why not? They’re essentially being spoon fed new nettles and needles every hour of the day. Maybe that’s why Jimmy Kimmel said enough of Donald Trump for tonight and hosted a Trump-free show. To that, I can only say, Amen.

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Lessons in History – Conflicts of Interest

Recent headlines, similar to one from today’s Guardian, keep making me reflect on 20th Century events in politics and business. The make me wonder how things will actually play out (if allowed) in comparison to the Teapot Dome and Watergate situations.

Symbols of Government Ethics

Symbols of Government Ethics

The recent appointees in the developing Trump Administration have interesting, interwoven and strategic situations and alliances. They’re quite similar to the ones of the Teapot Dome flavor.

The Teapot Dome story is also documented on Wikipedia. The Brookings Institute provided more chronicling of the incident.

Enter Watergate

And then there’s Watergate and the lessons it taught us about being neglectful and too trusting in decisions made by government leaders. Reference.com summarizes that point in history while also available is the Front Line documentary history of the administration that gave rise to Watergate.

A Look at Bribery as Causation

A recent article that appeared in Corporate Counsel considered the impact of bribery on fraudulent practices in government and its influence on conflicts of interest. Some of the statistics are broken out for the reader. One of particular note is:

The United States ranked 20th. It still falls within the top 20 countries that TRACE considers “low risk.” The riskiest area for bribery in the U.S. is “business interactions with government.”

Also earning breakout attention:

• Syria suffered a considerable setback in its bribery environment, followed by Belize, with their overall risk scores rising. Syria is now one of the eight riskiest countries in the world for bribery.
• The seven other riskiest countries in order are Nigeria (199th out of 199 countries), Angola, Yemen, Guinea, Cambodia, Myanmar and South Sudan.

With regard to graft driving contracts approvals in foreign governments, one reader noted that in “. . . Italy, it’s simply accepted that many dealings with businesses or government bodies require a little grease on the wheels. So much so, that base salaries for some civil servants are less relevant than what can be made on top.” That reader recommends the book The Dark Heart of Italy for more edification. It should be noted that similar practices are heavily used in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) as revealed in a recent study conducted through Fuller Seminary. According to that study, the non-Muslim population was/is being subjected to extreme conditions of discrimination that keeps them in conditions of economic distress unless they agree to act as government-sponsored spies against family members.

Ethics Lessons

Should we be learning from history or is it our fate to close our ears and minds and simply allow ourselves to be repeatedly crushed under the Wheel of Time as it rotates? Perhaps it’s time to not only remember the lessons of the past but also become proactive about not reliving them.

When it comes to “conflicts of interest“, the layman can look to Wikipedia for its various definitions and examples or to other books that provide guidance.

Additional Reading:

Consider signing and sharing a petition to evaluate the fitness to serve before confirmation of the President-elect.

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Making Sense of Senselessness

Facebook’s prompt on one’s profile is “What’s on your mind?” I wrote what was on my mind but the thoughts didn’t stop. Realizing how temporal the feed (even on one’s personal profile) tends to be, I wanted to put those thoughts in a place that has more permanence.

What provoked all of this exercise was the news of the shootings that occurred yesterday in quiet Redlands, California. The day after the Paris shootings, I was awakened to reportage of the incident and its horror. It was then that I posted to Facebook’s prompt that I envisioned this was the beginning of warfare on various parts of United States soil. It appears that day is dawning.

For a time, there were several who read this blog (and my others) who pleasantly encouraged me to add graphics in order to make the content “pop.” I’ve been following the suggestion. However, searching for the appropriate graphic takes a huge amount of time and sometimes the actual writing of the thoughts is deferred. There must be a good balance.

Nevertheless, I searched for a graphic for this post. My search term was “gun.” The results were astounding but also a reflection of how guns, danger, threats, and intrigue have overtaken our society in any location. What the images said to me is that guns are sexy. That was the predominant theme. Guns represent power. They can constrain action and inflict fear. They set the one who has the gun in a position of authority. They represent an “anything goes” environment similar to the Wild West. They (and their holder) create a sense of intrigue. Yet we feed on these subliminals each time we watch a TV drama or subscribe to the ticket for the next James Bond-type movie.

We feed on the danger and intrigue.

Young thug with gun isolated on white

It wasn’t until last night that I learned of the shooting in Redlands. So sad. So tragic. So senseless.

Now I’m remembering the counsel of the Parisian father to his young son. And as I sit here recuperating from yesterday’s illness, I’m also remembering the lyrics from a Nat Cole song,

“The greatest thing,
you’ll ever learn
is just to love
and be loved
in return.”
[From Nature Boy]

Perhaps that’s the reason why we have the superficial relationships that we do.

And as I reflect on the actions of some (and actions I struggle with myself, at times) there is envy and resentment of one who has succeeded in their own endeavors.

We forget that our Life agenda is completely different from anyone else’s. And we forget that their successes have been accompanied by numerous attempts that failed. Yet they turned their faces to the sun with the determination to press forward and find a way to succeed. Their persistence and creativity to find alternatives to the well beaten path were the factors that got them to that particular plateau.

Finally, we forget that those who announce their successes not only need the cheering section to boost them to the next attainment. What we also forget is that the announcement is the exposure to a model for the rest of us who aspire to something similar but part of our own agenda.

I’m glad that the neighbors did not report the activities of the shooters. The reportage was they did not want it to appear that there was racial profiling because their community is very inclusive. How many communities can genuinely say that? In light of the pronouncements of those vying for the Republican Presidential candidate nomination, it seems few of them can step up to the plate. Yes, it’s time for us to speak of many things, fools and kings, and who can competently lead.

Yes, Nat, the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return. But that, in turn, requires communication: actual listening to what someone else is saying and actually being heard through not just words but also through actions (because the words have proven to be unheard).

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The Inclusive Continuum

Today my church voted to allow same sex marriages to be performed by the clergy, whether in the sanctuary or at any other location. The point of the matter is that the LGBT population has as many rights as any other part of our society. This is a good thing. However, it’s a subject that has been visited by this congregation at least one other time within the last three months.

A few years ago there was a similar vote with regard to allowing women into the clergy and standing in their own right as preachers of the gospel and ministers of The Word. We won’t stop to consider that women before the turn of the century were respected prophets. But here we are in an aging Second Millennium and trying to get back to allowing women to be an integral part of society in a function more than merely bearing children and keeping house.

There's beauty in each of us.

There’s beauty in each of us.

There are so many things that are troubling about our “modern” times that it is very difficult to contain this lively voice. I explode. So on reading on Facebook about this major progressive vote, my sensibilities exploded. I have full realization that my words in response to the notice will be deleted. So I copied them and share my thoughts about some of the protected classes that are part of the congregation and how the church’s welcoming attitude needs to become genuine with regard to all of those who pass through those doors and desire to be useful in living a fulfilling, Christian life.

So how much longer will it be until more faces of color, Black faces, Mocha faces, are acknowledged in *any* of the notices or in memoriam updates? How much longer will they continue to be the ones who are counted as the, “Yes, we have that too” population? When will they become the many hands and voices and minds that constitute the elements of Joseph’s coat of many colors that lead to the positive growth that is possible?

GLBT is now acknowledged and served. Substance abusers are quietly respected and supported.

The homeless are pitied and taught to become increasingly dependent so that they can continue to be pitied. Unfortunately, little thought is given to the fact that any type of disaster could happen and change the comfort and condition of a person so that they are in need of the kindness and respect of the Samaritan – one who will aid in getting up again in order to continue the very valid journey and business to be fulfilled.

The homeless have humanity. People of color have humanity and deserve respect. Just as women have humanity and deserve respect. Just as women are capable of being ministerial servants and preachers of The Word.

Likewise, we also need to be respectful and supportive of those who have disabilities. There needs to be education about conditions that can be exacerbated with inordinate and whimsical requirements in order to qualify to do some type of volunteerism. People have a need to believe they are valued and that their value is welcome, not merely a passing thought. People need to be able to have confidence in the Church that they enter at their peril lest their impairment is turned into their moment of being Samson.

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