29 June 2020

Update no.963

Update from the Sunland
22.6.20 – 28.6.20
Blog version:  http://heartlandupdate.blogspot.com/

            To all,

            An “On This Day in History” listing noted that the 23rd of June 1888, marked the first time in history that an American candidate with dark skin pigmentation had his name placed in nomination for president of the United States.  Abolitionist Frederick Douglass received one vote from the Kentucky delegation at the Republican convention in Chicago.  The factoid raised a salient question.  What happened to the Republican Party and when?  The party of Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Teddy Roosevelt, and Barry Goldwater—whatever happened to lead them so far away from their roots?

            Well, we finally have the definitive statement from the Bully-in-Chief—AKA the BIC, Agent Orange, Oh So Great Orange One, Chump, the fellow in the Oval Office.  After his controversial proclamation at his not-so-well attended campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday.  On Tuesday, when questioned about those Saturday remarks, he responded to journalists:
            I don’t kid.  Let me just tell you, let me make it clear.  We have got the greatest testing program anywhere in the world.  We test better than anybody in the world.  Our tests are the best in the world, and we have the most of them.  By having more tests, we find more cases.  We did 25 plus, 25 million tests.  Think of that 25 million.  If you look at other countries, they did one million, two million, three million, big countries.  We did 25 million, way more by double, triple, quadruple, any other country.  . . .  Here’s what I said, testing is a double-edged sword.  In one way, it tells you, you have cases.  In another way, you find out where the cases are, and you do a good job.  We are doing a great job.  We’ve never been credited for it.  We are doing the best testing job anywhere in the world.
OK, so now we know the BIC never jokes, kids, speaks tongue-in-cheek.  He is always telling us exactly what he is thinking—good, bad, or ugly.  He has removed one of the primary, if not ultimate, tools in the kit bag of his loyal sycophants; they can no longer just wave their hand when the BIC says something outrageous and indefensible, and say he was just kidding.  Nope; all done!  The BIC does not kid; he said so himself.  Unfortunately, that means he really is advocating that ignorance is far better than knowledge.  This is so nineteen eighty-four Oceania . . . in real life, now.  This is the president we have—only he, no one else, speaks the truth; everything else is fake, and he does NOT kid or joke about anything.  Sounds quite like Big Brother, doesn’t it?  With that revelation, don’t you feel so much better?
            A few salient questions for the BIC:
-- If we are doing such a great job, why is our COVID19 fatality count continuing its inexorable rise?
-- Why is our fatality rate higher than anyone in the world?
-- Why do we have hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) filled nearly to capacity with COVID19 respiratory distress cases?
-- If we are doing so great, why does the actual data look for bad?

            A few thoughts on the toppling of not just Confederate statues, but others like Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt.  First, I understand the urge to destroy and remove statues of men who offend us.  Second, the Confederacy sought to withdraw from the United States to defend their way of life.  Third, that way of life depended upon slavery—the confined, uncompensated servitude of people forcibly brought to this country against their will, pressed into service without their consent, and sold as property.  For anyone who knows and understands history, many of the generals were deeply and profoundly troubled by the conflict between their serve to the United States, and their loyalty to the states in which they were born and raised.  I do not see Robert E. Lee, Tom Jackson, James Longstreet, George Pickett, and others, who were professional military officers and served with distinction and honor, in the same light as the political leaders.  On the other hand, there were non-professional Confederate generals who do not garner such respect, e.g., Nathan Bedford Forrest—the founder of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a subversive, guerilla organization.  I can see removing the monuments to Confederate political leaders like Jefferson Davis and dishonorable generals like Forrest.  I have always been careful to separate the professional military from the political leaders.  German generals like Guderian, Rommel, Galland, and many others, were not Nazis, i.e., members of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP).  Their accomplishments as professional military officers can be admired and should be respected.  I will note here that many of the professional military officers got crosswise with the political leaders they served.  For example, Lee was deeply troubled by the task of fighting his brothers-in-arms, his classmates from West Point, to defend his state, but he did his duty as he understood that obligation.  In this context, I see the removal of monuments to the celebrated professional military officers as sad, regrettable, and grotesquely out of context.  To me, those actions do not respect history.

            Now, we hear the European Union (EU) is on the verge of banning anyone from the United States from entering the EU because of the increasing infection rate in this country.  Based on the available physical evidence, I say spot on.  We deserve to be isolated.  We have 4% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s hospitalizations and fatalities.  We deserve to be isolated and quarantined since we have refused to deal with the pandemic responsibly.

            Weekly unemployment numbers continue to rise adding 1.5 million more citizens and taking the total to 47.2 million unemployed.  Sooner or later, Americans will return to work, especially since it has been convenient to ignore the viral pandemic.

            As reported last week [962], my reading of the 5-4 DACA decision had to wait until this week.  It is done!
            Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the majority in the Court’s ruling in the case of Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California [591 U. S. ____ (2020); No. 18–587] [962]—the so-called DACA decision.  In summary, this was not a definitive ruling on a small segment of illegal aliens known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) individuals.  This rather unusual decision was more like a shot across the bow to Congress and slapped the hand of the Executive Branch in the form of the Department of Homeland Security rejecting enforcement of the ambiguity of immigration law with respect to DACA individuals.  The rejection of the government’s action to rescind the Obama administration’s deferment of deportation proceedings for qualified DACA individuals violated established administrative procedures and was declared an “arbitrary-and-capricious” action.  This case directly reflects the consequences of dysfunctional government.  Congress refused to act more than two dozen times in the last two decades to solve a very real and outright injurious problem.  The dysfunction of Congress has now contaminated the Judiciary.  The dysfunction of Congress has also left everyone hanging with the DACA individuals at extraordinary risk of serious injury.  The law has failed.  The Obama Administration sought a humanitarian band-aid to buy time . . . to avoid the injury of innocent individuals.  There is zero doubt—NONE—in my little pea-brain that the BIC’s administration took its action to unilaterally terminate DACA with extraordinary animus.  Thank you Justice Sotomayer for documenting that fact in her concurring in part, dissenting in part opinion.  Justice Thomas wrote a dissenting opinion that expounded upon his consistent ‘the law is the law’ position; consequences and fairness are not concerns of the law.  Justice Kavanaugh also wrote a dissenting opinion and his conclusion perhaps best summarizes the situation.
For the last 20 years, the country has engaged in consequential policy, religious, and moral debates about the legal status of millions of young immigrants who, as children, were brought to the United States and have lived here ever since. Those young immigrants do not have legal status in the United States under current statutory law. They live, go to school, and work here with uncertainty about their futures. Despite many attempts over the last two decades, Congress has not yet enacted legislation to afford legal status to those immigrants.
The legal gymnastics are amazing and incredible, especially in contrast with Bostock [962].  Although the DHS ruling is not a high point of American jurisprudence, it is a monumental to how dysfunctional our grotesquely tribal government has degenerated in my lifetime alone.
            Decades ago, individuals crossed the border illegally for economic reasons.  In recent years, families crossed the border as refugees from the dangerous situations in their countries (induced by the damnable war on drugs), bringing their children with them.  Those children have grown to productive adulthood.  Our rampant tribalism has infected everything from our social structure to the most insulated branch of government—the Supreme Court.  The DACA individuals (some of them are no longer children) are simply necessary or regrettable (depending upon one’s perspective) collateral damage.  Especially Thomas’s dissenting opinion in essence says screw all those DACA individuals . . . collateral damage to his rigid interpretation of the law.
            This case has amplified the terrible conundrum all three branches of government face when our system of governance breaks down.  The federal government failed to enforce existing immigration law.  Congress failed to adapt the law to the changing immigration situation, and as a consequence, the Executive Branch felt compelled to act outside existing law to avoid the collateral damage induced by the dysfunction of our governance system.  Justice Thomas is correct under the strict interpretation of existing law.  The original DACA memorandum is not legally based, but what every single one of these nine justices failed to do is represent the extraordinary collateral damage caused and threatened by all three branches of our seriously dysfunctional government.
            All of the above aside, I cannot accept the collateral damage threatened by our dysfunctional government to 700,000 innocent people who know no other country other than the United States.  Many do not speak the language of their native countries.  We must accept the facts and reality that We, the People, caused this situation.  We, the People, must accept the reality that we must correct the errors of our failures.  The only solution is for Congress to do what must be done and pass comprehensive immigration reform that gives us enforcement in depth to prevent future transgressions and to remedy the consequences of our broad failures, including recognition of the DACA individuals as what they have been for many years—citizens of the United States.
            Given this broad failure, I laud the Court’s effort here.  Roberts tried to walk a very thin, squiggly line to do the right thing from a human perspective.  He cannot rely upon humanitarian rationale in his interpretation of the law.  He relies on an administrative quirk to justify his action, but at the end of the day, the Court did the correct thing for those most vulnerable to our failure(s).

            ‘Tis the season!  I spent my available capacity this week reading through the DHS decision noted above.  My limited throughput does not stop the courts from rendering more important judgments.  This week’s edition was yet another judicial setback for the BIC, AKA Agent Orange, Oh So Great Orange One, or the fellow in the Oval Office.  A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rendered a 2-1 ruling—Sierra Club v. Trump [9CCA Nos. 19-16102 19-16300 (2020); D.C. No. 4:19-cv-00892- HSG].  The court declared the BIC’s diversion of Defense Department funds to build his vaunted border wall was unlawful.  My review should be in next week’s Update.

            A relevant extract from a separate thread exchange with a long-time friend and frequent contributor to this humble forum seems quite appropriate to include here.  The contributor sent a very long list of the BIC’s “accomplishments” in his three and a half years in office along with the following comment:
“You can double check all this .. mainstream news would never publicize his positive work so you would not have seen this listing in any of your reference choices. Trump is not pitching this .. his team who believes in him and knows of his hard work has put this extensive listing together so people know truth .. Let me know if you find any of it false .  If you don’t double check it I assume you accept all the work listed is accurate.  I know you say you don’t have time and I know you can’t stand the guy and your standard response is LIES and SNAKE OIL but unless you prove any of it wrong, I am considering it TRUTH .. afraid your sophomoric responses don’t mean anything to anyone.  I know the FACT is you rely on mainstream news and left generated propaganda to formulate your opinions which has proven most lacking in truth and/or full information.”
My response:
            A couple of thoughts on this thread . . . 
            I do not think it matters a twit what I think about your list of the BIC’s “accomplishments.”  You are going to believe what you wish to believe regardless.
            My primary point is not anything on your list of the BIC’s “accomplishments.”  There is no debate that he has been the beneficiary of more than a few “accomplishments.”  Unfortunately, we tend to forget he was handed a steadily improving economy.  My concern has been and remains the content of his character.  A leader, any leader (military, political, corporate, sports, et al) is predominantly a function of trust and confidence, i.e., if we believe, then s/he cannot fail.  We see that reality in successful leaders like Churchill, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Patton.  They were all flawed men; some with serious flaws like Churchill’s barely contained racism, or Patton’s unbounded egocentricity.  But people believed in them.  One of my uncles was a soldier serving under Patton.  He would rail about “blood & guts,” but staunchly defend the general because he believed.  As is the nature of the man, the BIC loves to exaggerate, inflate, twist, and yes outright lie because that is what snake-oil salesmen do.  We cannot trust a single word he says.  So while his “accomplishments” are notable, he fails as a leader because he does not understand or perhaps even know what leadership means, and he has a very hard time with the truth, e.g., slow down COVID19 testing.
            Second, what you see as “accomplishments” are occasionally seen as detractors—not an accomplishment.  Case in point, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act [PL 115-097; 131 Stat. 2054].  I saw no tax cut and respectfully neither did you.  I do not support this law’s tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations.  I see this law as benefitting the wealthy and adding substantially to the national debt.  So, I do not give him credit for the tax cuts he likes to tout.
            There is no question or debate that the BIC has been the beneficiary of good things that his believers like to bandy about as “accomplishments,” e.g., the economy until the COVID19 collapse & recession.  He takes credit, as all presidents do, and I do not fault him for those claims.  He likes to brag about deregulation.  I do not see those deregulation efforts as positive, making our environment better, or improving things.  There are very real, hard reasons those regulations came into existence; those conditions still exist, only now corporations can ignore their obligations.  Lastly, we can argue with “The Space Force” is an accomplishment or just another Defense Department spending program.
            Some items on your list are bona fide accomplishments and we can all agree on those items.  Others are subject to perspective.  Yet, his “accomplishments” do not justify or validate his grotesque character flaws.
            At the end of the day, what I have just written does not matter a hoot.  You believe in the value of the BIC’s magic snake-oil elixir; I do not.  That is all that matters to you.  I have no interest in trying to dissuade you from the folly of that belief.  You believe; that is all that counts.  I respect your right to believe what you wish to believe.

            Comments and contributions from Update no.962:
Comment to the Blog:
“I wasn’t aware of the specific fire near you, because I’ve mostly been watching southern New Mexico.  I hope you and yours are safe from all the fires.  The wildfire season has convinced me that moving to the Southwest would do my lungs more harm than good.
“I believe the issues about policing are systemic and rooted in the origins of police forces.  I favor finding a different approach than the ‘us versus them’ that has always permeated law enforcement, but let’s not underestimate the political will that’s needed for that.
“The Chump and his base have become a self-solving problem if his appointees are to be believed.  After all, his highest rate of support in 2016 came from the over-70 crowd.  In the fullness of time, plenty of those individuals will have died or become unable to vote.  The ranting voices of Dr. Faust (lol) and others tell us that older folks are more vulnerable, so the Tulsa rally (and future ones) would accelerate that process.  Problem solved.  Also, the Chump himself comes across as having health issues, although the odds of any given person contracting a fatal case of COVID-19 are pretty small.
“John Bolton’s tell-all book came to our attention too late to prevent its publication in some form.  Review copies had been sent and the text quoted publicly.  Yesterday, I saw a link to a purported .pdf copy of the book.  The lawsuit is just noise.
“I suspect you are too optimistic about the economy.  The stock market is doing well, but that only measures the psychological state of the wealthy.
“New York is the jurisdiction most likely to bring the Chump to justice, whether State or Federal.”
My response to the Blog:
            Thx for yr well wishes.  Yes, we are safe.  Fires should not be a reason to avoid the SW U.S.  While the Bush Fire, was large and fast, it was all to the east of us and downwind.  We never were affected by the smoke.  The fire is 61% contained as of two days ago.  We still see traces of smoke, but nothing like we saw in the first week of the fire.  Arizona is still a great place to live.
            I am always interested in better, but I have seen nothing to suggest there is a better out there.  To me, the problem is not the system but the people.  To that end, here enters the detrimental effects of the police unions.  We are rapidly marching toward throwing the baby out with the bath water.  I am not in favor of such extreme and radical action.
            I cannot argue with your assessment of the BIC & the pandemic, although it seems more fatalistic than I care for in this.
            United States v. Bolton may be just noise as you suggest, but it is the type of noise the BIC prefers.  He has a very long history to intimidating people with legal action and threats of legal action ala Roy Cohn.  The BIC will continue to rattle the saber and press the case until a judge slaps his hand.
            Hiring or return to work is progressing; that’s positive.  My measure is as simple as the daytime road traffic.  By that metric, Phoenix is nearly back to full employment.  The stock market is not the economy.
            Exactly my point.  The SDNY is that instrument of justice, which makes the BIC’s and Barr’s meddling in the affairs of the SDNY with Berman’s firing as just one more obstruction of justice that the BIC will get away with in this sordid affair.  I have enough faith in the energy and integrity of the SDNY that they will press their investigations of the BIC and his cronies.
 . . . Round two:
“‘To me, the problem is not the system but the people.’  Cap, the people are the system.  Rooting out individuals and changing procedures without larger systemic action has failed time and again.”
 . . . my response to round two:
            So, if I understand your words correctly, you are saying that we can change the people and the system will change.  But then, you say we have been changing the people, but the problem has not changed.  I am not sure what you are trying to say.  I see the problem differently; we have not changed the people.  Police unions tend to protect their members, protect their jobs, regardless of criminal conduct.  Police unions are part of the system, and it seems to me, that salient should be our point of focus.  Lastly, you keep talking about ‘larger systemic action.’  Please give me some of your ideas.  What kinds of things are you thinking about or suggesting?
 . . . Round three:
“Two larger systemic changes come to mind.  One is taking police officers out of schools and social-work environments.  This is what the ‘defunding’ thing is about.  We need to fund appropriate people to deal with education and social-work issues, not police officers.  Police in schools have proven disastrous, and they do poorly at dealing with issues involving feelings, especially anything including sex.  All or most of the work in those settings should be handled by those trained in the relevant kinds of work.
“The other change is recruiting and training the police to actually serve ordinary people rather than to see us primarily as threats.  Some of that is underway, including a local project that is training the local police departments in recognizing mental illnesses at work when they're not essentially criminality.  That calls for very different behaviors than apprehending bank robbers or things like that.  Autism, an issue close to my personal experience, is included in that training.  The officer understanding what is not a threat to their personal safety is almost as important as their understanding of how to deal with actual dangers.”
 . . . my response to round three:
            Good points, actually.  Agreed.  To further the discussion, I would like to point out that the topics you raise in this discussion are NOT police reform issues.  They are local political matters.  Politicians used the most convenient tools albeit a pile driver to sink a nail.  The politicians placed the police in schools, or addressing mental health crises.  The city councils, state legislatures, and Congress must take appropriate steps to legislate and more importantly reliably fund proper school security and mental health intervention situations.  None of the conditions you cite are police issues.
            Further, I will also add that we have a serious community education problem in that we are seeing more cases of citizens resisting or failing to comply with police instructions.  Non-compliance with police direction is simply not a viable option.
 . . . Round four:
“Ignoring the protesters for the moment, I personally have a problem understanding the words police say much of the time.  I can't obey if I don't know what they want.  They speak very loudly but not very clearly.  I suspect this ties into the attitude issue, but whatever it is, it's a problem that training could lessen.”
 . . . my response to round four:
            Quite understandable, and you are not alone.  I have seen enough Live PD to know that others share that observation.  The logical thing to do is stop, hold your hands out, up or away from your body, and do nothing threatening.  A police officer is presented with a potential deadly event every time they stop someone; s/he never knows, sometimes until it is too late.  A police officer is trained to safe the situation until probable cause determinations can be made.  They usually call for back-up to ensure they can control a situation.  If back-up is not available and they are alone, they must cuff the person being questioned to protect themselves.  I have seen far too many people who do not comply, which in turn becomes threatening to the officer.  Arguing with a police officer is not a positive move.  He has a job to do.  Help him do his job.  I have had police officer stop me for ridiculous alleged infractions of traffic laws.  I never argue with them.  I answer their questions truthfully.  On two occasions, I went to traffic court to contest the ticket and won both.  Yes, absolutely, every single police officer from a one-man rural officer to every officer regardless of position in the NYPD should be (must be) trained in de-escalation techniques, community relations, among many other skills.
 . . . Round five:
“I was trained in surviving the police by my father, who knew we needed that.  The hearing issue remains a common problem, though.  The officers are taught to be on edge, and anything other than split-second obedience endangers their target.  As far as I know, training for clear speech ought to be in ‘De-escalation 101,’ but I don't know if it is.  Based on reality TV, it isn't carried out.”
 . . . my response to round five:
            I’ve seen a few too many videos of police officers approaching a car on a routine traffic stop and being shot without a word exchanged—some survived, others did not.  You only have to see one of those videos to understand why officers are taught and are rightly on edge until they can assess and control the situation.  I know our son was taught de-escalation during his police academy training.  He practices it and teaches the officers who work for him.  Yes, there are bad men in policing, and those bad men must be dealt with firmly.  However, I see the root cause of many of the police “problems” as the politicians who direct them, e.g., the BIC and his pseudo-strongman bravado.  We need to help the police, not burn down the barn to clean a horse stall.
 . . . Round six:
“Yes, those videos do get re-played often, don't they?  Nothing about them changes the importance of actually being understood by the target, and it's primarily the stress (not the volume) in their voices that makes them less clear.”
 . . . my response to round six:
            So you say.
            Nonetheless, they are a reminder of the dangers police face every day.

            My very best wishes to all.  Take care of yourselves and each other.
Cap                  :-)