Thursday, January 11, 2018

Kobach Redux

To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything.

—Anatole France, The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard

It’s not that he’s ever been far away. It’s just that whenever he returns, it causes the casual observer to marvel at how a great education could produce such a distorted intelligence and twisted mind. The good news is that soon he will leave the national stage in order to return to his home state and favor its voters with his peculiar views of government. A graduate of Harvard, Oxford, and Yale Law School, he is proof that, as one University President put it, some years back, when speaking of college graduates, “you can never be sure they are educated.” He is Kris Kobach.

Kris is remembered for a number of peculiar triumphs that occurred during the last two years. It was he, who while serving on the Republican Platform Committee of the Republican National Convention, successfully inserted language into the platform that addresses illegal immigration in the manner now demanded by the country’s Resident Fool who has found shelter in the White House. The language he successfully inserted was: “The border wall must cover the entirety of the southern border and must be sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.” In furtherance of this project, eight sample walls have now been constructed in Texas, the prettiest of which is described as being a pale blue and white and resembles in some respects a split level home. The wall was not Kris’s only platform success. He inserted into that platform language pertaining to gay marriage and stating that the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion legalizing it was obviously incorrect.

Although Kris serves as Kansas’s Secretary of State, he has enjoyed serving as the vice-chair of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity. Vice President Pence was the chair of that Committee, but Kris assumed the role of leader which was singularly appropriate since he is more in tune with perceived election fraud than almost anyone in the country. At the time the Advisory Committee was created, he said: “As the chief election officer of a state, ensuring the integrity of elections is my number one priority. The work of this commission will assist all state elections officers in understanding, and addressing, the problem of voter fraud.” There were probably few people in the country with Kris’s experience.

As Secretary of State of Kansas Kris had sought to impose a requirement that anyone wanting to register to vote in that state offer proof of citizenship before registering. He claimed that was needed to put an end to voter fraud. Unimpressed, the federal judge who declined to permit that requirement to go forward in federal elections, and had a much keener understanding of the scope of the problem than Kris, observed that: “There is evidence of only three instances where noncitizens actually voted in a federal election between 1995 and 2015,” and during that time only 14 non-citizens attempted to register. While serving on the Advisory Commission, Kris claimed on Breitbart news that he had found proof that 5,51l voters who voted in New Hampshire in the 2016 election were not eligible to vote. He based that on the fact that the voters lacked New Hampshire drivers’ licenses when they registered, and failed to obtain them after voting. It turned out that there is no requirement that someone registering to vote in New Hampshire using an out of state driver’s license is required to obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license after voting.

The Commission on which Kris served has been dissolved. Its activities have been referred to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Kris says he will continue as an advisor to that department, presumably so his expertise will not go to waste. Tyler Houten, a spokesperson for the DHS, said that: “Mr. Kobach is not advising the Department on this matter.” Whether he will be involved or not, Kris has found another way to spend his time that he hopes will prove to be more successful than his tilting at the windmill of imaginary voter fraud. He hopes to become Governor of Kansas. Since he has made his mark as incompetent in his recent efforts, he may be well qualified to become the governor since Sam Brownback, the man he would replace, has the second lowest approval rating of any sitting governor according a survey by Morning Consult. Through creative tax reductions initiated by Governor Brownback, it is anticipated that the state’s deficit will exceed $280 million this year.

Governor Brownback has been nominated to serve as Ambassador at large for international religious freedom and, if confirmed, will be replaced by Jeff Colyer, the lieutenant governor. Mr. Colyer has already said he will run for the position in the 2018 election, and if Governor Brownback is confirmed, he will be running as the incumbent. Kris believes his successes in bringing failed lawsuits attacking imaginary voter fraud, his claim to have seen voter fraud in New Hampshire, where none existed, and his mistaken description of himself as an advisor to the DHS, are proof that he would be a worthy successor to Governor Brownback. He is right. Whether that is what Kansas voters are hoping for, only time will tell.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Infants and Immigration

An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.
— Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam

It was only a coincidence. Two days before Christmas there was a story in the New York Times with the ominous headline: “Out of Chaos, Trump Reshapes Immigration.” It described a meeting that took place in the Oval Office in June in which the Resident Fool arrived late, furious about the number of foreigners who had entered the country since his inauguration. Their entry, he said, made a mockery of his pledge to reduce that number. Indeed, he reported to the assembled group, friends were calling him to say that he looked like a fool. (The friends were referring to the number of immigrants entering the country in defiance of his campaign promises, and not speaking more generally about his demeanor and behavior.) The coincidence was this. That story appeared just two days after another story had appeared that described how the Trumpeters had figured out how to control thought in the United States by prohibiting the use of certain words in budget submissions. The restriction was imposed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in early December. That agency banned the use of certain words such as “fetus,” “transgender” and five other words in budget documents prepared by its staff. Always creative, the Trumpeters have now come up with a brand new idea on how to control illegal immigration. That proposal rivals, in its creativity, the action of the CDC.

According to the report in The New York Times, the new proposal changes the way in which illegal immigrant families are dealt with upon their arrival in Trumpville. In the past, mothers, fathers, and children arriving in the United States illegally, were either kept together in special family detention centers while awaiting the decision as to whether they could stay or were to be returned home immediately, or were released pending a court date. Under the proposed policy, instead of keeping the family together under one of those procedures, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has proposed a new procedure that has been approved by the Department of Homeland Security, and is awaiting final approval from its new ruler, Kirstjen Nielsen. The proposal is so simple it is a wonder no one has thought of it before now. Here is how it works.

Illegal immigrant families arriving in the United States will be broken up. Children will be taken from their parents and placed in facilities designed to hold children. The parents will be sent to different facilities to await the outcome of their efforts to stay in the United States.

As with the ban on language, the first question that presented itself to the curious observer, was whether the Trump was inspired by what the Nazis had done in the ‘30s and’40s? The Nazis, when placing families in concentration camps, frequently separated children from their parents. Of course the problem the Nazis were trying to solve had nothing to do with controlling illegal immigration, so this newly Trumped-up idea was apparently thought up whole cloth by one of the many Trumpeters who are now running the country. An example of how the program works in practice was given by the New York Times describing what happened to José Fuentes.

José fled from El Salvador in 2017 together with his one-year old son, Mateo. He left behind his wife, Olivia and their 4-year old son. When he turned himself in to immigration officers upon his arrival in the United States, he and Mateo were held together for four days by immigration officers. At the end of the four-day period, the new policy was implemented. José was transferred to a detention center in San Diego, California, 1000 miles from where he’d turned himself in. His one-year old son (who in all likelihood had never before been separated from his parents), was placed in a facility for children in Laredo, Texas. For the next six days José and his wife desperately tried to find out where their one-year old son was being held. Olivia was finally able to locate him and have a video call with him. According to Olivia, the one-year old cried throughout the entire conversation. The crying is easy to understand since a one-year old not only has a very limited vocabulary but would have difficulty understanding that his separation from his parents occurred so that the United States could implement a sensible immigration policy. His failure to understand that, is no different from the failure of most of the people in this country to believe that the country they all knew and loved before the advent of the White House Fool, would even for a moment consider such inhumane behavior. Who knows what other surprises the Fool has in store for us?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Forbidden Words

There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.

— Hippocrates, Breaths

What the Trump people are doing today bears no similarity to what the Nazis did in the early 1930s. Those were the days of book burnings and other activities that were designed to suppress ideas that differed from the philosophy of the Nazis. Joseph Goebbels was in charge of the Nazi Propaganda Ministry and in that capacity took control of all forms of German communication, including newspapers, magazines, movies and radio. Any points of view that contradicted the Nazi points of view were censored or eliminated from all media. On May 10, 1933, professors, students and librarians marched in Germany and threw books into huge bonfires. Nothing like that is happening in the United States under the Trump regime. What the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is doing is simply attacking a very few words. Here was the news of December 15, 2017 that was reported by the Washington Post. And it is not cause for alarm.

On December 15, 2017 it was reported that seven words in the English language have fallen out of favor with people at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. According to someone at a meeting that took place on December 14, 2017, policy analysts at the agency were told that seven words or phrases were not to be used in official documents prepared for the 2018 budget for the CDC. The exiled words are: “vulnerable,” “entitlement”, “diversity”, “transgender”, “fetus”, “evidence-based”, and “science-based.” To those not familiar with what passes for thinking in many Trump appointees, including those at the CDC, it may be hard to understand how the various words offend. Although there are doubtless other explanations, one reason “fetus” is offensive is that for those who are opposed to abortion, as many Trump supporters are, the word depersonalizes the child in the womb, treating it as an object rather than a baby. “Transgender” is offensive because those who do not want it to appear in official documents believe that its use acknowledges a group of people whose belief in their sexual identity is a figment of their imaginations and should not be dignified by appearing in CDC documents.

To understand the objections to the use of “evidence-based” and “science based,” it is helpful to go back almost ten years to the Texas State Board of Education that struggled with the same concepts. Two thousand nine was the year that board confronted the difficult task of deciding what words should be put in science text books. The problem was especially acute when addressing the pesky questions of climate change and evolution. In 2009 the school board was led by dentist, Don McLeroy. He and his like-minded colleagues on the board were successful in causing Texas science text books to include discussion of what were described as the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories such as evolution. In an interview following the school board’s action, Dr. McLeroy said of the board’s decision to address both sides of evolution and other scientific theories: “Wooey. We won the Grand slam, and the Super Bowl. Our science standards are light years ahead of any other state when it comes to challenging evolution.” Explaining his enthusiasm, he said that “evolution is hooey.” (In fairness to Texas it must be observed that it now has a more enlightened school board and its scientific instruction comports with science rather than Dr. LeRoy’s beliefs.) The explanation offered by the CDC spokesperson for banning the use of “science based” or “evidence based” was eerily reminiscent of Dr. LeRoy. According to the agency, an appropriate alternative to “science-based” or “evidence-based” was to say that: “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

The CDC’s attack on the English language bring to mind Former President Barack Obama’s comments at the Economic Club of Chicago on December 5, 2017 as reported by Miranda Green on CNN.. In his remarks, the former president said: “You have to tend to this garden of democracy, otherwise things can fall apart fairly quickly. And we’ve seen societies where that happens. Now presume there was a ball room here in Vienna in the late 1920s or ‘30s that looked and seemed as if it, filled with the music and art and literature that was emerging, would continue into perpetuity. And then 60 million people died. An entire world was lunged into chaos. . . .There have been periods in our history where censorship was considered OK. We had a president who had to resign prior to impeachment because he was undermining the rule of law. At every juncture we’ve had to wrestle with big problems. . . .”

The former present’s warning was timely even though some people think we are a long way from that now. Just give the Trump more time and see what happens.