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Something There Is Doesn’t Love a Wall

So far the big news story of the year is President Donald Trump’s long promised plan to build a big and beautiful wall along the entirety of America’s border with Mexico, and the longer and more painful than usual partial government shutdown that has resulted from the Democrats’ refusal to pay for it. Trump has announced a short oration on the matter tonight, and the “fake news” organizations at the American Broadcasting Company and the National Broadcasting Company and the Columbia Broadcast System the Cable News Network have all agreed to air it live, along with the Fox News Network and the Fox Business News Networks, so it should get great ratings.
Both the wall and the resulting partial government shutdown are polling quite badly for Trump at the moment, however, and we doubt that Trump’s self-proclaimed reputation for salesmanship will be able to change that. There are plenty of persuasive arguments for more stringent enforcement of America’s border laws, and we proudly note we were publicly making them long before Trump latched on to the issue, but Trump generally prefers what his ghost-written bestseller “The Art of the Deal” describes as “truthful hyperbole,” which is to say baseless but nonetheless appealing claims.
Inevitably and undeniably there have been murders and rapes and other crimes committed by criminals illegally crossing the border, but Trump has always exaggerated their share of America’s alarming level of violence. He similarly overstates that number of Middle Eastern terrorists seeking to cross the southern border, even as he vows to continue a partial government that has diminished America’s security efforts at its airports, where most would-be terrorists attempt to arrive. Trump also implies that a border wall would keep all the illegal immigrants out of the country, even though most of them have arrived at legal ports of entry and outstayed their welcome, and that the cost of a border wall would divert funds from any efforts to expel them. There are other high-tech and more cost-efficient means of securing the border that the funding Trump wants to his wall could pay for, too. Perhaps the simplest solution to illegal immigration is to crack down on the businesses that hire illegal immigrants, but that would include the Mar-a-Lago resort and other still wholly-owned companies of Trump.
Lately Trump has claimed that President Ronald Reagan tried in vain for eight long years to build a sea-to-sea border wall, and that several past presidents have confessed to their regret that they didn’t accomplish what Trump now bravely strives for, but that’s all entirely untrue. Neither Trump nor his friends at Fox News or on talk radio have come up with a single sound-bite from Reagan about a wall, and all Reagan’s still-living advisors on immigration issues have told the “fake news” that’s because Reagan never said any such thing. All four of the living ex-presidents have also convincingly contradicted Trump’s claims, and the spokesman for recently deceased President George H.W. Bush declined comment on the grounds that it was too soon for Bush “to be dragged into such debates.”
So it will be interesting to see what new claims Trump makes tonight. He has plenty of compelling arguments at his disposal for the need to main the hundreds of miles of border barriers that have already been built, as well as a few hundred miles more, but the Democrats have already voted to fund the maintenance of existing barriers and signaled a willingness to cough up a couple billion more dollars for another few hundred miles, but it’s not in his nature to settle for that. After Trump bragged on national television that he’d be proud to shut the government down over a border wall he’s hard pressed to blame the Democrats for the partial government shutdown, and they have no apparent reason for helping Trump out with the beating he’s taking in the polls. Trump also promised that Mexico would pay for the wall, and although Trump makes some convoluted arguments that the money America’s going to eventually come from the profits private businesses make from a renegotiated-yet-not-ratified-by-any-country trade agreement the Democrats can confidently consider themselves off the hook.
There’s still a chance that both sides will agree that enhanced enforcement of America’s immigration laws is an urgent national priority, but that a big and beautiful sea-to-sea border wall isn’t, and the the airport security and the Coast Guard need to start getting paid again and the farmers need their subsidies and the national parks have to resuming taking out the garbage. We surely hope so, as it seems sensible enough. This Trump fellow seems to have negotiated himself into a corner, though, and those damned Democrats for now seem to have both the opinion polls and the objective facts on side, so the big story of the day seems likely to linger. For most of us it will likely be soon supplanted by other big stories, but all those airport security employees and Coast Guardsmen and farmers and national park-goers should gird themselves for the long haul.

— Bud Norman

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Another Old Soldier Fades Away

President Donald Trump has announced that his chief of staff, the former four-star Marine General John F. Kelly, will soon make the latest inglorious exit from the administration. Kelly’s getting out while the getting’s still relatively good, as we see it, but not without his once sterling reputation tarnished.
Prior to signing on with Trump, Kelly commanded bipartisan respect. He not only had four stars on his shoulders but three bronze stars and numerous ribbons for valor in three wars and the 1982 Los Angeles riots on his chest, and he endeared himself to establishment Republicans without much annoying the Democrats as he led the Western European and then America’s Southern Command. When he replaced Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, the former Republican party chairman who once epitomized the effete Republican establishment that Trump gleefully trampled, both Democrats and all sorts of Republicans expressed hope that the tough-as-nails Marine could somehow impose some sort of discipline on a seemingly chaotic White House.
By the time Kelly arrived several of those “very best people” that Trump promised to appoint had already been defenestrated, including the national security advisor who has since pleaded guilty on several felony charges and been recommended by the prosecution for a minimal sentence given his cooperation with numerous other criminal investigations involving Trump’s campaign and administration, and Kelly quickly ousted several more, including that Omarosa woman from “The Apprentice” and various other Trump-related reality shows who held some high-level administration post or another, which was at least high-level enough she was the most high-level black woman in the White House. For a while the remarkable man who had served so successfully in three wars and the 1982 Los Angeles riots seemed up to the task, but over the long run the Democrats were disappointed, and so were such old-fashioned Republicans as ourselves, and even Trump himself had reportedly stopped speaking to him as he wished him well on his way out of the door.
One of those “very best people” that Trump had appointed and Kelly had to fire was White House staff secretary Rob Porter, whose resume included excellent educational and career credentials but also credible and legally-filed charges by two ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend of domestic violence, and when Kelly did fire him after several disastrous news cycles he did so reluctantly and dishonestly and with kind words for the defenestrated employee and nothing to say about spousal abuse that tough old Marine general looked bad all the but the die-hard Trump fans. He grimaced when Trump spoke about the good people on both sides of a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, but when all the military brass reassured their diverse personnel that they did not agree Kelly remained silent. When Trump wound up offending the family of a black soldier who had been killed in an unknown war in Niger he had ineptly tried to comfort, Kelly wound up insulting the family’s Congresswoman and personal friend, who is a ridiculous Democrat as we’re concerned, but the insult he made proved based on a lie and somehow wound up looking even more ridiculous. Along the way he also willing to make various other ridiculous defenses for indefensible White House missteps.
Kelly was also an outspoken proponent of Trump’s policy of enforcing America’s border laws as severely as possible, as was his hand-picked successor at the the Department of Homeland Security, but both fell into disfavor with Trump as border crossings into America’s still booming economy continued apace. The old school Kelly also seemed at odds with Trump on other issues, ranging from Trump’s penchant for nepotism and general lack of old school discipline, and particularly his disruptive policies toward the post-World War II era world order he’d fought so valiantly to defend. A while back Trump boasted that he knew far more about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization than the four-star Marine general who had once successfully led the West European Command, and that was when we knew that Kelly’s days as chief of staff were shortly numbered. As far as we can tell, Kelly wasn’t undone because of what he’d done wrong but rather because of what he’d done right.
At least it seems to have come a more or less fortuitous time. The special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing” has lately come up with some hard-to-explain court filings involving Trump’s former campaign chairman and lawyer and national security advisor, the latest economic news isn’t much to brag about, a Democratic majority in the House is about to be installed, while much of the slim Republican majority in the Seate is revolting against Trump’s friendliness with Saudi Arabia, and for now it’s not clear who might replace Kelly. The presumptive replacement was Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, but it’s lately been reported that Trump is also consider ing dumping the obsequious Pence and Ayers has confirmed via “Twitter” that he doesn’t want the job and is also getting out of the administration while the getting’s still good.
Way back in the dark days of the Obama administration citizen Trump “tweeted” his dismay that the president had a third chief of staff in less than three years, but now Trump is searching around for the sucker to become his third chief of staff in less than two years, and we don’t expect any further “tweets” from him about it. As for Kelly, we wish him a happy retirement, despite it all.
We’ve known too many of those tough-as-nails men who fight our country’s battles to expect them to be politically correct about domestic abuse and racial issues and such, so we’ll chalk all of Kelly’s missteps up to being promoted by the wrong guy to the wrong job. He seems to have done his best to impose some discipline on Trump’s White House, and we admire any man who willingly walks into the quagmire.

— Bud Norman

What All the Fuss Is About

One of the problems with these quadrennial presidential election years, among many, is that one can so easily get caught up in all the political plot twists and lose sight of what all the fuss is about. While most of the media attention was devoted to fall-out from last Monday’s Iowa caucuses and all the subsequent bickering leading up to next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, for instance, someone in the know was giving sworn testimony to Congress that our current immigration law enforcement policies are such that “We might as abolish our immigration laws altogether.”
That was the sworn testimony of Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Control Council, the union that represents agents and support staff of the United States Border Patrol, and he laid out a convincing case for his hyperbolic claim. He further testified that his members have been ordered to release illegal immigrants and to no longer order them to appear at deportation hearings, and he attributed the policy to the embarrassing fact that fewer than half of those ordered to appear such hearings have ever bothered show up, and that by the way many of those who have been caught and released are almost certainly members of notoriously murderous criminal organizations. Despite our innate suspicion of public sector unions we’re more inclined to believe Agent Judd than the far-away-from-the-border spokesmen at the Department of Homeland Security, who continue insist the border is hermetically sealed, despite all those press photographs from the pre-race days of trains crossing the border with roofs full of unaccompanied minors flipping off the photographers, and we’d like to think there’s still some seething anger about it.
The anger was once so seething that Donald J. Trump, a real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-show-and-professional-wrestling mogul who boasts that his only previous involvement in politics was buying off politicians, was able to vault to the top of the Republican primary polls by unleashing his suspiciously newfound seething anger and promising to build a great big wall that Mexico would pay for to end the problem. He later promised to build a great big door in that wall to welcome the good ones back in, with promises of a top-notch staff to determine which ones are the good ones, but then he got beat in the crazy Iowa caucus by Texas Sen. Cruz, a loose cannon conservative who might or might not have betrayed the secure border cause in some procedural vote or another, and suddenly there’s a lot of talk about Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a former firebrand and current “establishment lane candidate” who clearly betrayed the cause once but sure sounds as if he’s gotten the true religion since then, and would arguably be held to it especially if he is the pragmatic opportunist he’s accused of being, and suddenly all of them would rather talk about the “tweets” and sound-bites of the post-Iowa news cycle.
Over on the Democratic side, they’re talking about an odds-defying series of coin tosses and who hates the financial sector of the American economy more and whether a commie or a potential convict should lead the country, and there’s conspicuously no mention of all in their debates about all those people in the know who are testifying before Congress that America might as well not have any immigration laws. The commie has expressed some relatively sane ideas left over from the days of Hugo Chavez and the New Left’s anti-“wetback” days, while the potential convict is probably more malleable to public opinion, but they’d rather not talk about it.
A friend of ours mentioned that he’d heard on one of the more serious talk radio programs reporting that illegal immigration isn’t a pressing issue in the next big deal New Hampshire primary, far away from the southern border and yet where Trump was last reported to be be leading despite a recent drop in his poll numbers and post-Iowa surges by both Cruz and the third-place-with-alleged-momentum Rubio, and we admit we find it all most fascinating. Still, we can’t shake a nervous feeling about someone in the know confirming our suspicion that we might as well abolish our immigration laws.

— Bud Norman

Ebola, Zombies, Government, and Other Things to Worry About

Having survived the outbreaks of Bird Flu and Swine Flu and Mad Cow Disease and the entire menagerie of epidemics that were supposed to have decimated the world’s population by now, we’ve not yet been panicked by the recent news of the spread of the Ebola virus. Having watched the government’s inept responses to other crises over the past several years, however, we are starting to get at least a bit nervous.
We had always regarded the Ebola virus as one of those unfortunate phenomena that seem to inflict only Africa, but now it has come to the quintessentially American city of Dallas. It flew in on a jetliner from Liberia, hitching a ride on an infected passenger from that stricken country, and now it is feared that as many as 100 Americans have come in contact. Each of those has presumably come in contact with another 100 or so people, who in turn would have come in contract with another 100, and although the risk of transmission is said to be remote in every case the extrapolation is still unsettling. Whatever degree of risk is entailed, it could have been eliminated entirely by the sorts of travel restrictions that such countries as Great Britain and France have instituted, which shakes one faith that a governmental and medical system which declined to take such measures to deal will be able to effectively deal with the consequences of not doing so.
The extraordinary amount of press coverage devoted to the disease has already revealed several instances where the most up-to-date protocols for dealing with the disease with have not been followed, including an unpleasant account the infected patient’s vomit being cleaned off a sidewalk by power hoses that no doubt sent dangerous bacteria flying off into the atmosphere, and one shudders to think what mistakes might come next. So far as we can tell the government decided not restrict flights from infected countries partly because that had been a Bush administration idea, and partly because it was thought that discriminating on the basis of a deadly disease might offend African sensibilities. Such pointless political considerations are likely to override medical necessity again in the coming days, if the government’s recent history of border security and presidential security are any guide, it does not inspire confidence.
American troops have been deployed to Africa to fight the Ebola virus, as if it were the sort of enemy that can be vanquished by military might, and for the usual rationale that it’s better to fight abroad rather than at home. Letting the disease fly into the homeland at the same time seems rather odd, though, and we hope this policy will soon be rescinded. A more discriminatory policy regarding who gets into the country even without the Ebola virus would also be welcomed, for medical and national security and economic and cultural reasons, but that seems too much to hope for.
The situation has already prompted the survivalists to take precautions beyond their usual paranoid preparedness, and the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan is predictably blaming it all on a white supremacist conspiracy to kill black people which is currently being carried out by the first black president, although it was apparently launched at some nonexistent point in history when Henry Kissinger was serving as Secretary of State to President George H.W. Bush, but we’re remaining relatively calm. We’re counting on those reportedly low transmissions rates, though, and not the government. There have been strange accounts of Ebola victims awakening from the dead, and we note proudly that this is  “Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Month” here in Kansas, but otherwise the government doesn’t seem ready for the coming challenges.

— Bud Norman

In God We Trust, In Congress Not So Much

Every civic-minded American should be closely following the congressional debate over immigration reform, an issue that will significantly affect the nation’s future, but we spent most of Monday evening watching the Wichita Wingnuts play a minor league baseball contest against the Laredo Lemurs.
At the risk of sounding unambitious as well as unpatriotric, we just can’t muster the willpower to plow through the 1,200 or so pages of the bill currently being considered. In our own defense it should be noted that none of the Senators or Representatives championing the bill have bothered to read it, either, and we suspect that they don’t take what’s in it any more seriously than we do. There will be a lot of new immigrants in it, and that part can be counted on, but all the parts about border security that have been included to make it more palatable to the supposedly Meskin’-hatin’ redneck majority of Americans are unlikely to ever be enforced. Illegal immigration is already illegal, after all, and any law promising to at long last enforce our currently ignored laws will be just as easily ignored.
Law professor William A. Jacobson, a more energetic observer of current events than ourselves, has read enough of the bill to notice that it makes itself easily ignored. He found a provision that grants the Secretary of Homeland Security the power to waive all other provisions at her discretion. Given that the Secretary of Homeland Security is Janet Napolitano, an open borders advocate who has publicly stated her belief that the border is sufficiently secure already, and given that the next person to hold the job might not be any better, these few lines of the bill effectively negate the rest.
Such cynicism about the legislative process is not healthy for the country, of course, but neither is naïve faith in legislators who have repeatedly proved themselves untrustworthy. When Congress proposes a bill that the public can actually read, and is given time to read, and it can be easily understood but circumvented only with great difficulty, we might consider offering our support. Until then we urge resistance, and will spend our time at the old ballpark next to downtown. Sometimes the good guys prevail there, as they did in a lopsided win on Monday, and that’s more than can be said for the country’s politics in recent years.

— Bud Norman

A Break to the Border

So far as we can tell there were no new political scandals revealed on Wednesday, a sort of cool breeze of news to temporarily break the summer heat, so it seemed a good opportunity to look around at what else is going in Washington. There is apparently an immigration reform bill being considered in Congress, and the people pushing it are probably hoping the public is too distracted to notice, but all those scandals might wind up hurting the legislation’s chances of passage.
Immigration is one of those issues that defy the usual partisan and ideological categories, so the politics are complicated enough to begin with. The business wing of the Republican party has long championed unfettered immigration because it expands the supply of labor and thereby lowers its cost, while the working stiff wing of the party has opposed it for precisely the same reason. The union dues-paying working stiffs of the Democrat party once opposed illegal immigration with identical motives, and although their party loyalty has lately seemed to trump their economic self-interest there is still plenty of resistance in the ranks, while the professional politicians of the party have been eager to register a few million more voters that can be relied on to vote a straight big-government ticket. The multi-cultural liberals have also favored illegal immigration because they think it would be racist not to, and because they’re confident that they won’t be facing new competition for their sensitivity-training businesses and queer studies professorships, while the mostly white nativists of the Republican party and the mostly black nativists among the Democrats have been opposed.
A similarly mixed-up coalition of Senators has cooked up the current proposal, and they’ve tried to offer something for everyone. The bill would provide a “pathway to citizenship” for most of the illegal immigrants already in the country, but supporters are quick to insist that it’s not the same as amnesty, a word which tests badly in all the polls and focus groups, and they cross their hearts and hope to die as they pinky swear that this time it will be accompanied by the long-awaited crackdown that finally secures the border. Those tough-on-illegal-immigration provisions of a bill that would essentially legalize illegal immigration are the ones being touted by the bill’s Republican proponents, most prominently the former rising conservative star Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and an advertising campaign running on all the right-wing talk radio shows touts the bill as a severely right-wing program.
There are plenty of reasons for conservatives to be skeptical, however, and they seem to increase as the bill winds its way through the labyrinthine processes of the Congress. The Democratic-controlled Senate is intent on having their favored parts of the bill enacted before the country gets around to the messy business of enforcing the border, and the conventional wisdom of the moment is that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will show the necessary backbone — or cussed stubbornness, depending on your point of view — to kill the bill unless the border is secured first. Some wavering by the waver-prone Speaker of the House has many conservatives nervous that the Republicans will cave, but the representatives in his caucus are almost certain to hear from a compelling number of their constituents.
Although the tough-on-illegal-immigration provisions are appealing to the average conservative, and the “pathway to citizenship” not especially abhorrent is combined with border security, there is little trust in the promises being made. The past several decades of illegal immigration have justified this doubt, and the past months of revelations about governmental perfidy have only increased it. Democrats pushing the bill have reportedly asked President Barack Obama to keep his distance from the debate, lest his scandal-tainted brand tarnish their efforts, but at this point their entire party is being regarded with a heightened suspicion. The entire government, for the matter, is suddenly in position to argue “Trust us.”

— Bud Norman