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Thoughts on Events the Week of July 9

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on July 18, 2018

This has been the worst week in Trump’s presidency for America and for me, though for me, the worst has nothing to do with Trump. Cynthia died peacefully in her sleep Sunday night, and all else seems totally unimportant to me right now.

Some thoughts will form, eventually, about other events this week (actually two weeks), but for now, I’m just not ready, able or interested.

Baseball: is a very small ingredient in the thin sports gruel that sustains me between football seasons. I used to watch an occasional game involving the Texas Rangers, but they are apparently so bad this year that they don’t even rate television time this year.

The best thing I can say about baseball is that you can sit in a pleasant environment – green grass – with friends and a beer – and be confident that nothing is likely to happen on the field to interrupt your conversation.

To illustrate how out of touch I am with this sport, in the run-up to the All-Star game, the Sunday New York Times listed the 64 players – 32 for each league – elected or selected to the rosters this year and I had only even of three of them. Note: one of those three is a catcher named Molina, and I’m not even sure he is the same Molina I used to know who catches (caught?) for the Cardinals a while ago.

I probably won’t watch the All-Star game. I haven’t watched the last three, nor any game of the last two World Series, that I can remember. I always think I will, but then I don’t.

Person of Interest: Miles Mikolas, the most interesting side story of the All-Star game. The NYT points out that the 29 year old pitcher is aptly named, because he has traveled many miles in his baseball career, from team to team, from majors to minors, from country to country.

The St. Louis Cardinals saw something, brought him back from Japan and hit the jackpot. Miklos is having an All-star season with the Cardinals this year and is on the National League roster for All-Star game.

Nice story. I’m happy for Miles, but I still doubt I’ll watch the game.

https://www.google.com/search?q=miles+miklos&oq=miles+miklos&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.8659j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Update: I just read that Mikolas missed the game because he went home to be with his wife as she gave birth to twins. That’s still a happy ending, right?

Status of the States: I’m just not interested in what’s going on in any of them.

Re-thinking Roe v Wade

Posted in Politics and Justice by EloiSVM42 on July 11, 2018

Frankly, I’m sick to death of hearing about Roe v Wade. (Of course, I am only a man, and I don’t have a vagina at risk.) Abortion is the craziest, bloodiest most irrational battle in the culture wars, and has been raging ever more viciously since the Supreme Court handed down the decision in 1973. Skirmishes are unceasing, and every one incites more outrage on both sides.

For the record, I am a firm believer in abortions being available to those who choose to have them. More precisely, I believe people should have peace and privacy when making such a difficult decision.  Since Row was decided on privacy grounds, I think it was rightly decided, but the situation is complicated.

To me, this is a no brainer. I’m old enough to have seen what it was like before abortions became legally available nationally, and some of the results were tragic: unwanted children; forced marriages (which have doubtless contributed to a higher divorce rate); unaffordable children, which can throw people into poverty and bind them there; deformed and mentally deficient children, which are in the best of circumstances an enormous drain on social resources and capable of overwhelming families; and risky, dangerous, sometimes fatal illegal abortions in unsafe circumstances.

The counter arguments are based, in my view, on absolutist interpretations of an antiquated text, and a mean-spirited desire to punish those who commit the unpardonable sins of being pregnant, poor and colored. I would say to those holding such opinions, if you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one. Just don’t deny them to those who do.

Full disclosure: I’ve been the sperm contributor in a few abortions myself, though none of them illegal. Also, having lived in the 60s and early 70s in Oklahoma and Indiana – two determinedly hidebound states – while in college, and then living in New York, NY where abortions were legal before 1973, I hosted friends at my place during their trips there to have an abortion in a safe hospital.

The Supreme Court is, despite the myth, at heart political. To remain relevant, it must move with the times to accommodate changes in the public will, and deal with issues unimagined by the Constitution’s authors. Generally, though not always, the Court moves as there is enough public sentiment regarding its decisions to approve, or at least accept, with perhaps some grumbling, but no rebellion.

However, Roe seems to have been decided when public sentiment was still extremely split, and much of the country simply wasn’t willing to live with the Supremes’ decision. Maybe, just maybe, the issue should have been left to percolate a little longer, though to be fair to the Supremes, at the time, majority opinion already favored abortion being available.

So, what might happen if Roe were overturned? I assume the Supremes would return the abortion question to the individual states, and not outlaw them entirely. The reaction to a national ban would be untenable.

With abortion left to the states to deal with, at first at least, almost half – 22 of them – will outlaw abortions entirely, or put so many restraints on them to render them unobtainable. So, the number of states on either side of the issue will be split, but not popular opinion. A significant majority of voters will still prefer abortion to be legal, and I would expect this majority to increase in the face of this new reality.

In states where abortions are prohibited, the demand for abortions will not cease. There will be anguish and scrambling around to find alternative places or methods to have them. There will be illegal abortions and there will be predictably tragic events.

There will also be greatly increased voter activation and resentment within both sets of states. It’s been a long time since Rowe v Wade became law. Perhaps many women have become complacent about abortions being nationally available, despite the obvious chipping away at them from the right. This might galvanize more women them into more aggressive action against anti-abortion legislators.

Many politicians have been skating on abortion, saying they oppose them to appease their conservative voters, but knowing that they are safe behind the Court’s decision not to have to vote on the issue. Once the decision is overturned, they may find themselves facing serious new opposition.  

Medical technology has advanced since 1973. There is better contraception and abortion pills. Like everything else, so called day after pills could be available through Amazon, which offers free delivery within two days with a Prime membership. Then, there’s always Canada’s pharmaceutical houses. They’re cheaper anyway. In any case, I see the market, and the black market, for these products skyrocketing.

Outlawing abortions will take some pressure off of organizations like Planned Parenthood. Now they will be able to provide other medical services to women without being hounded by crazies.

I see abortion clinics being set up in states where they are allowed right on the borders with states where they are not, making it easier in many cases for people in non-abortion states to get them relatively conveniently. (Of course, this won’t work with non-abortion states all of whose borders abut other non-abortion states.)

I can also see crowd sourcing sites – something else new since 1973 – gathering funds to help women in non-abortion states with the expenses required to travel to pro-abortion states to have one.

But mostly, I can see a lot of highly pissed off and motivated women making a lot of legislators’ lives a misery until the issue is addressed through meaningful legislative action at the national level, overriding the Court, instead of the other way around.

One final comment re: Roe v. Wade. The Wade in this case was a truly despicable piece of filth named Henry Wade, who was at the time a District Attorney of Dallas County, TX.  Wade, a vile racist, which is redundant as I think about it, dragged innocent blacks off the streets, seemingly at random, and tried them before often equally racist juries, or at least juries indifferent to justice in the case of blacks, and get them convicted of crimes they didn’t commit,

At least 15 such Wade’s convictions have been overturned with the advent of DNA evidence, and it is certain that other innocents suffered their entire sentences in prison. Some who were innocent of their crime likely were executed. I’m not a fan of anything vaguely related to Henry Wade.

 

Thoughts on Events the Week of July 2

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on July 8, 2018

Melting ICE: The idea of abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency currently proposed by many knee jerk liberals is a poor idea and a shiny bobble exactly like the ones President Trump likes to throw out to distract voters from the truth, only this one is self-inflicted by Democrats themselves.

Abolishing ICE to improve immigration management is like firing the hangman to stop capital punishment. Let’s just say, to be polite to knee jerk liberals, it’s not a complete solution.

ICE is just a small part of the brain freeze of the Bush Administration, which scrambled and compressed and expanded and created new departments while running around in circles trying to act like it was doing something about terrorism in response to 9/11, while it was primarily just wetting itself. ICE does need reform, but so does the entire bloated Homeland Security debacle.

True, ICE does some things it has no business doing – separating immigrant parents and their children at the border, and menacing established, hard-working, peaceable illegal immigrants. But ICE also does some things that need to be done, like catch and deport illegals who are truly criminal.

ICE needs to be better directed to be sure, and made to stop in its tracks from hassling immigrant families, which many of its force seem to be doing too happily. This should be done sooner than immediately. But abolishment, if needed ultimately, can await the reform of the whole money pit that is Homeland Security.

July 4th: If I remember my history book correctly, we celebrate this day as the anniversary of when George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and threw it into the Potomac. It’s hard to keep historical and civics facts straight, because what’s written in the texts bears so little resemblance to what is happening in Washington today.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a woman whose salary we pay to lie to us for a living, and which she does so willingly, said that I need to decide if I love my country more than I hate this President. I’m thinking. I’m thinking.

If she is talking about Trump’s version of America, I hate that America more than I hate Trump, which is really saying something. If she if referring to the traditional version of America, I love it more than I hate Trump.

Ass Kissing Exercises: Though Trump suspended joint military exercises with South Korea, he sent a delegation of Republican Senators to Moscow on a practice ass kissing exercise with Yesterday’s Man, Vladimir Putin, prior to meeting him later this month.

Presumably, the Senators will provide intelligence to Trump, such as which of Putin’s cheeks is smoother, and  which knee, or both, Putin would like Trump to be kneeling upon when he kisses Putin’s ass, and whether or not Putin wants Trump’s hands on his hips or behind Trump’s back while doing his kissing.

The intelligence gained will be second hand, however, because the Senators, having traveled all the way to Moscow for the meeting, were told Putin was too busy to see them. How embarrassing was that?

I find this whole thing so odd. Republicans used to be seriously skeptical of Russia, but now they are puckering up like Trump, who Putin clearly has by the short and curlies, without a whimper. Seeing Republican Senator Richard Shelby there in Moscow, so obsequious with his comments, was just wrong on so many levels.

The NFL also gets on its knee for Trump: Speaking of being on your knees, NFL owners went down on their knees in front of Trump over the player protest issue, and now they have a real mess on their hands.

I sympathize, mildly, with owners for trying to protect their product and their investment, and for having to suffer Trump’s using them to stir his base, but there are ways out of their predicament better than what they are planning, which is only asking for more trouble and greater player, and some fan, resentment.

I was reminded – this is not my original thought – that at college football games, teams come onto the field AFTER the national anthem is played. Sounds like an easy fix for the NFL to adopt.

Another option would be to do away with the pre-game National Anthem altogether – it’s an unnecessary exercise in faux patriotism – but that would probably play into Trump’s hands, so that idea will have to wait for another, more enlightened time.

Justice, law of the jungle variety: Some rhino poachers were eaten by lions on a South African game reserve, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of two or probably three guys. Their remains were discovered near the pride. When the suspects were questioned, the lions said, “Burp,” and lawyered up.

Person of Interest: John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Advisor, and a man who is truly barking mad. Bolton’s default position is regime change. He wants to nuke everybody. We haven’t had anyone this bellicose in a position of authority since Curtis Lemay (Google him). Bolton makes John McCain look like a pacifist.

Bolton must be conflicted right now. He was ecstatic when Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran. Bolton wanted to nuke Iran, but he had to settle with what he got.

However, Bolton also wants to nuke North Korea and Russia, and here he is, like everyone else who loses his soul working for Trump, smiling and supporting Trump’s giveaways and genuflections to Bolton’s other two primary nemeses. Plus, Bolton wants regime change in Syria, and Trump is making noises like he going to hand Syria to Russia. Choke on it, Bolton.

Note: as this went to press, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo limped back from North Korea trying lamely to perfume Trump’s pig of a deal with North Korea after it was exposed for what we all knew it was. Bolton must be chewing on his own liver. I’ll write this up on next Sunday’s blog.

Status of the States: EPA Director Scott Pruitt resigned this week, demonstrating that, contrary to all previous evidence, there is a level of corruption up with which the administration will not put…excluding by Trump himself, of course. Pruitt’s resignation lets Oklahoma off the hook as worst state.

The cup, therefore, goes to Alabama, based on Senator Shelby’s humiliating performance in Moscow. Can Alabamans really be as fond of Russia as their Senator?

Question: If you promise to drain a swamp, and then you actually add a whole lot of alligators to it, and then remove one really ugly, smarmy gator, can you claim credibly that you are draining the swamp?

Diary Entry: The average date of the first rainfall to occur in the Monsoon season in this region of Arizona is July 6. Sure enough, on Friday, our first shower came, right on schedule. It was a light one, but it was enough to give hope and relief to the flora and fauna that have been waiting through a particularly dry winter, spring and early summer.

Trump’s Second Supreme Court Nominee

Posted in Politics and Justice by EloiSVM42 on July 7, 2018

President Trump has said he will announce his candidate to fill the Kennedy vacancy on the Supreme Court on Monday night, during a prime time TV spectacular. Given Trump’s shameless promotion proclivities and Miss America association, one might wonder if we’ll see a swimsuit competition among the candidates.

This blog is to put down thoughts about the process before the candidate is announced. These thoughts are informed by:

1.     My understanding of, and respect for the Constitution

2.     My recent realization that the Founding Fathers framed the Constitution assuming everyone would do his or her job, about which they are being proven wrong in the present day.

3.     History and experience.

I’m old enough to remember when Supreme Court Justices were selected based on particularly outstanding merit rather than ideology. Typically, the quality and character of the nominees was so great and so apparent, that the candidates were generally consented to by high percentages of the advising Senators, often unanimously.

Today, ideology, partisanship and “litmus tests” are the primary criteria for a nomination, and even qualified candidates, and the occasional one clearly not, get on the Court by small majority votes. Clarence Thomas is a smear on the history and standards of the Court. Samuel Alito. Are you kidding me?

There are differing opinions on where this shift began. Many presidents have nominated a clunker or two: Johnson (Abe Fortas); Nixon (Haynsworth and Carswell); Reagan (Bork and Ginsburg).

Presidents George H.W. Bush (Souter and Thomas), Clinton (Ginsburg and Breyer) and Barak Obama (Sotomayor and Kagan) had no Supreme Court nominee rejections, though Bush should never has nominated the truly mediocre Thomas in the first place.

The process descended into farce when George W. Bush nominated Harriet Meyers. But this downward spiral hit a nadir when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused even to hold hearings on President Obama’s third Supreme Court nominee – Merrick Garland – thus stealing an appointment from Obama and severely damaging the integrity of both the Senate and the Court in the process. I will never feel the same about either again. McConnell’s act was a doubly dastardly dirty deal, and that’s how history will record it.

Trump is certain to select a conservative nominee, one expected to be favorable to his initiatives, including even overturning Roe v Wade, which decision the Court handed down in 1973, and about which I will write more next week.

My only comment on Trump’s announced contestants on his game show, is that there is a dull, ordinary sameness to them, cookie cutter credentials, and no exceptionalism.

This nomination is happening while Democrats are still seething over the McConnell betrayal, and many Democrats want to do a tit for tat if they can, which is doubtful anyway. But this is the classic example of two wrongs only making a greater wrong, which is no way to treat the Constitution, just because some particularly smarmy pig part did.

Democrats must be better than that. Place the nominee or nominees, depending on how the process goes, under serious scrutiny. Some may crack. Some may surprise pleasantly. If they don’t display exceptionalism, vote against them. If they do, vote for them. Don’t vote either way for political convenience.

Live with the final decision – under the Constitution it is Trump’s to make – and take what comfort we can in these truths: 1) Trump, and his party, will be held to political account for his decision, which is likely to tickle his base but disturb and activate the majority of Americans, and 2) Ultimately, the Court does not decide. The people decide. Unpopular decisions change the Court, through popular consensus and political change. In the meantime, the Constitution is faithfully served by at least one political party.

Thoughts on Events the Week of June 25

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on July 1, 2018

Due Process: President Trump suggested we should deny due process to those wanting to cross our border from the South. This one really pisses me off.

I like my right to due process. Due process is among the most important pillars of our Constitution.  It’s so important, it is expressed in not one but two of our Amendments – the fifth and 14th. Remember this about due process: if it can be denied to one, it can be denied to anyone.

I think it was Thomas Moore who said something to the effect that if you brush aside all the laws to get at the devil and then the devil turns on you, behind what will you hide? The short answer is due process.

Our prick of a president will be glad to have due process one day soon, I suspect, and he, in my view among the most undeserving, must have it, because if he can’t have it then none of us can.

Justice Kennedy resigned from the Court: I’ve never thought much of Kennedy on the bench. He had no grounded legal philosophy. He was a gadfly.

As the proverbial “swing vote,” which he enjoyed too much, he paled ghostly in comparison to his predecessor in that role – Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

In retrospect, one of the mistakes our Founding Fathers made in writing the Constitution was to appoint Supreme Court Justices for life. It was done to protect them from political pressure, which is a good idea, but “for life” is too imprecise a term. In 1789, life expectancy was a mere 36 years! The FFs couldn’t foresee a Court filled septuagenarians, octogenarians and even – like the Notorious RBG – a nonagenarian.

A Supreme Court term should be set for a finite period of time, say 10 years, the length of two presidential terms, plus two, which assures some overlap.

Keep in mind that the Supremes are somewhat isolated from the general public, and we generally become more conservative as we age (though I haven’t). Kennedy was an extremely hidebound man in his last year or two on the Court. He voted with the conservative majority in every 5-4 decision in the Court’s last term, which ended Friday. He is clearly out of touch with the times, with the notable exception, it must be admitted to individual rights.  In most other regards, he lagged a century, even two, behind.

I, like everyone else paying attention, have some thoughts on the political as well as judicial implications of Kennedy’s retiring. I’ll write them down in the next week or two.

Harley Davidson moves on: The iconic motor cycle company is moving some of its operations out of the U.S. to avoid the retaliatory tariffs the EU has placed on it in response to Trump’s impulsive, ill-advised tariff initiation. It is really pissing Trump off, which is fun, but the only good thing about it. It is, in fact, a cautionary event, and perhaps a harbinger of the kind of thing that can happen when trade wars erupt, which easily get out of hand.

I doubt this move was made solely for the reason Harley stated. The U. S. is a mature market for Harley. Every redneck has one. Its growth potential is abroad, and it has competitors. It made a practical business decision that may well have occurred with or without the tariffs. Harley certainly wasn’t going to let Trump screw things up for it by adding a couple thousand dollars to the price of a Harley in foreign markets, Trump and his base be damned.

Person of Interest: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who ousted Democratic incumbent Congressman Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th District in the state’s recent primary elections. Crowley is an out of date fossil, but still it took a perfect storm of circumstances for Ocasio-Cortez to win. She is a relative unknown, and making her first bid for elective office. This was an improbable upset.

But, I have listened to her speak several times, and she is obviously extremely intelligent, eloquent and a very mature thinker for a 28 year old. She is a social democrat, a political philosophy close to my own. I hope the best for her. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandria_Ocasio-Cortez

Status of the States: Oklahoma keeps the worst state cup until EPA Director Scott Pruitt is gone.

Revisiting John McCain at Home

Posted in Politics and Justice by EloiSVM42 on June 30, 2018

When Kelly Sadler, a minor minion in a disgraced White House communications department– said, “It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” reaction was immediate and furious. While Sadler’s comment was tasteless, insensitive and disrespectful, reaction to her comment was overblown.

For one thing, she is partially right. If McCain is too ill to return to Washington to cast a No vote, his opposition holds no physical weight, only a moral one. It would serve the White House right if Sadler’s remark inspired McCain to come to D.C. for a vote, but I think that is unlikely. No, John McCain is back home with us in Arizona, and likely to remain here. I expect we will be writing reflections about him soon.

What does matter about Sadler’s comment is this: First, it reflects the standards, practices and principles at the top of the organization – President Trump – which are low and meager, indeed. Sadler would not have made such a statement in a principled administration, and if she had, she would have been gone, or at least publically reprimanded.

(As it is, Sadler is going to carry this albatross around for the rest of her career, and perhaps even her obituary, though not at this White House. That may be enough punishment for her in the long run.)

Second, and even worse, precious few Senate Republicans, where and with whom John McCain has served long and honorably, if not always wisely in my view, have spoken publicly in support of their fellow senator and elder statesman, though it’s reported many are furious. They have left John McCain to fight his last battle alone, such is their cowardice and their disgrace.

As a practical political matter, Arizona is bereft of representation in the Senate. McCain is too ill to be there, and the aptly named Senator Flake is a lame duck. Flake has talked a good game since announcing his intention not to seek re-election, but in practice, he’s useless as teats on a boar hog. (The use of animal metaphor and simile is deliberate and apt.)

Thoughts on Events the Week of June 18

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on June 26, 2018

Baby shit hits the fan:  and it is splattering all over the Trump administration, which couldn’t happen to a more deserving group of people.

There is no need to reprise the disgraceful, unconscionable abuses of immigrants and their children that have been going on at our Southern border. It’s been in all the papers. Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, and Attorney Jeff Sessions’ application of it, have monopolized the news and shifted public opinion throughout the country as nothing has since Trump was elected and installed his incompetent, xenophobic, bigoted, money grubbing cabinet.

The only silver linings in these despicable events are that: they seem to be shrinking Trump’s base, and, sadly, that they apparently are going to take quite a while to redress, so focus will be kept on them well toward the fall elections.

Those leaving the ship include suburban mothers and decent human beings. Still hanging tough with Trump so far are:

  1. White Supremacists. Motto: Make American white again. Well, it doesn’t have to be America any longer, just so long as it’s white.

To this group I would say, Sorry, but that ship has sailed.

  1. Evangelicals: Motto: We must save these babies from abortion so they can be snatched from their mothers’ arms.

To this group I say: You are the sorriest Christians on the planet.

About these minors taken from their parents and removed across state lines, might some federal law or laws have been broken, like, say, child abduction, child abuse or kidnapping?

And if these children cannot be found and returned to their parents – and there are bound to be at least some such cases – wouldn’t these parents have grounds to sue the federal government for something serious, like, say, child abduction and perhaps black site detention?

I assume that when the Trump administration rescinded the family separation policy, with the gun of public outrage at its head, it did so in hopes this whole thing would then settle down and go away, but I don’t think that’s going to happen soon. There are just too many unsettled issues.

And what is all this costing us, anyway? Not just the obvious costs to our standing in the world and our moral fiber, but actual dollars. I’ll bet it’s a ton.

It was said by some reporters interviewed on MSNBC that Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller had been planning this kind of deterrent strategy for years, long before Trump has been in office, which has been almost a year and a half. If that is the case, the chaos we are seeing now suggests either utter incompetence, or people driven by such xenophobic impulse to have driven forward without thought or care. It’s probably a mixture of both, but either answer alone is distressing.

Update: On Friday, it was learned that the toddler in the now iconic image that triggered such outrage about children being separated from their parents was not actually one of those separated, and Republicans tried to have a field day about this “fake news,” which is ludicrous, but I don’t think anybody is buying it. The toddler, if not a true case, is symbolic of the scandal. I don’t hear any Republicans denying that at least 2,300 children have been separated, which is the salient point.

Remembering Kate Slade: I don’t remember Slade. In fact, I never heard of her until she hanged herself, which was a reminder how out of touch I am with current popular culture. (This is why I never score 100% on the New York Times’ weekend news quiz. It always has a question or two about this kind of stuff.)  I try to keep up, but the pop culture stuff, which is inevitably short lived and ephemeral, just doesn’t seem to register with me anymore. But it is definitely a blind spot in my overall perspective.

North Korea: Speaking of remembering, has anyone heard a word about nuclear negotiations recently? Last time we tuned in, Trump had given up military exercises with South Korea unilaterally to please North Korea, getting nothing return, and we haven’t heard a peep since. Photo op’s over. Time to move on.

Person of Interest:  Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security. Nielsen is the ideal Secretary for the Trump cabinet. She lies like Trump, she is as mean spirited as Attorney General Sessions, she is as stupid as Education Secretary DeVos and Education Secretary Rick Perry, and she is as clueless about her department as HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

Like so many Trump loyalists, Nielsen spoke for Trump and then was left twisting in the wind by him.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Secretary_of_Homeland_Security

Status of the States: Oklahoma keeps the worst state cup until EPA Director Scott Pruitt is gone.

Book Review – The Stephanie Plum Novels

Posted in Reviews - of books, mostly by EloiSVM42 on June 22, 2018

I’m about to lay a harsh criticism on the Stephanie Plum mysteries, written by Janet Evanovich, but they are not that bad if you like this sort of thing, so I feel obliged to tell you some good things about them first.

The Stephanie Plum Novels are a typical mystery series, with a protagonist – in this case Stephanie, of course – some continuing characters, a mystery plot or two running simultaneously and sometimes intersecting, some romance and a dollop of sex (there can’t be lot of sex like you find in series with male protagonists like, say, the James Bond novels, or Stephanie would come off as a slut, which she is not). She has a shtick. And, of course, she always gets her man….eventually.

That this is a series is unmistakable, because the titles each include a number in sequence: One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to get Deadly, and so on. And, these books, like all such series, can be numbingly repetitive. The background and shtick has to be explained over again in each installment, because the author never knows which book the reader will pick up first.

Stephanie’s shtick is that she is a bond enforcement agent (bounty hunter), and an accidental one at that. She was an undergarment buyer at a small department store until being laid off. She wheedled a job with her cousin Vinnie, who runs a bonding company.

In other words, Stephanie is a rookie, green as grass. She wouldn’t have lasted long, or perhaps even survived, if it weren’t for two friends and mentors – a police detective to whom she lost her virginity at 18 and loves off and on again, and an alpha-male bounty hunter super star named Ranger, who is her mentor, temptation and occasional indiscretion.

Stephanie lacks some of the killer instincts useful in the bounty hunter trade. She doesn’t like guns – she keeps hers in her cookie jar except on rare occasions, and generally away from her bullets, when she remembers to buy some. Her other useful bounty hunter gear – stun gun, pepper spray, handcuffs – is jumbled up in her purse, not easily accessible when needed, and she doesn’t prepare ahead well for her take-downs.

Evanovich describes Plum as being “incredibly average, and yet heroic, if necessary.” I would inject only if mortally necessary, which it can take her a long time to determine. But Stephanie has a good heart, and a natural ability to attract and accept a number of oddball characters, who over time form a group of friends, posse and support.

These books individually can be very entertaining. Hell, Evanovich has sold a ton of them. I think it is not offensive in this case to state the obvious that these are “women’s books.” Men who like this genre will enjoy them too, but most of the best, funniest and most insightful scenes occur between women, who will appreciate them more. There is a mall scene in the second book, which only women could initiate, and that is one of the funniest I have read in a long time.

Now, here’s the rub. Since Plum’s shtick is that of being a novice bounty hunter, she must make the same beginner mistakes in every sequential volume. After reading eleven volumes and counting, as I have done (don’t ask why), since she hasn’t learned anything, she now comes off as exasperatingly stupid.

How many times can she stand at the door of her FTA (failure to appear) target to take him in, and have him say, “Sure, give me a minute to get my jacket,” her to say, “OK,” and him run out the back door and get away, before she catches on?

How many times can she have her pepper spray or her stun gun in her purse or pocket when approaching an FTA, and not be able to get it out in time when he charges her?

Eleven volumes in, she should have her stun gun in hand, zap her targets the instant he or she opens the door, cuff them and drag them back to jail before they even cone to. She always gets her quarry, but often through just dumb beginner’s luck.

Stephanie Plum can’t learn, and that makes the series for me a frustrating read.

More thoughts on Immigration

Posted in Politics and Justice by EloiSVM42 on June 20, 2018

Ross Douthat, the New York Times’ token conservative columnist, wrote some in the NYT Sunday edition something with which I agree, up to a point, and which, like me, he has been advocating for a long time.

(I respect Douthat, even though I seldom agree with his positions. He has a cogent, intellectually consistent personal philosophy and can articulate it clearly. Also, Douthat is capable of creative thinking, which is not to be found among typically ideological conservatives.)

Specifically, Douthat argues to strengthen the E-Verify system and mandate its use for every hiring. He opines this is less cruel than Trump’s current deterrence policy of separating children from their parents. Duh!

Immigration is like the drug trade, or any other classic supply and demand market. There is demand for drugs in the U.S., so people smuggle them in to meet it, at great risk. Likewise, there is a demand for labor (read job opportunities for immigrants) in the U.S., so people smuggle themselves in to meet it, at great risk. Cut off the demand – the jobs – and the supply – the immigrants – declines.

When I wrote above that I agree with Douthat up to a point, I did not mean that he has gone too far. Rather, I mean that he has not gone far enough. It is insufficient to leave it there.

First, there have to be real teeth in the E-Verify mandate. Employers who violate it must pay a heavy price, by which I mean jail, not fines.

Cutting off the supply of job opportunities is easy with a robust E-Verify law (though I would prefer a more robust, technologically advanced national identity card). The reason we don’t have one now is because many employers want the labor and the penalties for violation lie more heavily on the immigrants than the violating employers. Send a few business owners to jail, including some big agribusiness owners, and it will reduce employment opportunities for illegal immigrants to near zero rapidly.

Note: with this done, we won’t need is an expensive border wall. Control of the labor supply will render it superfluous. We can invest the money in national identity card technology.

So, now comes the tough part. We must still come to grips with how much immigration we want, and what kind, decisions that have bedeviled us for years. And, we must come to grips with the workers and their families who are already here, as well as the Dreamers, and children who are piling up at the border as I write. If something isn’t done about the child abuse we are inflicting on those children, President Trump’s prediction will come true. We will end up with a bunch of immigrants who may be socially unfit for our society when he is done with them.

(I had drafted something here about Trump’s intransigence, but it is out of date as of today. He has been, as always, playing to his base, which is among other things, virulently xenophobic. But that base is shrinking, at least at the margins (read suburbs and among mothers), and if Trump couldn’t see it, others in his party could, and took action. (I suspect what we were hearing from Republican Congresspersons in public is far different from what Trump was hearing in private.)

Perhaps this is the time to relate a personal experience. During an extremely acrimonious divorce, two of my children were withheld from me for a brief time – three weeks, maybe four or five; it seemed longer. Fortunately for me, justice prevailed quickly, but the experience was one of the two most painful and agonizing of my life. I can appreciate vividly how those parents whose children were taken from them feel.

Now we’re hearing that some of the parents and their children may never be able to be reunited, almost predictable given the incompetence of the Trump administration. If this is the case, some high ranking members in the administration need to go to jail, maybe for as long as those parents and children are suffering, which would be a long time indeed.

Immigration law is the job of our legislature, which, unfortunately, hasn’t been functioning for almost two decades for any purpose much beyond naming post offices. We must elect people willing and able to resolve this. (Perhaps the one and only bright spot in the Trump presidency is that it may shift the composition of the Legislative branch to the point it will fulfill its function again, but it is still a long shot.)

The solutions to our immigration policy are as obvious to me as I assume the solutions of the xenophobic Trump base are to them, and we are poles apart. But we must thrash this out. If it were easy, anybody could do it. Well, it’s not easy, so it will take capable people, of whom we have too few in Congress today. There are some out there. Let’s sift through the résumés carefully and hire better ones this November. Sadly, solutions may have to wait until then, maybe longer.

 

Reviewing the National Press Club Dinner and other Media Foibles

Posted in Reviews - of books, mostly by EloiSVM42 on June 19, 2018

As I have written recently, I am very proud of the media these days. They are performing heroically in very difficult but important times. There is little about them of which to complain. Little, but not none.

After the National Press Club Dinner, the whole point of which is to celebrate freedom of speech and the press, many Press Club members were critical, again, of their invited guest comedian – Michelle Wolf – for telling jokes about them. I didn’t watch the dinner, but I went back and listened to Wolf’s roast. It was overall wicked funny stuff, and like all good comedy, contained a lot of truth.

Among the funniest bits to me was when, sensing her audience squirming, Wolf said, “You should have done a lot more research before you got me to do this.”

I am off-put by the hypocrisy of press members complaining about a comedian’s language. With a nod to President Donald Trump, you knew she was a viper tongued wit when you invited her.

I am particularly disappointed in Andrea Mitchell, a generally credible journalist, for saying Wolf owes Sara Huckabee Sanders an apology for what Wolf said about her. Perhaps Mitchell said that because she is afraid Sanders will stop leaking to her. Nobody owes Sanders an apology. Sanders stands into front of the press every day and lies to them through her teeth. And, she is rude, arrogant and condescending doing it. She is of a piece with her administration.

By the way, I have watched a few of those press briefings and the press’ questions are often as lame as the answers are offensive lies.

I think the press club would be better off doing without a professional comedian speaker. Keep the dinner serious and on point. The fact is, the press doesn’t seem to have a sense of humor, and can’t seem to take a joke, even a good one, about themselves. Reminds me of Trump.

And then there is the overwrought coverage of North Korea. The press vacillates between overhyping a possible peace agreement between the U. S. and North Korea and a war between the U.S. and North Korea, like it’s a either or game, when, in fact, neither is going to happen, least of all a war, because it is the last thing either side wants (with the exception of John Bolton).

Kim wouldn’t dare start a war with us, because he knows he would be obliterated. Trump won’t start a war with North Korea, because if his staff or Congress won’t stop him, China will. Trump started this circus himself with his bluster, and he’s riding now in part because the press let him, and now we’re off on this insane farce of a nuclear agreement negotiation.
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