Maine Writer

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Evangelicals oppose immigrant family separations ~ echo opinion

By Harry Bruinius echo published in The Christian Science Monitor and reprinted in

I place an extremely high value on the authority of Scripture, and the place it should hold in our lives,” says Frady, a lay leader who often leads Bible studies at Northwest Free Methodist Church, a small congregation in Wichita, where she also plays tenor sax for morning worship. “I would not knowingly go against something I thought the Bible commanded, no matter how I felt about it.” 
Attorney General Sessions and proclaimed Evangelical Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn't bother reading the context of the Scripture upon which they based the evil immigrant family separation policy.

On family separation, evangelicals add their voices to the opposition

When Julie Frady planned to make a poster to protest the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, she wanted to find the perfect Bible verse to stand against it, she says, one nobody else would expect.

She’s voted Republican most all of her life, but Frady, an evangelical Christian who lives in Wichita, Kansas, says she’s been “appalled” by the Trump administration’s practice of separating immigrant children from their parents. And she’s been especially appalled, she says, at the administration’s stated purpose to use the practice as a deterrent to other immigrant families thinking of crossing the border illegally.

Since she joined about 60 protesters who marched in front of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ( office in Delano, Kansas, Thursday, more and more people across the United States, and from across its often-polarized political spectrum, have begun to express deep moral reservations at the logistical realities of the practice.

Former first lady Laura Bush called the zero-tolerance policy “cruel” and “immoral” on Sunday, and first lady Melania Trump spoke out in favor of a resolution that would reunite families as well. Conservatives in Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Trump loyalists, have also voiced their opposition.

But in many ways, it was evangelical Christians, including some of President Trump’s most vocal supporters, who first began to change the course of the national conversation about immigration.

As federal agencies began to put into place the actual protocols of separating, detaining, and then finding suitable care for more than 11,400 immigrant children in custody — including about 2,000 taken from their parents since the Trump administration began its “zero tolerance” policy in April — many Evangelicals began to speak out against it.

Before opposition to the policy began to dominate the national conversation, Frady decided to use a verse from the small Book of Obadiah for her poster. The Hebrew prophet condemns the nation of Edom for closing its borders to Israelite refugees fleeing the Babylonians.

In multiple colors, she drew: “The LORD declares: You should NOT stand at the crossroads to cut down fleeing REFUGEES … in the day of their DISTRESS.”

It’s in many ways a defining feature of American Evangelical identity: the centrality of Scripture for both personal piety and political action.

“I place an extremely high value on the authority of Scripture, and the place it should hold in our lives,” says Frady, a lay leader who often leads Bible studies at Northwest Free Methodist Church, a small congregation in Wichita, where she also plays tenor sax for morning worship. “I would not knowingly go against something I thought the Bible commanded, no matter how I felt about it.”

Indeed, the Bible, and the voices of Evangelicals around the country, have become a focus of the debate.

White Evangelicals have been Trump’s most ardent supporters from the start, and as a group they remain the most supportive of his administration’s immigration policies, polls suggest.

And Evangelicals within the Trump administration, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, (MaineWriter ~ wrongly!) invoked the Bible to defend the policy of separating children.

Discussing the “concerns raised by our church friends about separating families,” Mr. Sessions told an audience in Fort Wayne, Ind., last week, “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”

Later, Sanders told reporters that “it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.”

On the one hand, it speaks to the power and influence that Evangelicals wield in U.S. politics, notes Gushee, given that a political debate over immigration policy became a debate over biblical interpretation. 

“Only in America, really, and only in America in the 21st century and with a conservative Republican government, would we be having these public Biblical arguments about immigration policy.”

Yet after Sessions invoked Romans 13, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established,” 

Christians, including many white Evangelicals, pointed out the long history of this passage, a passage that Gushee says “has been used and abused by tyrants and governments doing injustice for centuries.”

“There are two dominant places in American history when Romans 13 is invoked,” said John Fea, a professor of American history at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, to The Washington Post. “One is during the American Revolution [when] it was invoked by loyalists, those who opposed the American Revolution.”

The other was in the middle of the 19th century, to support defense of the Fugitive Slave Act, Fea continued. “I mean, this is the same argument that Southern slaveholders and the advocates of a Southern way of life made.”

Steven Colbert, a devout Roman Catholic and the host of “The Late Show,” suggested Thursday that the attorney general continue reading the passage on submitting to civil authorities through Romans 13:8-10. “Love thy neighbor as thyself. Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Trump has been backtracking from his policy of zero tolerance, falsely asserting that his hands are tied and that Democrats are the ones responsible for legal requirements that his administration is only enforcing.

But as the Monitor reported in March 2017, the Trump White House has been mulling separating children from their families as a deterrent policy from the first months of the administration. After an outcry from religious leaders, however, the plan was postponed.

The Obama administration, too, separated immigrant children from their parents, advocates note. And it also greatly expanded a policy of detaining mothers with children in expanded facilities. If a father crossed the border illegally with a child, they would typically be separated.

“The separation of families at the border is not new,” says Christina Fialho, co-executive director of Freedom for Immigrants, who advocates for immigrants being held at places like the private, for-profit Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego. “Under the Obama administration, we worked with hundreds of parents who were separated from their family in home raids, including mothers who were still nursing young children.”

The difference, however, was that the Obama administration maintained a policy of “prosecutorial discretion”: the focus of resources on known, dangerous individuals, rather than “zero tolerance,” an adherence to the letter of the law in all instances.

“We realized that we had limited resources in what we could do,” says Kevin Fandl, who worked as a senior counsel for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from 2007 to 2013. “We believed we should target those resources toward the most serious threats to the country, those threats being convicted felons or those with a criminal history, terrorists, threats for national security, and recent border crossers, those people with no ties whatsoever to the United States.”

And as Sessions put it earlier this month: “If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them. We’ve got to get this message out.”

As a result, however, the system has been severely strained. Sessions said last week that taking care of unaccompanied minors was costing taxpayers more than $1 billion a year, most now under the care of the US Department of Health and Human Services and its Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Logistically speaking, the system is not prepared to handle the care of thousands of children, says Lisa Koop, associate director of legal services for the National Immigrant Justice Center, who represents a number of immigrant woman whose children were taken from them by the US government.

“They did not know what was going on with their kids, and when we finally managed to figure that one of the kids was being detained in New York, the child’s mother [being held at the Otay Mesa Detention Center] said to me, Where is New York? Is New York far away from here?’” says Koop, who recounts stories of mothers having their children literally torn from their arms. “They just have no concept of where their children are, and what conditions they’re in.”

“But the story is not just the Bible verses,” Gushee said. “The tears and suffering of human beings whose rights are being violated speaks. That is a language that should be taken seriously. In fact, one might even say this language is revelatory.

“To see children weeping, to see bereft parents not knowing where their children are, to learn about a man who killed himself in a detention center because he was torn apart over the destruction of his family — these stories speak, too.”

And they have spurred devout evangelical Christians, like Frady, to action.

“I love America,” says Frady, who wore a purple T-shirt with “Jesus was a Refugee” to the protest near her home in Wichita. “It is my homeland, and I am certainly blessed to be an American.”

“But I am also not naive to its warts,” she continues. “And this is more than a wart.”

Staff writer Henry Gass contributed to this report from Brownsville, Texas.

In multiple colors, Frady drew: “The LORD declares: You should NOT stand at the crossroads to cut down fleeing REFUGEES … in the day of their DISTRESS.”

It’s in many ways a defining feature of American Evangelical identity: the centrality of Scripture for both personal piety and political action.

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Monday, July 30, 2018

American immigrants are our ancestors

One ancestor ~ He was born about 1895 in Bialystok, now in Poland, but then part of the Russian Empire. (All Americans are the ancestors of immigrants, unless we are Native Americans!) Published in the Mississippi newspaper the Clarion Ledger.
Ten years later, amid anarchy, revolution and shooting in the streets, including at his mother, he was smuggled out of Russia in a hay wagon. 

Then, he came through Ellis Island and joined his older brothers in America, where an immigration official had suggested Smith would be an easier name than Schneydman. He attended public school in New York City for several years, then quit to contribute to the family income. He shelved books at a Columbia University library. He became a shipping clerk for a clothing company. He started his own company, one that made ladies’ coats and suits.

Along the way he got married, had a son and a daughter, became an expert tennis player and ice skater. He rode the train to work with a real estate developer named Fred Trump. He invested in an ambitious project called the Empire State Building, and persuaded most of his relatives to do the same. He subscribed to The New York Times and the Metropolitan Opera. He bought a winter escape in Florida — a penthouse.

This was my grandfather.

Like so many desperate to come here now, he and his family were fleeing violence. He was a little boy who didn’t speak a word of English. But he wasn’t separated from his mother or sent back to Russia or denied entry because he was the youngest brother and therefore, one of the last links on a “chain” of migration. He was given a chance to prove himself, and here I am.

I feel very fortunate that my ancestors arrived before the doors slammed shut on people trying to escape violence, war, poverty and religious persecution. Before we were, officially, no longer “a nation of immigrants.” Before Donald Trump. 

Since the day he announced his presidential campaign, Trump has attacked and slandered immigrants, legal and illegal alike. And since the day he became president, along with the shockingly intolerant words and attitudes, he has followed through with hostile policies. There are always creative new ways to twist the knife. Creative, new and tremendously destructive to human beings, families, our economy, our safety, our values, our national self-image, our standing in the world, our very exceptionalism.

It wasn't always about ripping apart desperate families seeking asylum. It has been a pileup that started in Trump's first week with executive orders to fulfill his campaign promises — ordering up penalties for sanctuary cities, a “physical wall” along the southern border, aggressive pursuit of “transnational” gangs and drug cartels (as if we weren’t going after them already), three versions of the infamous and eventually successful travel ban barring our doors to people from several majority-Muslim countries.

Then came the address to Congress on Feb. 28, 2017, with more paeans to the “great, great wall” and boasts that the “bad ones” — immigrant “gang members, drug dealers and criminals” — are "going out as I speak” (actually it was President Barack Obama who focused resources on deporting dangerous criminals). And the centerpiece of the tar-immigrants section of the evening: VOICE, a special new homeland security hotline for “Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement,” and introduction of four families victimized by immigrants (never mind that immigrants, even undocumented ones, commit less crime than native-born Americans).

There were executive orders on enhanced vetting of refugees (as if they weren’t already being vetted) and visa applicants. Proposals to cut legal immigration and end the visa lottery. A plan to end "chain migration," which likely would have kept my grandfather out. Who, after all, could have predicted that a Russian 10-year-old would become a pillar of the New York business world and the Miami Beach cultural scene?

Now the Trump administration has moved on to denying asylum for people fleeing both domestic violence and the gang violence that supposedly holds America in its grip. And it is trying to denaturalize people who are naturalized citizens. Maybe they cheated; maybe their name is just slightly different on one of their many forms.

Whatever it is, detain and deport.

Those caught in the Trump net include a father delivering pizza to an army base; an Iowa teen caught with 1 gram of marijuana worth about $10; a gifted but troubled young auto mechanic "escorted" to Mexico and quickly killed by a gang; people testifying to help police at courthouses; sick people at hospitals.

And pillars of communities, such as Jorge Garcia, a Michigan landscaper, husband and father of two, exiled to a country he hadn't seen in nearly 30 years, and Roberto Beristain, an Indiana husband, father and restaurant owner whose wife voted for Trump because she thought he'd deport only "bad hombres."
Trump's administration's latest tragic policy was to separate asylum-seeking parents from their children at the border, with no system to keep track of them and apparently no intention of reuniting them. An appalled judge gave the administration until Thursday to reunite everyone. That wasn't happening.

Although I'm not saying that we should keep our immigration system exactly the way it is, but let's be smart, and honest, and humane about changing it, not biased and cruel. 

Nobody wants to wake up and realize America hasn't yet hit bottom — that the Trump administration might think of something worse than all we've seen so far. Worse, even, ? than taking children from their parents.

Jill Lawrence is the commentary editor of USA TODAY

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Sports and international relations ~ World Cup and immigration

Echo opinion by Leonid Bershidsky*: What this World Soccer Cup says about immigration published in Tulsa World, an Oklahoma newspaper.

World Cup Trophy

Immigrant communities look for ways of adapting to their host countries and excelling in sports is a helpful raceway towards assimilation.

Immigrants and sons of immigrants were over-represented on the World Cup teams when these squads compared with the demographics of these countries as a whole.

France’s championship game-bound starting lineup contains five players born overseas or to immigrant parents: Cameroonian-born Samuel Umtiti; N’Golo Kante, whose parents came from Mali; son of Guinean parents Paul Pogba; Kylian Mbappe, whose father is Cameroonian and mother Algerian; and Blaise Matuidi, son of an Angolan father and a Congolese mother. 

In fact, that’s 45 percent of the starting 11 teams. Non-European Union immigrants and their children make up only 13.5 percent of France’s population, according to Eurostat.

Belgium’s starting 11 also had five players of immigrant background: Nacer Chadli, who started out playing for the Moroccan national team before he switched to Belgium; Marouane Fellaini, whose parents are also Moroccan; Vincent Kompany and Romelu Lukaku, whose fathers are Congolese; and Mousa Dembele, whose father is from Mali. Belgium’s population of first- and second-generation non-EU immigrants is 12 percent.

England, too, has a greater proportion of players with non-European immigrant backgrounds — mostly Caribbean, as in the cases of Kyle Walker, Ashley Young, Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard; Dele Alli’s father is Nigerian — than the U.K. has such residents. Their share is 14 percent of the overall U.K. population.

England head coach Gareth Southgate is not quite right when he says his team “represents modern England.” Neither he nor the French and Belgian coaches, who have voiced similar sentiments, are wrong to be proud of the diversity, however. The national teams and the powerful player selection systems in the three countries pick the best players regardless or their origin, religion or skin color. Soccer has to be meritocratic because it’s competition in its purest form, not constrained by national borders to the same degree as American sports. In soccer, the son of a banker and a lawyer (that’s the background of French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris) is on an equal footing with someone like Lukaku, whose family couldn’t pay its electricity bills for weeks at a time and whose mother had to water down his milk to make it last longer. Or like Sterling, whose mother cleaned hotel rooms to put herself through school.

For immigrants without fast-twitch muscles and great footwork, however, there is no level playing field. Employment rates are noticeably lower among first-generation immigrants than for the population as a whole, and they don’t improve much for the second generation.

The odds are stacked against kids with the same background as the world-class soccer players in a number of important ways. Statistics show a higher percentage of second-generation immigrants than native-born people go to college in France and the U.K. (though not in Belgium) — but, according to a 2017 report from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, an overwhelming majority of young people with low educational attainment in all three countries are second-generation, non-EU immigrants. The report says:

Educational aspirations are generally high among migrant families. However, while educational aspirations may support educational upward mobility, by itself they are not sufficient, particularly when support structures and knowledge on how to attain these goals is lacking.
As a result, in Belgium, people with non-EU-born parents are 13.2 percent less likely than the native-born to get a better job than their parents; in France, the likelihood is 8 percent lower, and in the U.K., 4 percent lower. People are stuck in low-paid occupations — and in low-income areas full of other people with migration backgrounds. This creates a vicious circle for millions of people, even if it gives the extremely talented few the impulse to fight harder.

“Let me tell you something — every game I ever played was a final,” Lukaku** told The Players’ Tribune.
“When I played in the park, it was a final. When I played during break in kindergarten, it was a final. I’m dead-ass serious. I used to try to tear the cover off the ball every time I shot it. Full power. ... No finesse shot. I didn’t have the new ‘FIFA.’ I didn’t have a Playstation. I wasn’t playing around. I was trying to kill you.”

In a column for The Times, Patrick Vieira, the former French international, echoes the violence of that self-description as he recalls his childhood in a poor Paris suburb — the kind of place from which most of the current French team’s second-generation immigrants hail from.

“When I trained and played,” he wrote, “it was with a knife in my teeth. By that I mean I had a hunger to succeed. I loved the game but I also had a drive from my mother. To so many people in those estates, there are no jobs, no help. You see that determination in a lot of footballers from those concrete pitches.”

Sports — in particular, soccer with its well-developed, lavishly funded selection systems and powerful clubs — can be a straight path out of poverty. Several of the French and Belgian players’ fathers are former small-time soccer pros, and they gave their sons good advice, providing some of the networking benefits that immigrants, whether first- or second-generation, lack in Europe.

The soccer meritocracy can’t give every ghetto kid an upward path, though. All it can do is make sure the ones who play every game like their last make it onto big club rosters and national teams.

There’s a lesson in this for the rest of society. Soccer’s support networks for talented kids can and should be replicated in other areas of endeavor. Some of the boys and girls growing up in no-hope areas today could be the 
Mbappé** and Lukakus*** of tech, finance or the arts. The national teams, multicolored as they are, exist to remind governments, businesses and educational institutions that they just need to look harder.

*Leonid Bershidsky- Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering European politics and business. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website

**Kylian Mbappé Lottin is a French professional footballer who plays as a forward for Paris Saint-Germain and the France national team
***Romelu Menama Lukaku Bolingoli is a Belgian professional footballer who plays as a striker for English club Manchester United and the Belgium national team.

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Sunday, July 29, 2018

It's the cover up: Donald Trump on defense

Echo editorial from editorial staff: 

Russia invaded American 2016 elections
CHAOS in WashingtonDC ~ Americans need Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his report more than ever! And while it’s a sentiment we’ve considered voicing a number of times since the former FBI director’s appointment, it can’t come soon enough – as in today.

That fact has never been more clear than in Donald Trump’s answer to the final media questions following Helsinki's one-day summit meeting, between Trump and Vladimir Putin, in Finland.

The gathering was especially notable for its one-on-one meeting, with translators only, between the presidents Trump and Putin. It was said to have lasted just over two hours. It’s an approach that Trump employed with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un as well, a display of the president’s confidence in his personal negotiating skills, whether or not said skills live up to Mr. Trump’s estimation. The prepared statements by the two presidents were fine, working together to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, resolving the Syria conflict, cooperation in the fight against terrorism, etc. It was the very ending, once the joint appearance was opened to a handful of media questions, when Mr. Trump ignited a media storm when directly asked about Russian meddling in our elections.

If you’ve read, or read about, the Mueller indictments of a baker’s dozen Russians last February and the latest indictments announced Friday of a dozen actual Russian military intelligence agents, there should be no question in anyone’s mind that the Russians attempted to disrupt not just the 2016 presidential election but to generally sow discord across our society going back to at least 2014. Before it was about thwarting Hillary Clinton, it was about trying to divide people based on race, based on religion, based on gun ownership, and any other way they could think to divide us. And when election season rolled around, the Russians made efforts to promote not just Bernie Sanders but also the Green Party’s Jill Stein, and of course, Donald Trump as he picked up steam. And following the November result that no one expected, the Russians went right on sowing discord through efforts such as simultaneously organizing rallies in New York that supported Mr. Trump’s election as well as “Trump is NOT my President” rallies delegitimizing his election.

As we all know, Donald Trump is notoriously thin-skinned when challenged and, even as Melania Trump has said, strikes back 10 times harder than he is hit (MaineWriter ~ maybe Mrs Melania Trump even knows this from her own personal experience?). 

And there may not be anything worse than questioning the very legitimacy of Mr. Trump’s place in history and power. Perhaps many would react the same way. But on this question, Mr. Trump is like a volcano that’s ready to blow.

That’s what we saw on display yesterday, when the president was asked about Russian meddling in the presidential election and who he believed, U.S. intelligence agencies and investigations or Mr. Putin’s denials.

Mr. Trump’s noncommittal response devolved into denials of “collusion,” and about witch hunts, and even to FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok’s anti-Trump animus, as displayed by his text messages. That wasn’t exactly the question, Mr. President. He could simply have answered that our government knows what happened and - if he didn’t want to be critical of Mr. Putin standing right next to him - could simply have added that we as a nation put our ultimate faith in the American system of justice.

But instead of keeping it about what the Russians are accused of doing, the president made it about himself. He jumped into self-defense mode about a question he wasn’t technically asked, but about what apparently is uppermost on his mind - did he and his campaign collude with the Russians to get elected? Not a good look, especially on a world stage.

He jumped from the boiling pot of Russian interference that’s inherently unanswerable over whether it elevated Mr. Trump to the presidency - particularly given the weaknesses of the Clinton campaign and the follies of one James B. Comey Jr. - directly into the fire of whether Mr. Trump is a form of Manchurian candidate, guilty of collusion. It’s moments like this that can stick. Like asking a fictitious Naval officer to explain what happened to the strawberries.

Mr. Trump didn’t have to make the answer about himself, but of course we should know better. We can only imagine what Mr. Putin and his cronies are raising toasts to back at the Kremlin. And as the president himself alluded to, these questions and issues will linger until Mr. Mueller’s report, which will indeed be a while. 

Americans need Mr. Mueller’s report, now more than ever.

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Helsinki "bromance" ~ echo from Jonah Goldberg

Don’t buy the polls showing (some right wing) GOP approval of Helsinki (disastrous) summit ~ published in The Baltimore Sun.

By Jonah Goldberg

I think I can say, without fear of inviting reasonable correction, that the Helsinki summit did not go swimmingly. 

And yet, some 66 percent of Republicans told ABC News-Washington Post pollsters that they support Donald Trump's absolutely disastrous performance. I don’t buy it. No doubt there are a few people who believe Mr. Trump’s claims that he knocked it out of the park in Finland, and that, were it not for the “fake news” saying otherwise, everyone else would agree. But two-thirds of Republicans? No way. 

I’m not borrowing a page from Trump and yelling, “Fake polls!” They’re real. They just may not be measuring what we think they’re measuring. Polls often gauge partisan commitment more than concrete opinions on a specific controversy or issue. When Republicans are asked about the president’s Helsinki performance, I suspect many hear, “Do you still support Mr. Trump?” or, “Do you think the media is blowing this out of proportion?” And I suspect they calibrate their responses accordingly: “Go suck eggs, enemy of the people!”

In other words, people lie to pollsters. This is not news. Public Policy Polling once found that 4 percent of Americans believe that lizard men are running the Earth. Another 7 percent said they weren’t sure. I, for one, do not believe that one in 10 Americans either truly think, or cannot rule out, that our globalist overlords are lizard people. The more subtle and complex dishonesty takes the form of what psychologist Scott Alexander terms “poll answers as attire.” Motivated by what social scientists call “social desirability bias,” people use polls to virtue-signal. This surely explains at least some of the findings showing surging popularity for socialism, particularly among millennials. No doubt many are sincere, but some probably just think it sounds cool to say such things.

It’s a flawed analogy, but I’m reminded of the early days of the Iraq War, when polls showed strong support for President George W. Bush and his foreign policy even as evidence mounted that the conflict was going to be much tougher and uglier than many (including yours truly) had hoped.

If you went solely by the polls and what elected Republicans said on TV, you’d have had a poor understanding of what was really going through the minds of many Republicans. Mr. Bush’s approval ratings among Republicans were unnaturally held aloft by many of the same factors boosting Mr. Trump today. The overheated rhetoric from Mr. Trump’s opponents, their veering leftward on issue after issue, and the increasing partisanship of the media: 

These things encourage Republicans to stick it out with Mr. Trump, and to stick out their middle finger to his critics. During the Iraq War, conservative dissenters and critics were often demonized or ostracized for their supposed treason or disloyalty. Similarly, the biggest and most common complaint I get from conservatives around the country now is not that I am wrong in my criticisms of Mr. Trump, but that I’m lending aid and comfort to the “enemy” by offering these criticisms publicly. Many on the right either hope or fear that Mr. Trump is transforming the GOP into a nationalist-populist party. I think it’s too soon to say. 

The first time conservatives seriously turned on Mr. Bush was not over the war but over his attempt to put Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court in 2005. That is how the camel’s back gets broken — not by the heavy load, but by the last straw. Mr. Trump may succeed in permanently MAGA-fying the GOP. 

But making straight-line predictions about the future based on snapshots of the present is always folly in politics because events get in the way. Indeed, events don’t just change the future; they change the past. In early 2003, 63 percent of Americans supported the Iraq War. 

Twelve years later, a YouGov poll found that only 38 percent of Americans said they had favored the war at the time. One can easily envision a world a dozen years hence in which very few Republicans even remember supporting the Helsinki bromance*

Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review

*a close but nonsexual relationship between two men.

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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Nursing compassion ~ learning with knowledge and experience

Leah Curtin ScD(h), RN, FAAN, is Clinical Professor of Nursing at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing and Health 

"Compassion: A nurse's primary virtue" was published in the July 2018, "American Nurse Today".

Strengthening compassion may help you avoid burnout.

Nurses, we’re told, are fundamentally compassionate people. In fact, nurse burnout could be defined as the loss of compassion. So, it behooves us as nurses to explore what compassion is, how it differs from empathy and sympathy, and how to enhance it.
Compassion, empathy, and sympathy.

The etymology of compassion is Latin, and it means “co-suffering.” It involves feeling for another, and it’s considered a precursor to empathy, which is feeling what another feels. When you empathize, you share the suffering of another—an emotion that’s not especially helpful for nurses.

In nursing, compassion is active; our education and experience have provided us with the ability to relieve another’s suffering. It often confers the capacity for person-centered acts that relieve suffering. The difference between sympathy and compassion is that sympathy responds to suffering with sorrow and concern while compassion responds with warmth and care.

Compassion is more than a desire to alleviate another’s suffering, it involves the ability and the will to do so. Compassion can be broken down into four interrelated stages:
recognizing that there is suffering (cognitive)
being emotionally moved by that suffering (affective)
wanting to relieve that suffering (intentional)
having the ability and willingness to take action to relieve that suffering (motivational).

In short, compassion isn’t defined by what you feel for another but what you do about what you feel. Moreover, an act of compassion is defined by its helpfulness. That is, the efficacy of compassion can be defined by whether the action taken is of service or assistance to the one who’s suffering. Being of service or assistance doesn’t necessarily involve making things easier for the sufferer or even necessarily relieving his or her pain. It depends on the cause of the suffering, the person’s response to the suffering, and the personality of the sufferer. That’s why a compassionate nursing response is always person-centric.

Strengthen your compassion

Contrary to what many may believe, compassion is more like a muscle than an emotion; thus, as with any muscle, it can be strengthened with relevant exercises—or can deteriorate and atrophy. In other words, your capacity for compassion can expand, if you choose. Preliminary research from a variety of randomized controlled trials suggests that compassion can be enhanced through systematic training programs. For example:
  • Meditate daily, even if only for a few minutes.
  • Notice when compassion comes easily or spontaneously for you throughout the day.
  • Start noticing suffering (your own and that of others) and allow yourself to be emotionally touched or moved by the suffering. 
  • Awareness of the presence or absence of compassion can provide you with some valuable information.
To foster resilience, think about a hurtful event in a different way.
Be compassionate toward yourself. No empirical evidence exists to suggest that beating ourselves up changes our behavior.

Compassion, which is ranked as a great virtue in numerous philosophies and almost all major religious traditions, certainly is a virtue for all nurses—ranking in importance right next to knowledge and experience!

Leah Curtin, RN, ScD(h), FAAN
Executive Editor, Professional Outreach

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Echo on collateral damage caused by trade wars

Opinion echo: An intellectually persuasive argument in opposition to Trump's trade wars, by George Will and published in Rapid City Journal, a South Dakota newspaper. 

If you are not collateral damage in the escalating trade wars, the bulletins from the wars' multiplying fronts are hilarious reading. 
(MaineWriter ~ Dear Mr. Will, eventually all Americans will be the collateral damage caused by Donald Trump's horrible leadership and the trade wars.)

Columnist George Will ~ People who think trade wars will somehow produce prosperity are not open to evidence based economics.  It's like saying every place is within walking distance, if people have enough time to walk there.
You are collateral damage only if you are a manufacturer, farmer or consumer, so relax and enjoy the following reports.

Whirlpool, which makes washing machines and demands for government protection, wheedled Washington into imposing tariffs on, and quotas for, imported machines. 

Unfortunately for Whirlpool, American steel and aluminum makers horned in on the protectionist fun, getting tariffs — taxes paid by Americans — imposed on imports of those materials that, The Wall Street Journal says, account for most of the weight of 200-pound washing machines. And for part of the decline in Whirlpool's share price. And for declining demand for appliances, the prices of which have risen as protectionism increases manufacturing costs and decreases competition.

Citing the threat to America's "national security" (oh paaaaeeeeze!) from American consumers (they caused 2017's imports of $192 billion worth of cars, 44 percent of all cars sold in America), the administration contemplates imposing tariffs on cars. 

USA Today estimates that the tariffs would add $4,000 to $5,000 (approximately the size of this year's tax cut on $125,000 in income) to the price of a car (average price: about $32,000). U.S. auto manufacturers oppose the tariffs, which would also cover vehicle components, $147 billion of which ($100 billion more than steel and aluminum imports combined) were imported last year for cars made in America by Americans and sold mostly to Americans.

General Motors' supply chain includes 20,000 businesses worldwide. Of the seven "most American" car models, measured by the value of domestically made components, four are Hondas, three models made in Alabama and one made in Ohio. The number of 2018 models whose parts are all American or Canadian: 0.

However, the hundreds of thousands of Americans employed by Japanese automakers have less to fear than other American autoworkers do from the American government's fears about American consumers' threat to America's security. China, retaliating against new U.S. tariffs on Chinese products, has raised to 40 percent the tariffs on imports of American-made autos. These include BMWs (87,600 of the 385,900 made in South Carolina in 2017 were exported to China) and Mercedes (The Wall Street Journal reports that two-thirds of the approximately 300,000 vehicles made in Alabama are exported worldwide). The New York Times reports that BMW has stopped exporting the X3 crossover from South Carolina to China, shifting production of it to plants in China and South Africa.

Volvo, formerly Swedish but now Chinese-owned, just opened a $1.1 billion South Carolina plant that currently employs 1,200. Volvo has planned to increase employment to 4,000, with half the workers building cars for export, especially to the world's largest auto market, China. (In 2018's second quarter, GM sold 758,000 vehicles in America, 858,344 in China.) So, under current policies, China will impose a 40 percent tax on imports made by a Chinese-owned company.

Last year, soybeans were $12.4 billion of America's $19.6 billion in agricultural exports to China, which might impose a 25 percent tariff on soybeans. The Wall Street Journal reports that University of Illinois and Ohio State University researchers estimate that over four years this "would result in an average 87 percent decline in income for a midsize Illinois grain farm."

The caroms* (MaineWriter ~ a billiard term)  of trade aggressions and retaliations call to mind an experience Gulliver had when his travels took him to the grand academy of Lagado. There he met a man who had worked "eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers." To those who say that this is as plausible as trying to produce prosperity with protectionism today's trade warriors respond: Have patience. Given sufficient time, protectionism will pay.

But as the comedian Steven Wright says, everywhere is walking distance if you have the time. Speaking of time:

In the 1830s, a Baptist preacher predicted Jesus would return to Earth sometime between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844. When the world persisted, its end was re-predicted by the preacher's followers for Oct. 22, 1844. Between March and October, the number of believers increased substantially. Despite their great disappointment on Oct. 23, many followers held to their beliefs and went on to found the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The lesson from this story, as from the protectionists' sunbeams-from-cucumbers economics, is familiar: The persuasive power of evidence is overrated.

*caroms ~ In billiards, in which the cue ball strikes each of two object balls,

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US Korean soldiers remains ~ 55 boxes out of 100

Sadly, the 55 boxes of dust returned to the United States from North Korea are symbolic of lack of respect Kim Jung Un holds for Donald Trump. Thousands of American soldiers remain unaccounted for. It's tragic to realize that the remains of US soldiers, who fought and died in the Korean Conflict, are now the only semblance of progress that resulted from the failed Singapore June 12, 2018, meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jung Un.

Journalist Andrea Mitchell responded to the transfer of remains on Twitter:  "North Korea reality check: Kim Jong Un promised Trump 200 remains: he delivered 55. He promised to denuclearize: Pompeo acknowledged to Senate North Korea is still producing nuclear weapons fuel. Last time regime returned soldiers’ remains it took years to verify; some were animal bones".

In fact, identification of the Korean soldiers' remains will be a daunting process.  It's impossible to believe they are intact after God only knows where they've been for the past 65 plus years.

Yonhap News Agency reported Thursday that North Korea had accepted 100 wooden transit caskets that it planned to use to return the remains ~ but 55 boxes were returned. (MaineWriter ~ So, let me get this right. Although the US provided 100 wooden caskets, the North Koreans and Kim Jung Un returned 55 boxes with zero identification?)

The U.S. military command in South Korea moved the caskets into the demilitarized zone that splits the Korean Peninsula in late June.

Earlier Thursday, the expected recovery was greeted with cautious optimism by Rick Downes, executive director of a group of families whose loved ones never came home from the Korean War. They have watched discussions in recent weeks with a mixture of hope and cynicism, he said.

"These are poker chips, unfortunately," said Downes, who runs the Coalition of Families of Korean & Cold War POW/MIAs. "These guys, these missing men, are still serving. The war still goes on, and they are being negotiated and used as a bargaining tool."

Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who worked on repatriation issues and visited North Korea several times, said Thursday that he sees the potential recovery as a positive first step. But he warned that Pyongyang could stall in delivering other remains and attempt to use the issue as a way to make money.

"They'll give a certain amount of remains for free right away," Richardson predicted. "But then they'll say, 'The next ones, we need to find them, locate them, restore them.' And then they'll start charging, and they'll milk this."

Though the United States has a policy of refusing to pay for the repatriation of remains, in the past it has agreed to provide some funding for expenses incurred by the North Koreans.

The Pentagon estimates that nearly 7,700 U.S. troops are unaccounted for from the war; among them are 5,300 believed to have been killed north of the 38th parallel, which largely coincides with the boundary.

MaineWriter ~ There's no way those 55 boxes of dust will rise to the level of being a successful outcome, resulting from the failed Singapore June 12, meeting between two evil men. Rather, those boxes of dust are toxic and symbolic images of the cynical intentions of Kim Jung Un and the hypocritical praise Trump is wrongly showering on North Korea's vile leader.  

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Friday, July 27, 2018

Echo opinion from Colorado ~ replacing the kidnapper

COLORADO- Donald Trump and his cultist (Trumpzi) enablers in Congress have been somewhat successful in conditioning the susceptible public to accept child kidnapping, twisting the obvious truth by calling this abuse an immigration issue and not what it really is. It is an insane twist of logic to call it something different than kidnapping and it should not be tolerated. Sane people who otherwise would reject such trash are willingly following this town piper.
Innocent immigrant children were separated from their parents by
Questions about what we are doing and who we really are are being asked around the world. But the anguished cries from mothers pulled from their babies is clear enough to be heard even in Pueblo.

I think it possible Russia will, in some manner, reveal the substance of the secret meetings and telephone calls between Trump and Vladimir Putin and that will be that. Trump will not be able to run away from his own shadow after that deceit becomes known.

The sooner Trump and his brand of evil is gone, the sooner America can be made whole again. Our political base, national and local, left and right, can do better than Trump. It is time for the Republican Party to split and allow America a real choice again. If you don’t know who he is by now, then you’ll never know, ever.

Dave Mynatt, Pueblo, Colorado

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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Hornswoggled by Donald Trump ~ Echo from Iowa

Letter to the editor of the Iowan Global Gazette newspaper: 

Time is running out on Donald Trump

There is no longer any justification for being a Trump supporter. I could see during the campaign and election and Hillary's unpopularity that some could have been hornswoggled* by Trump's unconscionable lies, poor judgement, and lack of knowledge about most everything. But after a year and a half of "much worse than we could have ever imagined," it's time for a reality check.

Trump inherited a healthy and recovering economy, no wars, unemployment rate at 4.7 percent and dropping, and we had strong and healthy relations with our allies, while we were sanctioning foes like Russia and North Korea. The stock market had tripled over the last eight years. There was economic momentum, and Trump quickly started taking credit for it even before the inauguration.

There is not one positive action taken or positive result under Trump, and with all the executive orders and legislation that has occurred, there is only one direction for the country to go. Do you think if Trump could push a button and make himself "supreme ruler", he wouldn't do it?

Republicans are too gutless to take charge of their party and pay the price to do what is right for democracy and America's future. Now Trump wants to have his new friend "Kimmie" at the White House, along with Putin, for a dictator party. Kim is a psychotic killer of his own people, even his uncle and half-brother. Trump excuses it by saying ,"Well other countries have done bad stuff." Trump brags that he "did a hell of a job over there and that the nuclear threat is gone."

Really? I predict Mueller with have his ducks in a row, and Trump will be one of them. He is a consummate law-and-order professional, and Trump can only act guilty in the meantime.

Steve Epperly, Mason City

*get the better of (someone) by cheating or deception.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Resistance voting ~ echo and broken record

Echo opinion published by columnist Eugene Robinson and published in the Albany Herald, in Georgia.

WASHINGTON — Last week it was Russia, Russia, Russia. 
Trump is wagging the dog! He gave Russia deference over the intelligence of American CIA, knowing that American intelligence has integrity over the lies of Vladimir Putin ! Nevertheless, Putin is smart and he definitely outsmarted Trump in Helsinki!!!! 

This week began with a bombastic, all-caps potus screed about Iran — and, of course, more wailing about the purported “Mueller Witch Hunt.” In between was a stray tweet about football and the national anthem, just to stir the racial pot. 

Trump is wagging the dog so hard, I fear he will injure himself.
Through it all, we must keep our eyes on the prize. There is just one realistic way to constrain this lunatic administration and hold it accountable: Vote in November to snatch control of Congress away from the quisling Republicans and hand it to the Democrats.

If I sound like a broken record on this subject, too bad. You can shut me up by generating a gigantic midterm turnout and flipping at least the House. Otherwise, prepare to be reminded, repeatedly and perhaps obnoxiously, that I told you so.

You have no idea when special counsel Robert Mueller is going to finish his investigation, and neither do I. But we all should know by now that when Trump boasted during the campaign about being able to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and still not lose support, he must have been talking about the GOP majorities in Congress.

We know the drill. Trump says or does something so far beyond the pale that any other president would have been investigated, censured or even impeached. A few Republican members of Congress go public with measured words of criticism; many more acknowledge privately that the president is dangerously out of control. Trump changes the subject via Twitter, and the complaints abruptly stop. Nothing happens. Nothing at all.

It is possible that Mueller will reveal something so shocking that even House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will choose country over party. But it is not likely.

In our history, only two presidents have been impeached; neither was convicted and removed from office. Only one president has resigned before the end of his term. Wildly improbable things do sometimes happen — Trump becoming president, for one — but the odds are that we will have to endure this madness until January 2021.

Presciently, the framers of the Constitution gave Congress the power to check an erratic or power-mad president. But Congress has to be willing to use that power, and Republicans seem afraid to do so. We can only hope that Democrats are up to the task.

We also must hope that the Democratic Party is able to play a winning hand between now and November. This is not a trivial question.

Democrats occupy the mayor’s offices in two-thirds of the nation’s 50 biggest cities, but that is the zenith of their power. Republicans live in the governor’s mansions in two-thirds of the states and enjoy a similar dominance in control of state legislatures. On the federal level, the GOP has a large — but not unassailable — majority in the House and a narrow two-vote edge in the Senate.

Republicans have been shameless in perpetuating their hegemony through gerrymandering and voter suppression, but Democrats can systematically level the playing field — once they achieve power. To do so, they need to win elections.

And to win elections, they need new faces, new ideas and a new attitude. Fortunately, all three are present — and must not be quashed.

Democrats should keep in mind the classic definition of insanity: doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. This is an emergency, and while the party should be true to its values, it can ill afford litmus tests on the left or the right.

If a candidate in, say, West Virginia or Montana is not as fervently pro-choice as the party’s mainstream, or does not make gun control a marquee issue, then so be it. If a candidate in an immigrant-rich district in California, Texas, Florida or New York favors reorganizing Immigration and Customs Enforcement in light of its excesses, that’s fine as well.

There will be plenty of time to worry about the 2020 presidential election. Right now, the Democratic Party’s exclusive focus should be on registering new voters and ensuring that constituencies with a habit of voting only in presidential years — especially minorities and young people — come out in November.

Are you registered? Do you not just plan to vote but swear you will vote? Do you know where your polling place is? If the answer to any of these questions is no, you are not part of the solution. You’re part of the problem.

Eugene Robinson’s email address is

Fiasco! ~ opinion letter: Echo from North Dakota

Letter to the editor published in The Grand Forks Herald, North Dakota

I have watched the fiasco* of recent weeks, from the snubbing of our allies (by Donald Trump) at the NATO conference to the disgusting display between potus and Putin, and I can say that I have never been angrier, more frightened or more embarrassed as an American citizen.

Our president has ignored the irrefutable conclusion of our entire intelligence community that Russia, under Putin's direction, interfered in our last election. He continues to refuse to make a single negative comment about Putin. He trusts a former KGB agent over our own intelligence community. Why? And, why won't our Republican Congress members stand up to him? Why did Sen. Hoeven really make a July 4 trip to meet with the Russians, only to embarrass himself on the world stage? Why were no Democrats invited? What might the Russians have on these Republicans? The farther the Mueller investigation proceeds, the closer it gets to the president's inner circle.

Not one Republican in Congress has pushed for the safeguarding of our elections, even though we now know false information was spread through Russian operatives and fake Twitter and Facebook accounts. Voter rolls were hacked in at least 20 states. How many registered voters were unable to cast their votes due to altered voter roll information? How many states use Russian computer programs for storing and tabulating the votes? Essentially, how legitimate  (or illegitimate?) was the 2016 election. And worse, how much more emboldened are the Russians to interfere in future elections?

They say that in politics, the cover-up is often worse than the crime.

Shirley Bohnsack

Mayville, N.D.

*Fiasco ~ definition: a thing that is a complete failure, especially in a ludicrous or humiliating way.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Echo on Trump's failed Helsinki performance

An echo opinion- editorial published in The Washington Post and reprinted in the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota.

Poll: Americans give Trump negative marks for Helsinki performance

By wide margins, Americans give President Donald Trump negative marks for his conduct during a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week and for his casting doubt on U.S. intelligence conclusions that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.

But public reaction nationally appears more muted than in Washington, where Trump faced withering bipartisan criticism for appearing to side with Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies at a Monday news conference in Helsinki. Most Americans do not feel Trump went "too far" in supporting Putin, and while more Americans say U.S. leadership has gotten weaker than stronger under Trump, his ratings on this question are slightly improved from last fall.

The findings indicate that while Trump was judged critically for his summit performance, the event has not at this time proved to be a significant turning point in his presidency, despite the sharp criticism he received in the hours and days after the meeting and the multiple efforts by White House officials and the president to clarify his (double negative?) remarks in Helsinki. 

Unfortunately, the poll results suggest that overall attitudes toward the president have hardened on both sides and that major events like Helsinki produce only modest changes in his overall standing, if any.

The Post-ABC poll conducted Wednesday through Friday finds that overall, 33 percent of Americans approve of Trump's handling of his meeting with Putin while 50 percent disapprove. A sizable 18 percent say they have no opinion. A slightly larger 56 percent disapprove of Trump expressing doubts about U.S. intelligence agencies' conclusion that Russia tried to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. On both questions, those who say they "strongly disapprove" of Trump's performance outnumber those who say they "strongly approve" by better than 2 to 1.

Trump's ratings for handling the summit represent a weakened moment for him, but they are not markedly worse than ratings of his presidency overall in other recent polls. A Washington Post-Schar School poll earlier this month, for instance, found 43 percent approved of Trump's job performance while 55 percent disapproved, with strong disapproval outpacing strong approval by roughly 2 to 1.

The new Post-ABC poll finds 40 percent saying Trump went "too far" in supporting Putin, a criticism that was voiced by both Democrats and Republicans in Washington over the past week.

(Incredulously!) ~ However, almost as many - 35 percent - say Trump handled Putin "about right," while another 15 percent say he did not go far enough to support Putin. The rest have no opinion. Democrats, liberals and college graduates are the only groups in the poll among whom a majority say Trump went too far in supporting Putin.

Partisans split in their ratings of Trump's meeting with Putin, but Republicans are less united in support for Trump than in other recent polls about his presidency. Among Democrats, 83 percent disapprove of Trump's handling of the meeting, while among Republicans, 66 percent approve of Trump's performance. By way of comparison, in the Post-Schar School survey, 87 percent of Republicans said they approved of Trump's overall job performance as president.

A bare majority of Republicans in the new poll - 51 percent - approve of Trump expressing doubts about U.S. intelligence conclusions on Russian election interference. But a smaller 31 percent disapprove, with 18 percent offering no opinion. Among Democrats, 78 percent disapprove of what Trump said about U.S. intelligence findings, as do 59 percent of independents.

Independents lean negative on Trump's handling of the summit overall, with 33 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving. Self-identified "moderates" are particularly negative, with 64 percent disapproving of how Trump handled the meeting, nearly as high as 73 percent among liberals. A smaller 58 percent majority of conservatives approve of Trump's conduct at the summit.

The Post-ABC poll finds that 47 percent say that under Trump, America's leadership in the world has gotten weaker, versus 30 percent who say it has gotten stronger. That is an improvement on last November, when the margin between those who said weaker versus those who said stronger was 27 percentage points.

Despite Republicans' lukewarm support for Trump's Helsinki performance, they express growing confidence in his ability to project U.S. strength around the world. A 74 percent majority of Republicans say American leadership has "gotten stronger" under Trump, up from 53 percent last November and 61 percent last July. By contrast, 80 percent of Democrats currently say Trump has weakened U.S. leadership around the world.

On this question, independents lean more negatively than positively, with 22 percent saying America's leadership has gotten stronger under Trump, 47 percent weaker and about one-quarter saying it has stayed the same.

College graduates had a much sharper negative reaction to Putin's summit than those without college degrees - college grads are 18 points more likely to disapprove of Trump's summit performance (62 percent vs. 44 percent). Those without college degrees are nearly three times as likely to say they have no opinion of Trump's performance.

In contrast to many surveys about the president and politics, the Helsinki poll produced only modest gender differences. Men were slightly less disapproving of the president's handling of the summit than women, but the gap was not statistically significant.

Young Americans - those under age 40 - gave Trump lower marks for his overall handling of the summit than did those over 40. But younger and older Americans tended to offer similar assessments to other questions.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted by landlines and cellphones from July 18 to 20 among a random national sample of 464 adults. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of 5.5 percentage points, which is larger among subgroups.

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Missouri Echo ~ among the most read opinion letters of the week

An opinion letter published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch among the most read "letters to the editor" during July 17th week. 

Republicans ignore real issues that face our country

The Republicans in Congress are flabbergasted that Peter Strzok could do his job without letting his self-interest and opinions affect it. This group cannot begin to understand just doing your job and keeping politics and self-interest out of it.

What would it look like if just for one week the Congress could actually listen to the American people and do their job? We could fix DACA, fix health care, pass bills for infrastructure and make laws to stop dangerous people from getting guns. These are all things that Americans want.

Instead, the Republicans follow every whim of a president who is busy ranting about immigrants and people failing to stand for the national anthem while ignoring the real issues that face our country and constantly divide us.

Marla Stewart • Old Monroe

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Climate change is not a subject to be a "denial issue"

September 11, 2017: Sometimes, I am a year behind reading my The New Yorker magazines. Considering the "climate" of our current political times, I consider this lead article, published in The Talk of the Town, in an opening segment, to be as timely as though the report was published only yesterday. 

Published on September 11, 2017, written by Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker

On August 29, 2005, at six-ten in the morning, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the border of Mississippi and Louisiana, just east of New Orleans. Katrina had spent days wobbling over the Gulf of Mexico, and by the time it reached the coast it was classified as a strong Category 3 storm. As it pressed inland, its winds, which were clocked at up to a hundred and twenty-five miles an hour, pushed water from the Gulf westward into Lake Pontchartrain, and north, up a mostly abandoned shipping canal. The levees that were supposed to protect New Orleans failed, and low-lying neighborhoods were inundated. That day in Louisiana, at least six hundred and fifty people died.

Katrina was widely described as a “wake-up call” for a country in denial about climate change. President George W. Bush and his Vice-President, Dick Cheney, during their first term, had withdrawn the United States from a global climate agreement and dismissed the findings of the government’s own climate scientists. Now, a few months into their second term, the nation was facing just the sort of disaster that the scientists had warned about. Even if global warming hadn’t caused Katrina, clearly it had intensified the damage: with higher sea levels come higher storm surges. And, with sea surface temperatures rising, there was more energy to fuel hurricanes, and more evaporation, which inevitably produces more rain. “How many killer hurricanes will it take before America gets serious about global warming?” the journalist Mark Hertsgaard asked at the time.

Last week, as Hurricane Harvey lingered over Houston, dumping so much water on the city that the National Weather Service struggled to find ways to describe the deluge, this question sloshed back to mind. Again, climate change can’t be said to have caused Harvey, but it unquestionably made the storm more destructive. When Harvey passed over the western part of the Gulf, the surface waters in the region were as much as seven degrees warmer than the long-term average. “The Atlantic was primed for an event like this,” Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told theGuardian.

Harvey was less lethal than Katrina; as of this writing, forty-six storm-related deaths have been confirmed. But in financial terms the storm’s costs are likely to be as high or even higher. One estimate put the price of repairing homes, roads, businesses, and the petrochemical plants that line the Houston Ship Channel at a hundred and ninety billion dollars. And that estimate was made before storm-damaged plants started to explode.

As misguided as the Bush Administration was about climate change, Donald Trump has taken willful ignorance to a whole new level. The President has called climate change an “expensive hoax” dreamed up by the Chinese. After much posturing, he announced in June that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. With less fanfare, he has rolled back Obama Administration regulations limiting greenhouse-gas emissions from both old and new power plants and from oil and gas wells. (Regarding the wells, a federal appeals court recently ruled against the White House, saying that it could not simply suspend the regulations.) Trump also revoked a 2013 executive order directing federal agencies to prepare for the impacts of warming and tossed out a plan, issued the same year, that outlined steps that the U.S. would take to combat climate change.

Then, just ten days before Harvey hit, the President rescinded a 2015 executive order requiring public-infrastructure projects in flood-prone areas to be designed with sea-level rise in mind. This move is likely to have particularly unfortunate consequences for Houston, a city with no zoning code, where thousands of buildings constructed on floodplains but lacking flood insurance are now filled with soggy debris. Last Monday, as rainfall totals in Houston were topping forty inches, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Congress that he was planning to eliminate his department’s special envoy for climate change.

Many members of Congress share Trump’s climate-change delusions, especially in the Texas delegation. Lamar Smith, a Republican who represents parts of San Antonio, chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Smith has spent the better part of his career harassing climate scientists, and in a recent op-ed for the Daily Signal, a Web site sponsored by the conservative Heritage Foundation, he celebrated the effects of global warming, arguing that they were producing “beneficial changes to the earth’s geography.” At a town-hall meeting in April, Joe Barton, a Republican who represents parts of Fort Worth and is the vice-chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, repeated the old denier canard that clouds are the cause of climate change. And, in June, House Republicans introduced a bill to prevent federal agencies such as the Department of Energy from considering the societal costs of carbon pollution when fashioning regulations. Among the co-sponsors were three Texas representatives.

Over the next few months, Congress and the President will have to agree on a package of federal assistance for Houston. (With typical bluster, Trump, visiting Texas last week, declared that he wanted a recovery effort “better than ever before.”) 

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, when Congress voted on two measures to provide aid to New York and New Jersey, twenty-three out of Texas’s twenty-four Republican representatives voted against one of the bills, and eight voted against both. 

Most of the state’s G.O.P. lawmakers supported an amendment to the second bill that would have required spending cuts in other federal programs to offset the disaster aid. (Republicans obviously forgot to memorize the words to The Pledge of Allegiance.)
Politicians from New York and New Jersey have been quick to say that they will not mess with Texas the way that Texans messed with them. “I’ll vote 4 Harvey aid,” Representative Peter King, a Republican from Long Island, tweeted during the storm. Lawmakers from the Northeast should vote for aid to Houston, but with conditions. In the place of spending cuts, they should demand that Texas lawmakers and the President face up to the facts. The earth is warming, fossil-fuel emissions are the major cause, and the results are going to be far from “beneficial.” The U.S. needs to radically reduce its carbon emissions and, at the same time, prepare for a future in which storms like Harvey, Sandy, and Katrina increasingly become the norm. ♦

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