Linda Chavez from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Fri, 25 Jun 2021 01:53:06 -0700 Linda Chavez from Creators Syndicate e653ef5d6918f6c494b0034ae9e23d78 A Farewell to My Readers for 05/31/2019 Fri, 31 May 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>In 1987, I wrote my first weekly column, carried at the time by only two newspapers. Today, I write my last, having appeared in scores of publications over the years. It has been a great ride. I've written about presidents from Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump, weighed in on topics from genocide and nuclear arms to popular culture and marriage, shared my personal story and that of my ancestors. My audience embraced or rejected me as a conservative, castigated or complimented me as a liberal-in-sheep's-clothing and flattered or insulted my moderation. My one principle has always been to write what I believe, but also to marshal evidence in support of my positions. Consistency mattered to me, but if I changed my mind on something important, I tried to explain why. </p> <p>It is difficult to leave a job you love, but it's time, especially when what attracted me to it in the first place seems to have disappeared. When I first started writing, my intent was to inform as well as to give my opinion. I wrote more to try to change the minds of those who might think they disagreed than to reflect those who already agreed with my point of view. And my mail told me that I often found a grudging respect even among those who stuck with their firmly held objections. But lately, especially since the last presidential election, I've found views hardening to the point that many people just tune out those with whom they don't agree. <span class="column--highlighted-text">It has been particularly hard for me as a conservative who finds those in her camp now hold views that seem diametrically opposed to the vision that once defined conservatism: belief in the free market of goods, services and ideas; limited government; a welcoming nation that attracted millions who wanted a better life and could think of no finer place in which to build it than the United States of America.</span> <p>Updated: Fri May 31, 2019</p> 8a632f8897fa3e517ed603e1bf615434 Even Trump Now Realizes We Need Immigrants for 05/17/2019 Fri, 17 May 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p>After spending much time and energy as a candidate and president descrying immigration, Donald Trump now wants Americans to believe immigrants are good for our country. On Thursday, the president touted a new immigration plan put together by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, a man with little experience on the issue, and his adviser Stephen Miller, who has plenty of experience, albeit of a particularly nasty, xenophobic variety. The plan, which has yet to be formalized into proposed legislation, would dramatically change the way immigrants could gain entry to the United States, moving away from a policy that awarded preference to newcomers who already had family ties with individuals living here to one that would rely on a narrowly defined merit system. The effect would be to keep out most Latino and many Asian immigrants, especially those who lack college or advanced degrees. It would also simply ignore the fate of the million or so young people brought to the country illegally as children, the DACA recipients, as well as the larger population of undocumented immigrants, two-thirds of whom have lived in the U.S. for more than a decade. </p> <p>Not surprisingly, no one &#8212; not even the president's allies in Congress &#8212; is very enthusiastic about this proposal. And the plan is dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled House. In a normal administration, such a plan would have been developed in coordination with at least a handful of senators and representatives, who could be expected to shepherd legislation through Congress. But this administration doesn't do things normally and would rather put on a show that wins the president applause from his base than actually get something done. Nonetheless, the exercise does initiate a discussion that needs exploring. How should we allocate visas that allow people to come to the United States to live and work?</p> <p>Modern immigration policy, which began in 1965 with the Immigration and Nationality Act, has used ties to U.S.-based family members as the primary mechanism to allot permanent resident status. Of the approximately 1 million people who receive permanent status each year &#8212; which allows them to live indefinitely in the U.S., work and after a period of five years, apply to become citizens &#8212; nearly 90% were related to someone already here, mostly spouses, parents, children and, in fewer cases, siblings. Many other nations, including Canada, which has a vibrant immigrant policy, prefer a system based on skills, education and, in some instances, wealth, which is the direction that Trump seems to want to follow. There is nothing wrong with a skills-based system per se; the devil is in the details of the Trump plan. <p>Updated: Fri May 17, 2019</p> 1889b67dd2f19651b0ec5efdd1531980 Most Accept American Diversity for 05/10/2019 Fri, 10 May 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>As the country grows more ethnically and racially diverse, Americans' attitudes towards diversity seem pretty sanguine. Most Americans, regardless of ethnic or racial background, think diversity is a good thing and makes the nation stronger. More than three-fourths of all Americans say diversity is either very good (57%) or somewhat good (20%) for the country, with little difference among specific racial or ethnic groups on this measure, according to a new survey of attitudes by the Pew Research Center. More highly educated people of all groups are the most enthusiastic, but even among whites with less than a high school degree, 63% say diversity is very or somewhat good for the country, about the same proportion as among Republicans (65%). </p> <p>This is very good news, though there was still some concern on the part of many Americans about whether our growing diversity makes it harder for policymakers to solve problems. Americans were pretty evenly divided on this issue, with a plurality (47%) saying it does and 45% thinking it doesn't make much difference. But there was more divergence in opinion among different groups on this question than on many others in the survey, with a low of 30% of blacks who believed diversity made it harder and a high of 52% of whites who also thought so. Still, the responses to these questions makes it clear that, despite so much evidence of a racial divide in this nation, <span class="column--highlighted-text">Americans are more alike in their attitudes on race and ethnicity than we might believe by watching cable news or looking at social media posts</span>. <p>Updated: Fri May 10, 2019</p> f234dc7b5cfe0d08f7e14557e2fa2e6a Let Staff Ask the Questions for 05/03/2019 Fri, 03 May 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p>There aren't many advantages to being old &#8212; and at nearly 72, I qualify &#8212; but having actually lived through historic events gives one certain insights. From 1972 to 1974, I was a young staffer on the House Judiciary Committee. I was hired to the professional staff even though I did not have a law degree. I was the first woman on the professional staff outside the staff director, who began her career as a secretary for then-Chairman Emanuel Celler. Committee hearings at the time were pretty staid affairs, with members less likely to give long-winded speeches and more likely to leave the serious questions to staff. Next to the chair and ranking minority member sat the majority and minority counsel, whose duty it was to ask substantive questions of the witnesses at committee hearings. Because I wasn't an attorney, I usually sat behind the chairman and passed him questions that needed to be asked if he failed to follow up on the list I had given him in preparation for the hearings. <span class="column--highlighted-text">But after serving in the role of staff analyst for two years, I finally got my chance to sit in the counsel seat and question witnesses. No member objected, nor did the witnesses.</span></p> <p>My tenure on the Judiciary Committee staff coincided with the impeachment of Richard M. Nixon. The chairman of the committee by that time, Peter W. Rodino, hired an entire new staff of lawyers and researchers to oversee the impeachment work, but the committee continued to function on two tracks, with subcommittees continuing their work on legislative and oversight issues while the hearings on impeachment proceeded separately. But on all the work, counsel &#8212; or in my case, staff analyst &#8212; asked many of the most substantive questions during the process. In the Senate, the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, which came to be known as the Watergate Committee, made majority counsel Sam Dash almost as famous as the chairman, Sam Ervin, while John Doar became a well-recognized figure for his role as special counsel to the House impeachment inquiry.</p> <p>So why does Attorney General William Barr object to being questioned by staff? His refusal to do so at Thursday's scheduled House Judiciary Committee hearing has now prompted a showdown between Congress and the administration, one of many initiated by the president and his staff. Barr performed badly before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, despite having the Republican majority on his side. He obfuscated on some of his answers and misled on others. Despite having answered a direct question in an April 10 House committee hearing on whether he had any reason to believe special counsel Robert Mueller had objections to Barr's publicly announced conclusion about the report, he replied, "I don't know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusions." A lawyer intent on nailing him down would have followed up with precision, pointing out that Barr had received a letter from Mueller objecting to Barr's presentation of the report prior to his statement on April 10. "How do you reconcile your statement with Mr. Mueller's letter of March 27, that you 'did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance' of the report and, therefore, 'There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation'?" he or she might ask. "This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the special counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations." <p>Updated: Fri May 03, 2019</p> 053ecb497cd395b31d52d041941e1c54 Battle for the Soul of the Country for 04/26/2019 Fri, 26 Apr 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>"A battle for the soul of the country." That is how Joe Biden described the 2020 election. And he's right. If Donald Trump is reelected, it will say something profound about the American character.</p> <p>Voters in 2016 had to choose between two ethically challenged candidates: one we knew all too well, Hillary Clinton, and one we knew only from his television persona and performance on the campaign trail, Donald Trump. Clinton won the popular vote, but Trump won enough votes in usually Democratic strongholds of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan to secure the presidency in the Electoral College. Many who voted for Trump did so reluctantly, hoping he would grow into the job. Even some who did not support Trump in the primaries have been pleased by his policies: conservative judicial nominees, tax cuts, deregulation, opposition to the Iran deal, unqualified support for Israel. But no one could foresee that Trump would degrade the office of the presidency so thoroughly as he has over the last two years. <p>Updated: Fri Apr 26, 2019</p> de6ccfa142e6746215f83a60f2e82f0e Mueller Report for 04/19/2019 Fri, 19 Apr 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p></p><p>The release of the redacted Mueller report will change no minds. For President Donald Trump's most ardent supporters and defenders, Attorney General William Barr's absolution of the president on criminal charges of conspiracy and obstruction, given in a press conference in advance of the release, is enough to confirm what they have believed all along: that the president is innocent and the investigation would find nothing incriminating. For those who believe Trump has behaved in ways unbefitting a presidential candidate &#8212; much less a president &#8212; there is ample evidence that Trump and his campaign engaged in disturbing behavior, entertaining outreach from the Russians, though not actually conspiring with them, and that the president repeatedly considered shutting down the investigation because he feared its outcome. When told that a special counsel would be appointed to investigate Russian meddling in the election, Trump shouted: "This is the end of my presidency. I'm f&#8212;&#8212;ed!"<p>Updated: Fri Apr 19, 2019</p> 6b35579c45b1b3cb29608b6ba26c0029 Joe Biden's Apology for 04/05/2019 Fri, 05 Apr 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Democrats seem intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Their latest self-inflicted wound has been the shaming of former Vice President Joe Biden. Several women have now come forward to accuse Biden of touching them in ways that made them uncomfortable, even though no one yet alleges that the behavior constituted actual sexual harassment. Biden has now apologized in a two-minute video and says he will respect others' space &#8212; especially women's &#8212; but I doubt this will stop those who want to discourage Biden's presidential run from keeping the story going. </p> <p>Biden's style &#8212; to get in too close, clasp hands or arms, bear hug, place hands on shoulders, go forehead to forehead, plant kisses on cheeks or hair &#8212; has long been his trademark. He's a touchy guy. It's how he expresses enthusiasm, affection and empathy. He does it to everyone, male and female, young and old, attractive and plain. He clearly means no harm. It isn't an effort to cop a feel or make a pass. But no doubt, it's not welcome by everyone. At some point, someone should have sat him down and explained that to him. His videotaped apology suggests he understands now, even if he didn't before. So long as he doesn't relapse, that should be the end of the story. I almost guarantee it won't be.<p>Updated: Fri Apr 05, 2019</p> e0b8e86166ac43b18682cef8ba34526d Incompetence, Not Collusion for 03/29/2019 Fri, 29 Mar 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Sitting in the greenroom with me as we were about to go on air on one of the cable news shows a couple of months ago, a Trump supporter told me: "Linda, I saw the Trump campaign up close in 2016. They couldn't have colluded their way out of a paper bag." It was an odd defense &#8212; basically, incompetence &#8212; of the oft-repeated charge that the campaign had colluded with Russia during the presidential election. But at the time, it struck me as plausible, if not probable. It appears special counsel Robert Mueller agreed. </p> <p>A week after Mueller submitted his report to the attorney general, we still don't know exactly what is in its 300-or-more pages, but we do know that the special counsel concluded that the president and his campaign did not conspire with a foreign adversary to subvert the presidential election. This is a good thing, about which we should all breathe a sigh of relief. But that does not mean that the nearly two-year investigation was a waste of time and money, or that it was launched by a group of zealous partisans in the intelligence community to try to overturn the results of the election, as the president and his allies have charged. <p>Updated: Fri Mar 29, 2019</p> cfcd358b019623519fcef08ce2617ec8 How the Corruption of America Begins for 03/22/2019 Fri, 22 Mar 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>When the history of the Trump presidency is written, one incident will be remembered as the beginning of the foul corruption with which a supremely unqualified and immoral man infected the office and parts of the American people. It began in Ames, Iowa, in July 2015, when then-candidate Donald Trump addressed an audience of the Family Leadership Summit. Trump's target was Sen. John McCain: "He's not a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured."</p> <p>Like many at the time, I thought that would be the end of the Trump candidacy. Would Republicans really nominate a draft dodger who, on "The Howard Stern Show" in 1997, described avoiding venereal diseases in the 1970s as his "personal Vietnam" and said he felt "like a great and very brave soldier" and then degraded a genuine patriot who was held captive for more than five years by the North Vietnamese? But even with that and his mocking of a disabled reporter, his calling Mexicans rapists, his attacks on the physical appearance of countless women (including one of his challengers, Carly Fiorina, and the wife of another, Heidi Cruz), his encouragement of violence at his rallies and his complete ignorance of major policy, enough of the public was enthralled by his bombast to nominate and then elect him. And for the most part, Trump's fellow Republicans embraced him once he was in office, making excuses for his moral transgressions because he was willing to nominate conservative judges, rein in regulations and lower taxes on business.<p>Updated: Fri Mar 22, 2019</p> 87b486ffb85b7b6db41dfcd5bd449397 The Democratic Circus for 03/15/2019 Fri, 15 Mar 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>It is only March 2019, and I am already sick of the 2020 presidential campaign. Granted, not much is happening on the Republican side &#8212; everyone assumes President Donald Trump will sail to renomination &#8212; but there are so many Democrats running it's hard to keep count. And for the life of me, I can't figure out what some of these people are doing in the race. Former Texas Rep. and failed Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke jumped in this week, as in he literally hopped on the counter at an Iowa coffee shop to exude enthusiasm about ... what? He doesn't seem to have a platform beyond being a nice guy who won't denigrate his opponents, even when the president shot a barb. "I think he's got a lot of hand movement," the president said after O'Rourke's announcement. "Is he crazy, or is that just the way he acts?" But it will take more than an aw-shucks smile and a refusal to engage in tit for tat with the insulter in chief to attract voters. </p> <p>One would think Democrats would have learned something from the 2016 election. And maybe they did, but it was the wrong lesson. Trump became the Republican nominee in large part because there were too many Republicans competing in the primary. Having 17 declared candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination doomed several fine, well-qualified contenders who simply couldn't gain traction or differentiate themselves from one another. That left the loudest, least qualified and most grandiose candidate standing center stage. Trump started his campaign with universal name recognition and the willingness to say anything to grab free media. And the same journalists and networks he derides today as the "enemy of the people" were happy to oblige him by putting him on the air more often than any other candidate. <p>Updated: Fri Mar 15, 2019</p> 1ef8c535bacc19a33921f6d9f12f0ce7 What to Do About the Border Crisis for 03/08/2019 Fri, 08 Mar 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Enough Republicans have said publicly that they will vote against President Donald Trump's use of his emergency powers to build a wall along the southern border. That will hand the president the biggest defeat of his presidency &#8212; albeit a symbolic one, as the president has already promised to veto the resolution and there are not enough Republican votes to override that veto, so the president will go ahead and pilfer funds from military projects and others to begin work on the wall. Meanwhile, the real crisis at the border will go unanswered by anyone in the White House or the Congress.</p> <p>Figures released this week by the Department of Homeland Security show that there has indeed been a surge in people trying to gain admission into the United States without proper visas. In January, more than 76,000 unauthorized migrants were taken into custody at the border with Mexico. But unlike earlier waves of migrants, most of these consisted of families from Central America trying to claim asylum. That is twice the number that came during the same period last year and marks the highest number of unauthorized migrants in the past 11 years. But it is unlikely that Trump's future wall, even if it were in place now, would deter these people.<p>Updated: Fri Mar 08, 2019</p> dabaaef01cd8349f6a781d166ae95d3e Trump's Most Important Week for 03/01/2019 Fri, 01 Mar 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>This week was the most important in the Trump presidency &#8212; and not simply because the president's former lawyer presented documentary evidence to Congress that the president knowingly conspired after becoming president to conceal his payments of hush money to a porn actress with whom he'd had an affair. Most eyes were focused on Capitol Hill this week as Michael Cohen testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and the show was a good one. Cohen laid out evidence that Donald Trump may have defrauded banks, insurance companies and tax authorities by inflating or deflating (for tax purposes) the value of his properties over a course of years with phony financial statements, which, if true, would be felonies under federal and state laws. He also produced checks signed by the president, the president's eldest son and the chief financial officer of his business to reimburse Cohen for a $131,000 payment to Stormy Daniels to buy her silence on the eve of the election. Cohen is going to prison in a couple of months, in part for having violated campaign finance law when he made that payment to Daniels. But while the hearing was going on, a dangerous scenario was unfolding in Vietnam as the president met with Kim Jong Un in Hanoi to negotiate North Korea's nuclear disarmament. And the wrong outcome of those talks would have had far greater impact for the world than what went on in the Rayburn Building.</p> <p>Trump did something many people, including me, feared he was incapable of doing. He walked away from making a bad deal that would have diverted attention from his troubles. Kim wanted relief from the crippling sanctions that have been in place for decades, but he was not willing to take the necessary steps toward dismantling his nuclear program in an orderly process; sanctions would have been lifted and aid given only as progress could be verified step by step. The director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, recently told Congress that our intelligence shows that North Korea is continuing to add to its nuclear arsenal and delivery systems, even as the president has claimed North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat. Trump was so angry at the public disagreement that he reportedly wanted to remove Coats from his job. But something happened in Hanoi. Trump listened to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other advisers and did not give in to his ego. "Sometimes you have to walk," Trump said at his news conference after negotiations fell apart.<p>Updated: Fri Mar 01, 2019</p> c21f43045bd633727946b82c11ff9375 Why Racial Hoaxes Are So Dangerous for 02/22/2019 Fri, 22 Feb 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Jussie Smollett has now been charged with filing a false police report in an alleged hate crime incident that it appears Smollett orchestrated on himself. The actor, according to the head of the Chicago Police Department, was apparently trying to gain publicity by portraying himself as a victim of bigotry, which he thought would help him in salary negotiations with the Fox show "Empire," on which he plays musician Jamal Lyon. The finale to this episode of celebrity misbehavior has shocked many in the African-American community, as well it should. "Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?" Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson asked. "How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile?" But it should concern all of us, not just African-Americans, when victimization is perceived to be a route to greater fame and fortune. And <span class="column--highlighted-text">the timing of this egregious hoax couldn't be worse, as it played out against the arrest of a white nationalist who officials say really did intend to kill and maim in the name of racial hatred</span>.</p> <p>On Tuesday, federal officials filed a motion to detain Christopher Paul Hasson, who was charged with plotting domestic terrorism, among other offenses. Hasson is a lieutenant in the Coast Guard, stationed in Washington, D.C., and spent five years in the Marines and two years in the Army National Guard. Offered in evidence at the hearing seeking Hasson's detention was a letter he had allegedly written to friends laying out his intent: "Much blood will have to be spilled to get whitey off the couch. For some no amount of blood will be enough. They will die as will the traitors who actively work toward our demise. Looking to Russia with hopeful eyes or any land that despises the west's liberalism. Excluding of course the muslim scum." Hasson had accumulated an arsenal of weapons and drugs, the latter of which he used in emulating his hero, Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people in two attacks in Norway in 2011, including shooting 69 participants at a left-wing youth camp. Breivik's manifesto encouraged those who would engage in terrorist acts to fortify themselves with steroids and narcotics to give them the necessary physical strength and will to carry out their acts.<p>Updated: Fri Feb 22, 2019</p> c9f38c9f789181ccbf93bdbc822da996 A Monument to Presidential Power for 02/15/2019 Fri, 15 Feb 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Mitch McConnell seems to have found a way to allow President Donald Trump to eat his cake (Mar-a-Lago chocolate, no doubt) and keep it, too. On Thursday, the Senate majority leader announced that the president would sign compromise legislation hammered out in the wake of the 35-day government shutdown over funding for additional barriers along our southern border. In return, McConnell will support the president's declaration of a "national emergency" that will allow the administration to use military dollars to build more fencing than Congress has appropriated for that purpose. Expect much of the country, including many in Congress, to choke on McConnell's appeasement.</p> <p>No matter how many times or in how loud a voice the president says it, there is no emergency at the border requiring flouting the separation of powers, which gives Congress control over the purse strings. The United States is not being flooded with dangerous criminals and job-stealing immigrants from south of the border. Immigrants, including those who have come here illegally, are less likely to commit crimes than people born here. El Paso, Texas &#8212; where the president visited this week to show off what happens when you build a wall &#8212; was safe long before the wall was built and is one of the safest cities its size in America today even with a large population of immigrants, documented and undocumented. And even the president has now admitted that we need more immigrants &#8212; not fewer, which is what he had been proposing since his campaign &#8212; to fill jobs that no one else is taking.<p>Updated: Fri Feb 15, 2019</p> a88ea651df93acf20e5ad24c7ac96b32 Why Not Just Be 'an American'? for 02/08/2019 Fri, 08 Feb 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Sen. Elizabeth Warren's insistence that she is Native American has drawn racial taunts from President Donald Trump, who frequently refers to her as "Pocahontas," as well as reprimands from tribal leaders, who note that tribes themselves determine tribal membership. She has frequently said that she grew up believing she had Native American ancestors and occasionally claimed her family is Cherokee and Delaware, even offering a recipe for a cookbook titled "Pow Wow Chow." Earlier this year, Warren released the results of DNA tests that showed she did have a very distant relative &#8212; in the neighborhood of six to 10 generations ago &#8212; who was Native American, but that is hardly the impression she has tried to give over the years. This week, The Washington Post revealed a handwritten document, submitted in 1986 when Warren became a member of the Texas state bar, in which she listed her race as "American Indian." This latest controversy in Sen. Warren's identity politics threatens to complicate her bid for the presidency.</p> <p>Why should it matter what race or ethnic origin Sen. Warren claims? Under usual circumstances, it wouldn't. Looking at Sen. Warren &#8212; with her fair skin, blue eyes and blond hair &#8212; one would assume she is of northern European ancestry. But <span class="column--highlighted-text">because she has taken it on herself to assert that she is not what she appears but is rather a member of a group that has long faced discrimination in America, the claim takes on significance</span> &#8212; especially in the Democratic Party. The field of Democratic candidates who have announced their candidacy for president or are about to is a veritable rainbow of minorities. From former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, whose grandmother was a Mexican immigrant, to Sen. Kamala Harris, whose parents were born in Jamaica and India, to Sen. Cory Booker, a man whose ancestors include both blacks and whites, as noted in an episode of "Finding Your Roots," to Tulsi Gabbard, born in American Samoa to a white mother and part-Samoan father, the Democratic candidates are the most ethnically diverse in the history of U.S. presidential politics. There is much to be applauded in such an ethnically and racially broad group of candidates, but more because of what it says about success and assimilation in the American model than it does about discrimination.<p>Updated: Fri Feb 08, 2019</p> fc30ec37fa5c257c0768e8b2ab8a6025 Frederick Douglass and Voting Rights for 02/01/2019 Fri, 01 Feb 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>I have been reading &#8212; more accurately, listening to &#8212; David Blight's new biography, "Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom." It is a welcome respite from the day's news but also a sober reminder of a racial history that still scars America. Douglass emerges in the book as a far more complicated, occasionally unlikable hero of the anti-slavery movement. Brilliant, self-taught in the arts of literature and rhetoric, Douglass was a fugitive slave who became one of the most famous and important men of the 19th century. But it is Blight's descriptions of Washington, D.C., during the Civil War that most moved me. The city became a muddy tent town when thousands of former Southern slaves emancipated in January 1863 fled north with nothing but hope, a group of their children learning to read in a smokehouse-turned-school on Robert E. Lee's estate in Arlington, Virginia. Government buildings became temporary hospitals filled with sick and dying Union soldiers, amputees who might never be able to support themselves or families. And Douglass, facing this human tragedy, became all the more convinced that such suffering and bloodshed could be justified only if blacks &#8212; former slaves and freemen alike &#8212; were given full and complete rights of citizenship, most importantly the right to vote.</p> <p>For Douglass, the Civil War was necessary to expiate the sin of slavery. Until the slave-supporting South was mercilessly defeated and the black man granted his rightful status as an equal in every way before the law, America would never be truly free. Douglass locked horns with Abraham Lincoln over the issue of equal wages for black soldiers &#8212; 180,000 of whom fought in the Civil War but were paid less than their white counterparts and did not receive commissions as officers &#8212; and, more importantly, over granting all black men the right to vote. Without the right to vote, Douglass correctly predicted, blacks would be subjected to continued discrimination and would never be truly free or equal. Douglass understood that especially in the South, whites, with fresh memories of the cruelties of war, would seek vengeance on blacks.<p>Updated: Fri Feb 01, 2019</p> 610ab37084c267352796a18d5a4f57f9 You Can't Always Get What You Want for 01/25/2019 Fri, 25 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Donald Trump's new slogan &#8212; "Build a wall and crime will fall" &#8212; may excite Ann Coulter, but it reveals the desperation of a man who is losing even his base. Facts never get in the president's way, but crime (like illegal immigration) has been falling for decades. According to the FBI, which gathers data on crimes reported to the police in some 18,000 jurisdictions nationwide, violent crime was down 49 percent between 1993 and 2017 (the last year for which full data are available). A different measure of violent crime, one based on Bureau of Justice Statistics' surveys of a representative sample of Americans 12 or older, shows that the violent crime rate fell by 74 percent during that same period.</p> <p>Would keeping out undocumented immigrants eliminate crime further? Maybe, but it's not nearly so straightforward as it might seem. By definition, if one extra crime is committed by a person who shouldn't be in the country, preventing that person from coming would eliminate that one crime. But it wouldn't automatically have a one-for-one effect on the crime rate, which is measured against the population. The numerator of crimes committed would go down, but so would the denominator of population. Because immigrants here illegally commit fewer crimes than the native-born, the denominator could potentially fall more steeply than the numerator. So in communities with very high proportions of undocumented immigrants, eliminating these people would make the crime rates go up. But Trump's goal is not to lower the crime rate. It is to make good on a foolish promise he made as a candidate.<p>Updated: Fri Jan 25, 2019</p> de470d04cce91883303776d637660245 Abnormal Times for 01/18/2019 Fri, 18 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>In normal times, the killing of four Americans and wounding of three others on foreign soil would prompt a quick response by the president of the United States. A normal president would publicly express his sincere condolences to the families of the killed and wounded and vow that the attack would not go unanswered. But we do not live in normal times, nor do we have a normal president in the White House. When an Islamic State suicide bomber detonated a device in Manbij, Syria, this week &#8212; killing and wounding Americans &#8212; President Donald Trump chose to rant about other subjects, most importantly the wall he wants to build on our southern border. The vice president did speak about Syria and the Islamic State (aka ISIS), just hours after the attack, in a speech to senior U.S. diplomats at the State Department. But the purpose of his remarks was to parrot the president's oft-repeated claim: "The caliphate has crumbled, and ISIS has been defeated." He said not a word about the dead Americans.</p> <p>Some Republicans, notably Sens. Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, have warned that the president's decision to abandon Syria, announced via tweet just a month ago, has emboldened the Islamic State. Estimates are that some 20,000 to 30,000 fighters still remain in the region. The irony, of course, is that the rise of the Islamic State occurred precisely because a former president made a similar mistake, precipitously pulling U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011. Republicans &#8212; and even some Democrats &#8212; warned President Barack Obama that he was jeopardizing the gains in Iraq won with American blood and treasure by not leaving sufficient U.S. troops in Iraq to maintain the peace. President Obama eventually had to respond to the crisis that ensued in Iraq as the Islamic State took over major parts of the country, including the cities of Mosul and Tikrit and even the outskirts of Baghdad, as well as territory in Syria. Obama ordered a bombing campaign to assist the struggling government of Iraq and began sending U.S. military advisers back into the country. We now have about 5,000 U.S. military personnel there, and Trump says they will stay &#8212; for now.<p>Updated: Fri Jan 18, 2019</p> 0d3fd12d7d3d1c57e4834223a92c85e0 The Border Wall or Bust for 01/11/2019 Fri, 11 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>President Donald Trump's Oval Office address this week was a total bust. His visit to the border fared no better. Trump predicted that his words and actions wouldn't "change a damn thing" when he spoke to news anchors before the speech. He's right &#8212; but not for the reasons he thinks. If Congress were to appropriate the $5.7 billion Trump wants for a wall &#8212; steel slats, bollards, alligators in a moat or whatever else he comes up with next &#8212; little, if anything, would change with respect to what's happening at our southern border.</p> <p>Although illegal immigration is dramatically down, as is the size of the undocumented immigrant population living in the U.S. &#8212; by more than 1.5 million since its peak in 2006 &#8212; the number of families and unaccompanied minors seeking asylum has risen sharply over the past two years, reaching about 160,000 last year. But no matter how hard this administration tries to portray these people as criminals, they are simply following U.S. law. Most are fleeing extreme violence, much of it the direct result of U.S. demand for illegal drugs that are grown or processed in their home countries.<p>Updated: Fri Jan 11, 2019</p> bb232fc17a415cb19d9e5bbe2936b2e5 An Agenda for 2019 for 01/04/2019 Fri, 04 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>President Donald Trump began the new year with characteristic bombast, blaming others for perceived failures, taking credit for non-achievements or those accomplished despite him, and dispensing misinformation like candy on Halloween. In his first Cabinet meeting, the president riffed for an hour and a half on his petty grievances rather than do the business of setting the agenda for the year with his appointees, several of whom are in an acting position because their predecessors resigned or were pushed out the door.</p> <p>Seeing as the president seems unable to come up with a plan to actually govern in 2019, here are a couple of items on my wish list &#8212; a list that reasonable conservatives and some liberals might even be able to agree on.<p>Updated: Fri Jan 04, 2019</p>