All posts by Art Pitz

What has happened to the GOP?

On Aug. 7, 1974, U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., U.S. House Minority Leader John Rhodes, R-Ariz., and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott, R-Pa., went to the embattled Nixon to make it clear that he faced all-but-certain impeachment, conviction and removal from office in connection with the Watergate scandal.

Nixon announced his resignation the next evening, effective at noon on Aug 9, 1974.  The GOP leaders had said nothing to him about resigning, but it was implied since their message was that he had lost all but minimal support for avoiding being convicted of impeachment.

This was the result of thorough investigations by Peter Rodino’s House Judicial Committee and Sam Ervin’s Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (AKA Watergate Committee), very sold news media reporting, and the evidence that was presented including the infamous “smoking gun” transcript of the June 23, 1972 meeting where Nixon ordered a coverup of the June 17, 1972 breakin to the DNC at the Watergate building.  The House had voted 410-4 in favor of the impeachment inquiry.  All 4 negative votes were Republicans.  But, voting for an inquiry was a long way from voting for impeachment.

Even with the evidence, the vote for impeachment was 27-11.  It was a bipartisan vote yet only 7 of the 17 GOP members of the committee voted for impeachment.  Why not unanimous?  It took a long time for Republicans to abandon Nixon.  The smoking gun transcript didn’t become available until two days before the GOP delegation went to see Nixon.  Even as late as two weeks before he resigned, he still had 38% support from Republicans.  His support collapsed quickly.  The shock that his denials were lies shook quite a few.   Still, there were fierce Nixon loyalists who weren’t about to let their duly elected President be forced out of office.  Some, like Tom Railsback, were warned by their local GOP party that they’d do their best to ruin his career if he voted for impeachment, but he did anyway. They carried through on their threat.

We have a Select Committee investigating again, this time about what happened on January 6, 2021.  But, the GOP of today has a very faint resemblance, if any, to the GOP of 1974.  Most refuse to engage at all in today’s Congressional investigation and seem to put little if any stock in the search for truth.  Most are seemingly afraid to utter a word against former President Trump who continues to hold a large part of the party in thrall to him.  It is an open question what it would take for Trump’s loyalists to finally accept that he did in fact lose the 2020 election.  Those who do finally accept it may face being discharged from the party just as happened in the 1974 midterm elections and has already happened to some who have turned against Trump because of what happened on January 6.

Will the GOP leaders do to Trump what they did to Nixon back in 1974?  They should, but I doubt it.  It likely would take a large loss of loyalty to the former President for that to happen.  What would it take to have that happen? The available evidence indicates that his support has been declining.  More are willing to look at an alternative candidate for 2024. 

Is there a “smoking gun” that will finally push Trump’s support away?  It may lie in the tape of his phone call to Raffensperger asking him illegally to give him the votes he needs to win Georgia.  At least a dozen of Trump’s fake electors who certified that Trump won in Georgia are being investigated by the Georgia grand jury.  Besides that, his phone calls to Raffensperger, Governor Kemp, Attorney General, and state lawmakers are being investigated.  The attempts by Trump loyalists like Giuliani in December 2020 to get the Ga legislature to believe their false election claims are an additional area of inquiry.  If the facts establish that Trump’s smoking-gun phone calls, use of false electors to falsely certify the election in his favor, and the efforts of his lawyers like Giuliani violated both state and federal criminal statutes, private citizen Trump should be treated like any other lawbreaker: indicted and prosecuted to the full extent of the law by both the Justice Department and the Fulton County district attorney.

To get a sense of the dilemmas facing the GOP, look at the results of the very recent GOP primary in Arizona.  The leading GOP candidate for Governor is a believer of Trump’s widespread baseless illegal voting claims that the election in AZ was stolen from him.  Their chosen nominee for Secretary of State has stated that if elected he would purge the voter rolls and eliminate early voting.  He has also said if he had the power to do it, he would decertify Arizona’s election results that gave Biden Arizona’s electoral votes.  The GOP’s nominee for the U.S. Senate parrots Trump’s baseless claims. If they are elected this November, they’d have enormous power of the 2024 election results.  Will they be elected?  It may take massive defeats of Trump loyalists running for office this November for Trump’s power to finally erode.

Dozens of GOP election deniers, many backed by Trump, have already won GOP primaries. Denying the 2020 election results is THE litmus test for Trump and his supporters.  Too many put no stock in truth itself.  They cancelled out of the party many of those who voted against Trump in either or both of the impeachment trials.  Reagan’s splendid idea of not speaking ill of fellow Republicans has gone into the trash can.  Will the virtual civil wars within the GOP harm its chances in the upcoming midterm elections?

Personally, I fervently hope that all or most of those who have been nominated who believe in denial of the 2020 certified results will be soundly defeated this November.  They do not deserve your support or mine.

A Comparison of Our Southern Border with Others in Crisis

It may seem an unfair comparison. Right now, there are an estimated 82.4 million refugees in the world. Our southern border issues are miniscule in comparison to the crises that exist elsewhere; but, our partisanship coupled with 24-7 news focused on primarily the U.S. makes it seem much worse than it is by way of comparison.

Let us take a look first to the south of us in the northern triangle of Central America, COVID has hit them hard. It pushed 687,000 people into leaving in FY 2021. Two hurricanes, Eta and Lota, devastated their economies in November 2020 especially in Honduras and Nicaragua. Frequent floods and earthquakes have continued since then.  Gang violence is rampant which caused a large murder rate. The region suffers from widespread corruption and governmental mismanagement. This is so bad, as an example, that El Salvador spends 70% of its budget on repaying loans. The rich pay little in the way of taxes. That leaves little for ameliorating the miserable conditions. Food insecurity is a real problem.

Miscommunications from the Biden administration led a significant number to believe they could get here, only to find out most were turned away. It is, of course, difficult to measure how much of an impact this miscommunication had given the other serious issues at work. It seems that those who focus on this factor have not considered the other factors causing a crisis on our southern border.

The Biden administration has continued Trump’s policy of Title 42 to attempt to control the crisis. The so-called war on drugs has increased the violence and corruption rather than interdicting the movement of drugs north. Trump’s policies made matters look better for our domestic population, but made the situation for the asylum seekers worse by forcing the asylum seekers to stay in Mexico by threatening tariffs on Mexico. Mexico is poorly equipped to take care of them. Trump’s increased regulations on the ability of asylum seekers to get to the U.S. has created months long backlogs in our immigration courts so the asylum seekers sit in not very nice camps in Mexico.

In fiscal year August 2020 to September 2021 about 1.7 migrants arrived at our border. In March 2021, there were 170,000 migrants that arrived at our border. The large majority were turned away.  Recidivism of 38% has added to the numbers of those turned away compared to a rate of 15% earlier.  So, the numbers of those who have arrived is significantly inflated by the rates of recidivism.

The number of refugees that have been admitted to the U.S. has fluctuated considerably over the years:

Partisanship, of course, has entered into all of this trying to blame Biden and/or Trump for the crisis.  In truth, the border situation was called a crisis in 2014 under President Obama. It has been an ongoing concern. This hints at the causes of the crisis are deeper and more significant than whatever each President has done.

Well, how does this compare with elsewhere?

First of all, my wife Suzanne and I have observed in our overseas travels that wherever there is a reasonably developed nation near to one that is not as well developed then there will be people who feel they have to move to that developed nation whether legally or not to have a better life.  That is certainly true for our southern border but obviously not for our northern one. As other examples, Finland had issues with Russians trying to get in. Slovakia had to deal with illegal Ukrainians. Israel definitely had illegal Sudanese.  It is a virtually universal phenomenon and Americans would be wiser to recognize that reality. We are NOT unique.

Even with our northern border, during the Vietnam war, Canada had illegal Americans coming in to escape the draft. In our own history, Mexico had a miserable time with trying to keep its border closed to Americans coming into the Mexican province of Texas with the result that a fair number of those at the Alamo were illegal immigrants. Since Mexico had abolished slavery, some of those Americans came with their “servants”. Jim Bowie had one at The Alamo.

Maybe, just maybe, if our partisans could recognize reality then the blaming would disappear. We WILL attract those who are desperate from our south. Period.

Secondly, our southern “crisis” does not come close to the situation in the top 7 crisis regions.

Syria is by far the worse with 6.8 million refugees and asylum seekers who because of the Syrian civil war remain in the Middle East. Turkey hosts nearly 3.7 million, the largest number of refugees hosted by any country in the world. Syrian refugees are also in Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. Returnees face a daunting situation, including lack of infrastructure and services mixed with danger from explosive devices. About 6.7 million Syrians remain displaced inside the country, and nearly 11.1 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance.

Second is Venezuela with 5.4 million refugees and asylum seekers, most of whom are in neighboring countries.

Third is Afghanistan with 2.8 million refugees and asylum seekers. Another 2.9 million are displaced within the country. At least 1.4 million of the refugees and asylum seekers are in Pakistan.

Fourth has to be southern Sudan with the worst crisis in Africa. There are 2.2 million refugees and asylum seekers who fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda.  There are another 1.6 million displaced within the country.  Around 83% of the refugees and asylum seekers are women and children. As mentioned above, some of those Sudanese have turned up in Israel—we have met with some of them. Just like within the U.S., Israel is politically divided on what to do with refugees.

Fifth would include the 1.1 million Rohingya Muslim Refugees and asylum seekers from Myanmar.  There are another 880,000 stateless Rohingya in the country. Close to 500,000 of the refugees and asylum seekers are in Bangladesh.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has about 1 million refugees and asylum seekers in neighboring countries. But, there are a staggering 5.2 million stuck in the DOC.  Most are suffering from malnutrition and diseases. The DOC is arguably one of the worst places to be in the world.

Somalia comes in 7th with 800,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Most Somali refugees have settled in Kenya, Ethiopia, or Yemen. Some have lived in massive refugee camps for years. There are 3 million displaced within the country.

There are other refugee crises as on the border between Poland and Belarus along with between Libya and Southern Europe that manage to outstrip our southern border situation.

To sum up, the situation on our southern border is a small part of a global crisis involving refugees.  Maybe, just maybe, we can put the partisan attacks aside; and, recognize that a global crisis just might need a coordinated global campaign. If you compare our southern border situation with those outlined above that should help the reader realize that our problems are small compared to others, but our partisan attacks make the situation look much worse than it is by way of comparison. Our southern border crisis has lasted for 7 years spanning three Presidencies; and is not likely to go away regardless of whoever is President. It WILL continue as long as lives are endangered within the Northern Triangle.

Arguably a solution would be to aid the Northern Triangle to have security and decent jobs. The Obama administration tried a pilot program to do that with measurable success. Unfortunately, the Trump administration put an end to that program thus helping expand our southern border crisis. Reverse that decision and a better situation will likely evolve. Still, no one should expect that such a solution would be quick and 100% effective.

As an example, look at our northern border. Is there anything like the crisis on the southern border? Nope. Why not? Two quite developed nations are living side by side so there is little to no need for folks to become refugees. Help the Northern Triangle to be a place where people would feel safe and be employed. Do that; and, the crisis will reduce by quite a bit.

Oh, in a by the way, why don’t our partisan battles discuss the itsy bitsy troubling fact that at least half of our undocumented folks got here legally.  Why? It is so expensive and time consuming to stay here legally that many have chosen to just stay.  They are from all over the world; and, they are working, paying taxes. 

Why don’t our partisans on both sides get so heated up over this? 

Maybe because it is such a good deal for the employers as they don’t have to worry about paying benefits and treating their employees well? Is anyone motivated to pass legislation to fix this? The employers outsource the hiring so they can say they don’t employ undocumented folks. Why not make that outsourcing practice a felony? This is a modest suggestion if we are really serious about dealing with the undocumented.  But, are we?  Its so much easier to blame whoever is President for the southern border crisis than it is to try to solve it.


Finally, are we really having to deal with open borders on our southern border? No. It is not the policy of the Biden administration to open our nation to whoever wants to come here without restrictions.

Jeez, this nasty partisanship has to stop.  THE U.S.A. DOES NOT HAVE AN OPEN SOUTHERN BORDER.

Sure, there are some on our southern border who manage to come in undocumented. That is NOT a new phenomenon. Aside from that, the reader should know that the U.S. has not had a policy of open borders since 1881, one year before the Chinese Exclusion Act.  

Is that going to change to an open borders policy?


Is the U.S. withdrawing from the Persian Gulf along with the ME?

This question has been raised since the U.S. has withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.  It is in fact a good question.

Just how and why did the U.S. begin having its military serve as “police” in the Middle East?

CENTCOM WAS FORMED IN 1983 BECAUSE OF A PERCEIVED SOVIET THREAT TO THE PERSIAN GULF.  Prior to CENTCOM, the U.S. had no pretentions of serving as The Policeman of the Persian Gulf.  As it turned out, the Soviets did NOT present any serious threat to the Persian Gulf. They did not seek to control it with their military; and made, no efforts to do so.  So, what to do?  There had to be an enemy for CENTCOM to plan against.  Who would that be?  Iraq.  Saddam had a big army but it turned out Iraq was not nearly the threat that the Soviets had been imagined to be.  Besides, we took him down, unwisely.  So, who would be the enemy now?  Iran.  But, Iran is not capable of controlling the oil flow out of the Persian Gulf.  They can occasionally disrupt it; and, have somewhat.  Even if they could, the UAE has built a pipeline for their oil to exit on the other side of the strait of Hormuz.  Saudi Arabia’s main oil pipelines can ship oil either to their ports in the Persian Gulf or to their huge port at Jeddah in the Red Sea.  So, why are we there?

CENTCOM WAS ALSO FORMED BECAUSE OF THE INHERENT ASSUMPTION THAT THE U.S. ALLIES AND FRIENDS WERE INCAPABLE OF FENDING FOR THEMSELVES.  They need help that only the U.S. could provide. This assumption is questionable now as noted below.

FINALLY, IT WAS FORMED BECAUSE OF THE FUNDAMENTAL BELIEF THAT ONLY THE U.S. MILITARY COULD GUARANTEE ACCESS TO THE ENERGY NEEDS COMING OUT OF THE PERSIAN GULF THAT WERE ESSENTIAL FOR THE LIFESTYLES AND ECONOMIES OF ITSELF AND ITS FRIENDS.  Thus, any threats to that supply could only be met by a U.S. military response.  But, why only by our military at this point?  Britain and France both have a naval presence in the Gulf. Britain’s base in on Bahrain and France’s is in the UAE.  Britain’s naval warships regularly escort British merchant ships through the Strait of Hormuz.  France is a large military arms salesman in the Gulf providing weapons to 4 of the 5 states there. They have signed weapons sale agreements worth billions with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait.  Israel has “special weapons” on their air-independent submarines which are regularly on duty as well in the Gulf.  Their military capabilities are formidable compared to Iran’s. The UAE has stealth F-35I planes to use and is part of the Persian Gulf Coalition.

It may be that CENTCOM’s main raison d’etres no longer apply.  But, does that mean we should withdraw all of our military from the ME?

To answer that we need to be aware of what our vital interests are in the ME 

1) it is vital, non-negotiable, that no foreign power can control trade anywhere in the ME, most especially in the Persian Gulf since the free flow of oil is still needed in the U.S. along with our friends and allies.  Freedom of the seas has long been a major issue for the U.S.  That certainly impacts American relations with Iran. The ME matters because of location, location, location.  It straddles the connections between three continents.  Even if there were no oil, the U.S. would still keep some military in the ME and particularly in the Gulf. As a result of Benghazi, the U.S. has developed a rapid response military team capable of reaching any American installation in the ME within a few hours.

2) Ensure that no foreign power or even a power in the ME controls that Gulf or the Eastern Med.  That is why our Sixth fleet is located in the Eastern Med and the Fifth fleet is based in Bahrain. Contrary to myth, the U.S. has not withdrawn from those bases located in the ME.

3) “A fair field for American businessmen in competition with foreign powers, especially China.”  We are a mercantile people with heavy investments in the ME so those folks desire protection of their assets.

4) The U.S. has a fundamental, non-negotiable, commitment to the security of Israel.  Our commitment there goes back to Wilson’s acceptance of the Balfour Declaration. We share democratic values; and, we cooperate at the highest levels militarily and in intelligence.  We have a multi-year arms agreement with Israel to enable Israel to maintain a distinct qualitative edge over any ME adversaries.

5) The U.S. prefers a peaceful resolution of disputes by negotiation or by arbitration.  Americans have believed that change happens for the best when it is peaceful.  However, our own domestic politics have become so dysfunctional that it makes having a coherent foreign policy difficult to achieve.  What can most Americans agree on, amicably? Hopefully that these interests outlined above are worth defending.

Further, as far as the ME is concerned, generally, Americans are ill informed or even misinformed about foreign affairs there, never mind geography. One of the first exercises I have had my ME students do is to place the names of the ME countries properly on a blank map of the ME that has the state boundaries in place.  Very few can do it.  In addition, Americans do not understand the complexities of the ME. How many would be able to give a correct answer to explain the main differences between Sunni and Shia Islam?  Very, very few. They would not know that a major impediment to democracy there is the widespread custom of marrying one’s cousins.  Almost none realize that Islam has at least 4 schools of thought about Sharia, not just one.

A very good example of a common belief is that the surge worked in Iraq; and, that the U.S. threw away something that worked.  The reality was that the surge was not just intended to defeat ISIS in Iraq, which it did, BUT ALSO to provide the peace needed for the Shi’ite Iraqi government to work out a wealth and power sharing agreement between the Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds. That government has not been able to do that so what was gained by the surge was soon lost.

6) The U.S. has found that it was pretty good at taking down dictators and nasty regimes as in Libya and Iraq; but it has been utterly unsuccessful in finding a way to build some form of western style democracy in those countries.  We should not try that again.  If the U.S. and Israel succeeded in taking down the Iranian regime, is there any guarantee that the resulting regime would be any better?

To summarize, it is reasonable to assume that the U.S. is NOT withdrawing from the Persian Gulf let alone the ME.  We can hope that our government will be wiser in the future about using our military there. 

Biden and Putin

This meeting bears little resemblance to when Reagan and Gorbachev met.  They found trust in each other and a set of common interests.

Biden and Putin will not have any meeting like that.  Nor, can they be expected to have Biden accept any denials by Putin of interference within the U.S. as Trump did.  What can be expected?

Do not expect the two to have much in the way of significant interests in common.  Putin does not want a positive relationship with the U.S. and the West.  He needs them to be adversaries to help justify his government’s actions towards its own citizens not to mention towards its neighbors.  He is a strong Russian nationalist coupled with Russian Orthodoxy.  He sees himself as the defender of the Orthodox in the Middle East as they have asked him to be. He has a healthy list of grievances, real and imagined, with the U.S. and the West.  Further, He sees China as Russia’s friend and the U.S. as their adversary.

First of all, Putin feels that Biden and the U.S. has a sense of moral superiority towards Putin and Russia.  Putin believes they have no justification for that belief.  He is aware that former President Trump does not accept his loss and is pursuing tossing Biden from power with the aid of the GOP.  He knows we have serious internal inequities including the issue of race, and of the police vis a vis the inner cities.  He sees that the U.S. is corrupt since it allows virtually unregulated social media control of itself, and subsidizes ethanol not to mention oil and gas, and that a number of states have been circumscribing the right to vote in order to benefit the GOP or to expand the vote to benefit the Democratic party along with the widespread use of gerrymandering.

He also believes that the U.S. has serious moral failures in its foreign policy such as Trump allowing Erdogan’s military free access to routing the Kurds causing a humanitarian disaster.  In addition, he thinks Iran has every right to defend itself from the U.S.’s sanctions and interference in its internal affairs.  He has already provided Iran with Russia’s state of the art anti-missile systems with Russian advisors on the ground; and has been overseeing the building of a railroad from Russia via Azerbaijan to benefit the Azeri minority in Iran.

What does he want?  He strongly wants the U.S. to allow him to rule as he sees fit in Russia and in its relations with its neighbors.  Biden cannot and will not give him what he wants.

Biden seeks a normal set of relations with Russia where they can agree on some items but disagree on others.  That may be possible in a few areas such as in dealing with climate change, He wants Russia to desist from its cyberattacks including allowing ransomware attacks on the U.S and interference in the 2016 and 2020 elections, back off from any military aggression vis a vis Ukraine, and its human rights abuses as with Navalny. He has called Putin a “killer” and has imposed serious sanctions on Russia back in April for its abuses.

But, Biden’s actions can not be expected to change Putin’s behavior.  Putin appears unmoved by Biden’s sanctions or hard words about him.  The two can be expected to have strong words to speak to each other with little agreement.  The discussions will be “frank”. Putin strongly denies any support for cyberattacks or ransomware criminals; and, argues instead that the U.S. seems to be preparing to cyberattack Russia.

It does seem that the ransomware criminals located in Russia know that as long as they don’t attack Russian interests that they have a free hand to do what they want to do.  Russia has so far shown no interest in regulating them.  Putin has proposed that Russia would be willing to allow extradition of ransomware criminals to the U.S. if the U.S. does the same with its cyber criminals who attack Russia.  That is highly unlikely to take place.  The U.S. intelligence folks believe that they cannot share with Russia what they know about the ransomware criminals as the Russians will tip those criminals that the U.S. knows of their efforts.

The U.S. sanctions imposed by Obama and by Trump have not changed Russia’s behavior and so far neither has Biden’s.  What can be done?  Working together with U.S. allies to confront Russia together may have some chance of marginal success.  Arms controls may be one area of agreement as a framework for strategic stability.  Indeed, new arms control negotiations have already begun. Climate change could be as well.

Arguably, no President has known Russia better than Biden since Reagan and H.W. Bush.  He has no illusions of any “reset” as did W., Obama, and Trump.  He will be straightforward and that is something that Putin will appreciate.  There will not be any gamesmanship.  Putin has publicly expressed a desire for strategic stability in arms control and cooperation in reducing carbon emissions.

That is likely to be the most that can be expected of their meetings.

What were Jim Crow era legal restrictions on blacks voting? Does GA’s new election law reflect these restrictions?

The restrictions varied a bit depending on the southern state, but these were the main restrictions.

  1. Literacy tests—a potential voter had to be able to read and interpret the Constitution (or some other document).  The key word here was “interpret”.  The election judges were always white males and not at all inclined to let a black pass the test.
  2. Poll taxes—in order to vote a potential voter had to pay $25 to $35 depending on the Jim Crow law. Very few blacks; but also a significant number of poor whites had that much cash.
  3. Grandfather clauses—a potential voter could not vote if his father or grandfather could not vote prior to 1867.  Needless to say slaves could not vote and after the 13th amendment passed to end slavery in 1865, very few new freedmen could vote prior to 1867.
  4. Felony disenfranchisement.  The documentary Slavery By Another Name shows that blacks were often arrested for minor offenses but were legally felonies; and had to work it off in chain gangs.  Once convicted, they were ineligible to vote.  A commonly used “crime” was vagrancy where an adult had to prove that one had a job.  If the person stopped by the sheriff could not prove it, he would be arrested for vagrancy which was a felony and he had to work it off.  This was used to keep blacks from running away to another county or state to get away from sharecropping which amounted to debt peonage.  If a black person ran away, the sheriff would know soon he was new and would ask him for proof of employment.
  5. Property tests—where a potential voter had to own property to be able to vote.  Sharecroppers did not own property.  90% of all blacks were sharecroppers.
  6. All white primaries.  In the Democratic party controlled south, a potential voter had to be white to vote in their state’s Democratic primary.  Republicans had no chance of being elected in the solid Dem South so their primaries were meaningless.
  7. Voter purges.  Periodically the election officials purged the voting rolls of anyone remotely suspected of being black.
  8. Violence.  If you were black and attempted to vote, you faced death or torture or at least a cross burning in your front yard.  Lynchings were common.

Is there anything in the Ga law like any of these restrictions?  The answer is no.  For the history of segregation in GA please see:

So, what is the problem?  If GA had voted for Trump, then there would not have been a call for a new election law.  Trump undermined faith in the voting system by alleging fraud but none of his many lawsuits were able to prove that in court.  Further, in GA, the recounts verified that Trump had lost the election. Still, he continued to be a sore loser.  Trump put GOP politicians in the miserable position of having to address “voter integrity” though there was not any proof of a lack of voter integrity.  The GOP seemed to panic because the state has been trending Democratic. They likely acted out of desperation to stay in power; and, to avoid Trump’s nasty accusations. That is reprehensible but that does not mean they engaged in real Jim Crow legislation.  GA is not remotely in reach of carrying out any of the above noted restrictions. And, the GA GOP could legitimately argue that the absentee ballot system needed to be improved.

But, GA did strip its election officials of all power to run the elections.  Their Sec of State’s authority was taken away and awarded to a politically appointed State Election Board. That was uncalled for.  That is the real problem with their law, not a reversion to Jim Crow.  The law was passed BECAUSE Trump was not elected in GA.  He personally attacked the state’s governor, legislature, and its Sec of State for not doing his will.  That was icky and was totally unjustified.  The Governor and the legislature then dreamed up this law to ensure voter integrity without any evidence that it was needed.

Blacks understandably felt this attempt to preserve GOP power was Jim Crowish.  No black representatives in the legislature voted for this act.  Yet, as noted above, it is highly unlikely that the GA legislature acted out of a desire to reimpose Jim Crow.  The law is a mixed bag that included some legit improvements as well as some that are not. 

Attack the law for what it did and not for what it did not do.  The law did not include one single feature of the bad old Jim Crow laws.

Black America in Peril

A recent issue of The Economist on p. 25 carried the headline Black America in peril. The article begins with a quote from Dr. W.E.B. Dubois in 1899: “The most difficult social problem in the matter of Negro health…” was why were so few whites bothered by that problem. He carried out a pioneering sociological study of “Negro health” in Philadelphia. His research indicated that: “The Philadelphia Negro” lived and suffered in the worst sections of the city with abominable health care.

Regarding the alleged police murder recently in Minneapolis by a white officer against a black unarmed citizen, one really should see if the issues Dubois identified are still in essence true? The answers point to YES they are. Take a look at D.C., for example. In the two poorest black wards the black residents have little access to decent food and health care. Thus, it should not be surprising that the group most impacted by Covid-19 are blacks. If they contract the virus, they are 2.4 times more likely to die from it than whites. Covid-19 was bound to especially harm those in tightly compacted neighborhoods with high poverty rates coupled with obesity and diabetes issues.

President Obama made a serious effort via the ACA to address these issues by extending Medicaid. The 20 million Americans who received health care thanks to that act were most likely blacks or Latinos. As The Economist pointed out, this helps explain why the opposition to the ACA came primarily from whites especially connected with the GOP. This conclusion was reached earlier by Dr. Kevin Fiscella in The American Journal of Medicine in August, 2015: “In summary, opposition to ACA is largely by white Americans. This opposition seems to be associated with increasing political polarization surrounding the Obama presidency, perceived self-interest, and racial attitudes.” It is noteworthy that now former President Trump had been shrinking the act’s reach through technical changes.

If you add to the Covid-19 results the unemployment rate, due to the various shutdowns, is twice as high among blacks as it is for whites then you are in a better position to understand why there are so many protests and with that riots. Further, there is likely to be a rental crisis regarding payments for those who have lost their jobs or are on layoff. That is especially likely to hit blacks. In Minneapolis, black home ownership was much less than white home ownership.

Finally, we come to perceptions of police relationships with blacks and whites. The gap is large between blacks and whites. Close to 81% of blacks believe that police are far more likely to use deadly force against them than 61% of Hispanics and 33% of whites. Research shows that DWB (driving while black) IS a reality.

Many blacks are certain they are more likely to be followed by department store security guards in upscale stores than whites. Why should it be that a professional black would feel that he must introduce himself to his white neighbors after he and his wife bought a house in their neighborhood to help insure that none of them will call the police about a “suspicious” person in their neighborhood? Why should black professional women need to worry about their sons or husbands being detained by police while driving in a “nice” community? Or how come a well dressed black man hears the sounds of car doors locking as he walks near them in the middle of the day? Or, a black university student having to show a student ID to campus security while walking to the University library on the campus?

Perhaps the most significant current disconnect is the gap between who certain elected politicians blame for the riots and those who actually did cause them. The politicians are quick to blame “outside agitators” (sound familiar to those involved in the Civil Rights movement?) such as Antifa on the left; or, right wing white hate groups. In fact, the evidence suggests that the majority of the perpetrators are local, not from outside. The CBC news team reported that the majority of those arrested, for example, in Minneapolis, came from that region. They have also reported that it appears that too many PDs have not learned the lessons from Ferguson, MO.

They need to be trained in and then held accountable for practicing community policing. That means the police need to know their neighborhoods. That can only happen by walking in them to meet folks and not just drive through them. If its a Spanish speaking neighborhood, the police should be able to converse in Spanish.

In short, we still mostly live in a racially divided society; and, have done so for a long time. Dr. King’s Dream has yet to be fulfilled. So, what will you do about that?

How to end the main political dysfunctions?


1. The states should do away with gerrymandering districts by their Governors and legislatures.  We have a situation where the real election within both parties is the primaries.  Politicians of both parties are scared of voting for anything that might bring on a serious primary challenger, typically a “purist” from the extreme.  In 2016, only 17% of eligible voters participated in GOP primaries and only 12% in Dem primaries.  The whole nominating system is seriously flawed.  We need competitive elections and not have the primaries be the election.

2. Get rid of the limits to donations to parties and set strict limits on donating private money to candidates.

3. Require prospective candidates to get petition signatures from elected officials and county party chairs. Send unbound delegates, such as elected officials and county party leaders, to their conventions.

4. Restore earmarks because they help grease the give and take of politics and compromise. Earmarks never amounted to large sums of money, but they helped promote genuine bargaining. I’ll vote for your proposal if you vote for mine works best with some pork.  Trying to be a party leader is meaningless unless you have some carrots to dispense or withhold which should include earmarks and committee membership/seniority.

5. Seriously restrict the availability of swarms of political ads from PACs for individuals and shift that money into the hands of the political parties.  Do that with restrictions on how the internet can be used to raise funs for candidates and NOT for parties.  The parties should be responsible for money raising and spending, not the candidates.  We have private political machines such as the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove on the right; and Tom Steyer on the left.  Those drive who gets nominated in the primaries and not the parties.

6.  Break up the oligopoly of social media platforms of Twitter and Facebook.  They are unregulated by the FCC.  Restore the “fairness doctrine” to the use of the airwaves in TV, the internet, and radio.

7. The Constitution has no system for holding elected politicians accountable.    It should be impossible for one Senator to shut down the government as Cruz did.  Such a rogue person should be “fired”. 

8. Re-establish the seniority system in both Houses of Congress for appointments to committees. That system rewarded party loyalty and ensured that those at the top were experienced.  Restore Gingrich’s cut of committee staffs by one third.  We need professionals helping the committees function well.  Allow the committees to meet in private so they can put packages together.  Delicate negotiations CAN’T be carried out in public.  I know that from being the facilitator for labor-management negotiations.  You can speak candidly in private.  No sane person would negotiate publicly.  It is noteworthy that the House and Senate Intelligence committees carried out much of their discussions on Benghazi in private; and, thus produced highly credible reports which torpedoed the various conspiracy theories of the time.

9.  We must find ways to reduce the antipolitical sentiment.  Trump, Sanders, and Cruz had in common that they were political sociopaths—they did not care what politicians thought about their behavior and they DIDN’T NEED TO CARE.  That has to end.  Biden’s election should help here.

An analysis of Trump’s trade policies

Now that President Trump’s term in office is nearing its end, it may be helpful to take a look at his trade policies.  We should look at his intentions and how well they were accomplished.  What is his legacy?  These policies naturally have led to a fair amount of controversy so it is my task to make as fair minded an approach as can be done at this point in time.  

His principal strategy was one of economic nationalism to be pursued primarily but not exclusively with bilateral agreements rather than multilateral.  He felt strongly that the U.S. had been unfairly taken advantage of and that bilateral agreements were likely to improve our situation.  This is perhaps his most consistent belief since the 1980s.  In particular, he campaigned for the Presidency intending to be rid of what he regarded as a scandal of a negative trade deficit which for him was the worst of the U.S.s disastrous policies.  Indeed, his main economic advisor, Peter Navarro, was sure that the deficit would be eliminated within the four years of his first term in office. 

He also promised to bring back manufacturing jobs which he believed had been taken from us by foreign competitors and by defective trade policies pursued starting with President Reagan.  He intended for competitors like China and Mexico to pay for his tariffs on their goods.

He has not done well in achieving those goals.  Indeed, most economists including the late Milton Friedman have believed that trade deficits usually were a sign of a healthy economy.  Trump did not succeed in lowering our trade deficit.  In fact, it has gone up and is on track to be at its highest level in 12 years.

He has not been notably successful in bringing back manufacturing jobs.  The percentage of jobs in manufacturing has stayed roughly the same as they were when he came into office.  What jobs that were preserved were done at great cost.  As an example, for every job saved in the steel industry, U.S. businesses and consumers have had to pay up to $900,000.  Farmers incomes have been sustained only because of massive subsides to them to compensate for their lost markets as in China.

American consumers have had to pay for the tariffs he has imposed on foreign goods.   The amount of revenue gained from those tariffs did not come close to the costs that American consumers have had to pay.  Yet, Trump persists in his belief that tariffs bring in substantial revenues.  

Trump promised that China would buy many more American goods.  Instead, China has only bought about 53% of what they agreed to buy in the Phase I deal finalized in February 2020.  They are importing less from the U.S. than they were in 2017. China has pursued a policy to be less and less dependent on a trade relationship with the U.S. Trump’s targets were unrealistic.  Further, he has attempted to negotiate trade with China without the aid of allies like the EU who had offered to work with him.  Trump has correctly identified a number of China’s mercantilist policies but has not been able to substantially change them.

Perhaps President Trump’s eeriest decision was his claiming there was a “national security” threat existing from our steel and aluminum imports—primarily from Canada and other friendly nations.  Critics see this as an abuse of his authority to impose tariffs on those imports.  Canada has retaliated with tariffs particularly on American ag products forcing the Trump administration to pay billions to American farmers to make up for his decision.  Steel and aluminum are essential for producing washing machines as from Whirlpool.  The few jobs that have been created here by these protective tariffs have come at the cost of an $86 average price increase.

The GOP once stood for free trade and has abandoned that principle.  All in all, Trump’s tariffs have cost the average American household about $1,000 a year by making American products more expensive along with the costs of imported goods.

That is the general picture.  Now is the time to look at specific trade agreements.

The Korus renegotiation (with South Korea) has, despite much ballyhoo, amounted to a minor tweak in the U.S./South Korea trade relationship not a wholesale redo.

The Japanese trade deal was designed to make up to some extent for what the U.S. lost by Trump’s decision to withdraw from the TPP.  It was not a “game changer’ as he described it.  It did increase some access for some American products but it did not touch the main issues related to autos and auto parts, aircraft, liquefied propane gas, rice, and semiconductor manufactured goods from the U.S. 

USMCA—First of all NAFTA was not one of the worst deals the U.S. had ever made.  Yes, significant numbers of American jobs relocated to Mexico estimated at somewhere between 500,000 and 750,000 but those jobs were not as safe places to work in as in the U.S. and were more harmful to Mexico’s environment.  But, the transference of jobs to Mexico significantly reduced the large numbers of Mexicans who had been coming here illegally.  It also led to extensive supply chains in the U.S.  Mexico’s economy improved enough to become part of the G20 and thus a much more substantial market.  However, the deal had wiped out much of Mexico’s agricultural base as it could not compete with American farm products.  Further, though the jobs that went to Mexico paid better than what Mexicans were used to, they did cost the U.S. significant numbers of jobs.  And American jobs that remained now paid less.

But, trade between the three countries tripled in a short time.  The amount of direct investments also tripled in value.  NAFTA reduced the prices of goods thus benefitting consumers in all three nations because of the absence of tariffs.  It improved government spending as contracts were now available to entrepreneurs from all three nations.  That improved costs for all because of increased competition.

On balance, NAFTA was a good deal for all three nations.

Well, how about the USMCA?  It was NOT a full overhaul by any means of NAFTA.  It did augment trade and the production of autos in all three nations.  But, over 6 years, it will bring in no big numbers of value.  It is estimated to improve the American economy by close to $86.2 billion or 0.35% of American GNP.  It is marginally better than NAFTA was.

What about leaving the TPP?  That has proved costly to the U.S. as American products have had to pay their tariffs.  But, what seems to have escaped the attention of most Americans, as Fareed Zakaria has pointed out, was the enhancement of the TPP to now be the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) of 15 Asian nations which created the world’s largest free trade pact by value this year.  It encompasses about 30% of the world’s GNP, larger than the EU or NAFTA.  The U.S. is NOT a part of it and thus Americans have to pay their tariffs to get into it.  Obama’s pivot to Asia epitomized by the TPP has been left in the dust.

And, if Americans have not been paying attention to that, odds are they are even more likely to not be aware that of the 55 nations in Africa, 54 have joined what started out in 2018 as an African free trade agreement between 28 African nations.  It is geographically THE largest free trade bloc in the world.  That IS a game changer as it should increase the value of trade within Africa by 15-25 percent by 2040.  Here, too, the U.S. is on the outside looking in.

China is in the process of working with Japan and South Korea to create yet another free trade pact.  China recently reached in October of this year a trade pact with the EU leaving the U.S. out in the cold.  The EU had offered to work with the U.S. vis a vis China but were turned down so they reached their own deal with China.  China has now replaced the U.S. as the EU’s main market. 

What has the Trump administration been doing while all this has been taking place?  Pursuing Trump’s economic nationalistic trade policies. 

The world now has major trade pacts in Africa, between the EU and China, the RCEP agreement covering much of Asia, and the USMCA.  The U.S. also has a much smaller regional trade agreement with the Central American nations plus the Dominican Republic that was negotiated under the Obama administration.  Finally, there is the largest Latin America trade agreement which is Mercosur that includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The elimination of most tariffs among the trading partners has resulted in trade revenues of more than $16 billion annually.

President Trump’s preference for bilateral agreements has been greatly surpassed by the major multilateral trade agreements. This is a rough environment for President elect Biden to inherit.

The 2020 Presidential Election Was Stolen?


That is what President Trump and his 100% supporters have been claiming.  It is the mother of all conspiracy theories.  As Fareed Zakaria recently put it well, this canard is akin to the “Stab in the Back” conspiracy theory launched and widely believed in Germany post WWI.  Its supporters claimed that the German Army had not lost the war.  They believed that Germany had been stabbed in the back by civilian leaders including Jews by signing an armistice to end the war that had no reason to be signed. That gained quite a bit of traction that was a major factor in fueling the rise of the Nazi Party and the demise of the Weimar Republic, a democracy.

The moral is that democracies can commit suicide.  Lincoln predicted that if the U.S. ever fell it would come by suicide not by some transatlantic giant.  Suicide was seriously tried in the Civil War.

Now, we have the President and many of his 100% supporters claiming the election was stolen.  They do not accept that the vote counts in the key states were honest in spite of the fact that in key cases GOP officials, such as Georgia’s Secretary of State, have said this was an honest, transparent election.  All major networks, including Fox News, have called the election for Biden.  Naturally, Trump has attacked Fox News.

Trump’s lawsuits have failed to provide convincing evidence of fraud sufficient to change the results of the 4 states in question.  His big-name lawyers quit since it was embarrassing to be in court without proof.  Guiliani is inadequate to the task.  Recounts will not change the fact of a Biden victory.  Recounts at most normally change the vote one way or another by a few hundred votes.  Trump recently tweeted a false claim about 6,000 Biden votes in AZ.  He has made so many false claims that one would wonder why anyone would believe anything he has to say about the election.

Still, Trump and his personal lawyer Giuliani have been claiming that the votes were fraudulent because they were counted by software provided by a foreign firm owned allegedly by Venezuelans and Chinese.  There were human error glitches, but NOT any conspiracy to subvert an honest count.  Dominion IS a foreign firm—owned and operated in Canada with offices in the U.S.

From such small errors, a big conspiracy theory has emerged.  See:

These conspiracy theories do nothing more than attack the integrity of our democratic voting processes.  They are designed for Trump to hold onto his Presidency at any cost.  He may not concede that he lost as a result.  Then, what?  Maybe he could only say he lost but by a rigged election.  That way he could launch a movement to win it in 2024.  The states are certifying their results, but democracy depends on the losers accepting the results.  He does not and may not. His 100%ers may be a thorn in Biden’s administration along with Trump.

In addition, several states such as PA and WI also had paper ballots and all contested states involved had a paper trail suitable for audits.  For example, recounts of the paper ballots in GA and WI would have exposed any electronic fraud.  None was found.  In those WI counties that used Dominion, WI law requires that each ballot must be hand counted twice to make sure the machines are accurate.  They were accurate.

Secondarily, there were multiple metropolitan areas that did not use Dominion such as Philadelphia and Allegheny in PA not to mention Milwaukee and Dane in WI.  There were other counties that did not use Dominion.  It is very strange that the Trump campaign would demand recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties as they did not use Dominion.  The recount actually added a few votes to Biden’s total.  Not surprisingly, the Trump campaign at once issued a lawsuit to prevent certification of the vote. It has failed.

In PA, most counties used a hand marked ballot so they had a paper trail for audits.  The Secretary of State carried out a required risk limiting audit of the votes.  No frauds were found.  PA tested every entry point, all software and firmware in its voting machines.  All machines were pre-tested before the election.  All machines had voter-verifiable paper records.  All machines had multilayered security systems in place.  None were connected to or permitted to be on internet facing networks. They partnered with the DHS to conduct multiple in-depth vulnerability assessments of their machines.  All machines had locks with tamper-evident seals in place. No fraud was found.  Again, keep in mind that PA’s two major metropolitan areas did not use Dominion voting count machines.

In Michigan, they have a paper trail for all of their ballots and auditing procedures to ensure vote accuracy.  State officials invested in upgraded voting equipment and increased security measures on the Qualified Voter File—its master database of voter info.  They have had experienced hackers attempt to hack their system to expose vulnerabilities to be fixed.  All Michigan counties used hand marked paper ballots that can be checked in case of any issues.  They developed a new type of audit to enhance security, a risk-limiting audit.  Dominion was only used in two of the counties with issues in GA and MI and the issues were investigated and reported on. Human error, not Dominion, was the problem in both cases.  Not fraud.

GA also had a paper trail system in place.  Its recount required their election workers to look at each of the nearly 5 million paper ballots to determine if there was any fraud in the original machine tallied results. Contrary to another of Trump’s false claims, the human vote counters were required to check all voter signatures against the data base of registered voters signatures.  The machines all printed out paper ballots and the absentee ballots were all hand marked ballots with multiple security items imbedded in them.  The results of the recount disclosed some missing ballots; but all were accounted for in the final totals.  It is counter intuitive that the GOP required a second recount using machines. Strange choice since the GOP had been railing against Dominion voting machines.  Paper ballots are the acid test for determining if the machines had been tampered with.  A printer was used to produce a paper record of voters of voting machines.  The recounts did not change the results of a Biden win.

Finally, GA’s Sec of State held an audit whereby the Dominion machines were gone over by multiple experts to make sure there was no miscounting.  The audit turned up no evidence of any.

In GA, the Sec or State pointed out that something like 24,000 GOP voters voted in their primary but not in the general election.  He has been sure that had they voted Trump would have won, but he is also sure they believed Trump’s accusations of a rigged election so they didn’t bother to vote.  That Sec of State has, along with his wife and co-workers, faced death threats.   Where are the honorable GOP leaders to defend them?

In AZ, state law requires random samples of the ballots be taken from precincts chosen by officials of both parties and they do a hand count to find if the machine tallies add up. They did.  NV also had rigorous audits for though they used Dominion, the machines were geared to produce a paper record.  The audits showed the tallies did add up for the reported Biden win.

None of those audits found any fraud from the machines.  It is crucial if you use machines that you also have a paper trail.  All of the states in question did.  Trump’s early on accusations helped solidify the election officials determination to make sure the vote counts were accurate.  And the vote counts were accurate.  The specific charges of dead people voting have all been refuted.

Finally, and this is telling, it appears that the real threat has not been voter fraud; but Trump’s baseless accusations.  A stab in the back déjà vu?

An addendum: TX filed a lawsuit recently that lacked substance and merit.  Besides not having the standing to make this suit, the suit made a number of proven false claims that the 4 states had violated their own laws.  Trump’s legal team filed over 50 lawsuits arguing that the states in question had done that and had also allowed a great deal of fraud.  I have studied each of the lawsuits filed; and the suits were either rejected or withdrawn for lack of proof with only one exception.  That exception took place in PA; but PA election officials had set aside the ballots in question.  The number of ballots in question came nowhere near the number needed to overturn the results.  The suit attempted to claim that TX had somehow been harmed by the actions of how the 4 states in question had in effect poisoned the election results and thus those results should be rejected.  That was an egregious request.  If we buy that request then any “blue” state could have sued TX for not following its own laws.  After all, the TX governor had on his own authority issued an order to change the election laws in TX:

The Supreme Court had no choice but to reject hearing this suit.  They had already rejected a GOP effort to overturn the results of the election in PA.  The Supreme Court had to be aware of the results of the Trump legal team’s failure to prove their claims.  They also had a deadline to deal with since today is the day the Electoral College makes its decision.

The bottom line is this: Trump lost the election, fair and square.  If he persists in being a poor loser, this will be his eternal legacy.  A stab in the back déjà vu? 

Trends to be aware of in funerals

A summary of a report by a funeral director and a Monument company owner

On Thursday, October 29, 2020 on a Zoom Elmhurst Rotary meeting we had an informative presentation by a funeral director and a Monument company owner about trends they have observed in their line of work.

  1. A major shift from burials towards cremations.  It used to be rather rare to have cremations but now it is close to 50/50 between burials and cremations.  It is surprising to many that cremations are not as inexpensive as they thought they would be.
  2. Those who elect to have a cremation almost never have thought through what to do with the cremains.  If the cremains are to be buried, they need to have a marker which essentially conveys the future message to not dig there.  If they are not to be buried, what is the family going to do with the cremains?  Contrary to myth, few put them on their mantel piece.  A closet is more common.
  3. Those who elect to have a burial rarely know the kinds of mandatory expenses they will face such as having to have a concrete enclosure for the casket, the grave site dug and then filled in after the burial.  Few have done the research needed before they see a funeral director and a monument provider.  Few realize the importance of having a monument to guarantee the burial site will not be disturbed.
  4. The nature of the religious commitment of those coming to funeral directors and monument companies has changed from the great majority being affiliated with a specific religion towards close to 50% non-affiliated.  The latter are looking usually to have a religious service but do not know how to arrange it.  So, the funeral director has to inform them of their options.  Most funeral directors have a short list of those who are going to provide a thoughtful service at a reasonable cost.  A significant number of the non-affiliated do not want a religious service; but wish to have some kind of service.  However, they do not know what their options are.  There still are religions that insist on there being no cremations such as the Eastern Orthodox, Muslims, and Orthodox Jews.
  5. A growing trend towards the majority thinking: It’s all about my convenience.  So many are adamant about having some kind of service; but not anything that would interfere with their existing commitments like a soccer match for one of their children.  These folks are ignoring the reality of death and the need for a grief process.  They do not want a funeral or memorial service to interfere with their existing commitments.  Many appear to have only a little commitment to honoring the family member that died.  Those folks do not provide support for the family that lost someone.  They will put off services of any kind until it is convenient.
  6. Few are aware that in many urban areas there is a growing lack of burial space. There are cities such as San Francisco that have no burial sites available.  Many cemeteries are going out of business for lack of income.  The U.S. is not yet to the stage of parts of Europe where burial space is rented, not owned.
  7. There are fewer and fewer monument providers.  Be sure to choose wisely.  There is also a trend of funeral homes going out of business.
  8. COVID has hit cemeteries hard with more bodies to bury than would be normal just as many hospitals lack sufficient space for patients especially in rural areas.