October, 2018

Marching to the Promised Land

October 23rd, 2018 25 Comments

I’ve been watching and reading the news, trying to find any kind of factual material about the “Migrant Caravan,” but other than breathless accounts of the sheer size of crowd, there isn’t much out there.

The Los Angeles Times sent a reporter down to southern Mexico who wrote touching anecdotal accounts of the desperate people, primarily women, he spoke to, but anecdotal accounts do not qualify as facts.

Fox News published anecdotal accounts of young men eager for work in America, many of whom had been previously deported multiple times. They also ran photographs of young women with children, some just toddlers in diapers. But one of their news programs also reported seeing young men wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Trump is the devil,” and noted accurately that the young men in the caravan greatly outnumber the women and children. Again, neither anecdotal accounts nor isolated incidents qualify as real information.

However, in every shot of the endless line that stretches beyond the capability of any camera to capture it in its entirety, you see men carrying Honduran flags and Guatemalan flags and El Salvadoran flags, sometimes waving them on poles, sometime flags so large they must be carried by two or three men walking abreast. That intrigues me. It also raises many questions.

The US sent almost two-billion dollars in foreign aid to Latin America and the Caribbean in 2017. “Foreign aid” includes a wide variety of programs, from military aid or training and narcotics control to economic support, development assistance, and health programs. In the cases of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, military and narcotics law enforcement aid together constitute a fraction of the amount sent for the other programs.

My first question is, why are we sending that money, if it clearly isn’t helping the people of those countries? (I don’t do twitter, but I understand President Trump asked much the same thing yesterday.)

My next question is what kind of oversight is there over how those governments actually spend that money? Clearly it isn’t helping the people it is meant to help, so do we actually know how much, if any, is being used for its intended purpose(s)? I don’t wish to sound cynical and suspicious, but American aid has been known to end up lining private pockets before, from time to time, and all three of those countries are notorious for their corruption.

And then, most importantly, who sponsored these people and their march? I don’t for an instant believe they all just spontaneously had the same idea, any more than I believed Barack and Hillary’s claim that Benghazi was randomly caused by a group of young men out for a walk. The Wall Street Journal indicated the march was backed by the organization “People Without Borders,” but that organization’s website opens with a bold-print statement vehemently denying any association with the caravan. So who got the migrants going?

And who is supporting them en route? The news accounts reported trucks handing out food and water and toilet paper, but think for a moment of the logistics of feeding, watering, sheltering, and providing other ancillary necessities to 7000+, 10,000+, 14,000+ (it depends which totally honest, well-researched and fact driven news source you choose to believe) ill-equipped people. Who is paying for it? Clearly no one with America’s best interests at heart. And it’s debatable that it was started with the best interests of the poor marchers at heart: at least one person has already died, others have had to be hospitalized, and they haven’t even gotten into drug cartel country yet where the real fun will begin. Let’s be very clear: there is a humanitarian crisis brewing here which America will be called upon to mitigate, and we will, but saving lives is very different from fomenting trouble and encouraging people to risk the lives America will have to save.

Finally, if you were a desperate migrant and really, really wanted to come to America and make a better life for yourself here; if you were so frantic to escape the poverty and lack of opportunity and the violence in your homeland that you would walk between 1400 and 2400 miles (depending on which route they take), why the hell would you wave flags glorifying the memory of the country you’re trying so hard to escape? During the Cold War, I don’t recall any of the young men and women who risked their lives to escape the communist bloc carrying the East German flag, say, as they clambered over the wall. My great-grandparents didn’t display an Irish flag once they and their seven sons finally had a one-room cabin in front of which to display anything. Waving the flag of the country you’re fleeing is not likely to inspire welcoming open arms in the country you’re fleeing to.

Speciousness

October 6th, 2018 24 Comments

 

Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed, despite the boorish and possibly unethical behavior of some Democrats, and in spite of the even more boorish and decidedly illegal behavior of certain well-organized and well-funded left-wing loonies (it being slightly illegal to threaten to kill elected officials). But no one with an IQ above room temperature took the ugly Democrat muck-raking seriously, while screaming and violent protesters simply turned people off, patriotic Americans being essentially peaceable and law-abiding.

Scarier are some of the more subtle and meretricious arguments against Mr. Kavanaugh like the following one I stumbled across on Facebook:

“Let’s do some simple math.

Per the March 2017 study on reports of sexual assault in the Journal of Forensic Psychology, 5% of reports of sexual assault are unfounded – i.e., false reports.

Brett Kavanaugh has had two women accuse him of sexual assault.

The odds of each of these being a false accusation is 5%. That sounds pretty high, right? 1 in 20.

Now, what are the odds of *both* of these being false accusations? That’s two separate events, each with 5% odds. So you multiply those probabilities together: 5% x 5% – or, to write it in more easily multipliable numbers, .05 x .05.

.05 x .05 = .0025, or .25%. So, the odds are one quarter of one percent that both women accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault are making false accusations.

Or, to put it another way, the odds are 99.75% that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted one or both of these women.

If you don’t believe women, maybe you can at least believe simple math.”

Oh, brave new world! Amid all the shrill hysteria on the streets and the preposterous posturing of politicians and pundits such quiet, dignified, and irrefutable reasoning seems a breath of fresh air. But bear with me, Gentle Reader, and let’s think about it.

If you wish to live in a world where mathematical formulae and statistical probabilities replace presumption of innocence, there it is, quiet, dignified, and irrefutable.

If you wish to live in a world where the worst, ugliest kind of tribalism (in this case it’s, “If he’s male, he must be guilty,” but it could be, “if he’s white, if he’s old, if he’s conservative… and on and on) replaces rule of law, there it is, quiet, dignified, and irrefutable.

If you wish to live in a world where anyone who disagrees with your point of view justifies the crudest, most vicious, salacious destruction of character, there it is, quiet, dignified, and irrefutable.

On the other hand, if you are, as I am, one of those smelly deplorables who revere and deeply believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the rule of law, the presumption of innocence, all the institutions that have made this country the envy of the world, the whole glorious—sometimes messy and sometimes wrong—history of the most generous, tolerant, and accepting nation on earth, then I suggest you get to a polling booth this November, and vote for a world where guilt and innocence are not determined by equations or statistical probabilities, let alone ugly and unsubstantiated accusations.

I Said, She Said

October 2nd, 2018 10 Comments

 

Predictably, there is absolute and irreconcilable hysteria over the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court Justice hearings. One side says he’s a saint and she’s just another evil and sleazy Democrat party operative who’ll stoop to any disgusting low and tell any disgusting lie; the other side says she’s a tragic victim and he’s an alcoholic, drug-administering serial rapist and pedophile.

Neither side can prove its accusations or its defense which, just as predictably, gives us the truly sleazy and over-the-top hysterical theatrics of senators and media alike.

Let’s all take a step back, Gentle Reader, and consider a well-known truth of law enforcement.

There are reasons why there is a statute of limitations for almost all crimes except murder. I say “almost” all because the laws vary from state to state, but for our purposes here, almost all is close enough for government work, you should pardon the expression.

One of the primary reasons for a statute of limitations is the fallibility of memory, and before you accuse me of being partisan, hear my story:

Before we bought our little ranch, Darleen and I were living in a house at a fairly high elevation in the southern Sierras. We had put the house on the market with an eye to buying the ranch and one day a realtor called to request a showing. She showed up with a very distinguished, very elegant, very sophisticated gentleman. He made all the right noises; he chatted easily and graciously; he spoke German to me; he had a good eye and immediately identified and admired our two best paintings; he said nice things about the house.

He told us he was one of the men in charge of investments for the Vatican; that he had a flat in Rome and a house in Germany, both of which he intended to keep, but that he was planning for his retirement, hence his interest in our house.

I thought at the time it was odd that such a sophisticated and urbane man would want to retire to an impoverished rural county, but the southern Sierras are heartbreakingly beautiful, so I didn’t make too much of it. I also thought it odd he should be interested in such a small and modest house as ours, but as if reading my mind, he mentioned casually that he was planning to buy several homes in the area so that he could gather his mother and a sister around him when he retired.

It was all just extraordinary enough to be believable, and yet…

And yet, some instinct in me, some warning bell, went off, and while I smiled and chatted and shook hands when he left, I was wary, and I doubted anything would come of it.

I was both right and wrong.

A week later, I was home alone when I saw him driving down our driveway, unannounced, by himself, without the realtor. Those are all no-no’s and I was immediately on guard. He asked if he could take one more look around before he flew back to Rome. I said no. We spoke very briefly in the doorway, and then he got back in his car and I watched him drive away.

At the time, I attributed his visit to nothing more outrageous than an unethical and sleazy attempt to cut the realtor out of a commission. That was what I told Darleen when she got home and as the realtor was a friend of hers, she called to give her friend a heads-up.

Another week went by. I was in the local gym, working out, when our police chief and a detective walked in and told me they needed to question me. It turned out my instincts had been correct, but they just hadn’t gone far enough. Our sophisticated, urbane, and well-heeled buyer was actually just a slick con-man with a lengthy felony record, and the police now wanted to know what he had said to us, what he had told us about his plans, if he had mentioned any places in California other than our little community, and especially if he had mentioned the names of any other people. And on and on.

At one point, the detective, who was taking notes, asked me what car the man had been driving. That was easy: I had seen him driving to the house, and I had watched him drive away. It was brand new Something-or-Other, a new car that had just been introduced that year and was being advertised everywhere, so it was very recognizable. Did I remember the color? Oh, yes, of course. It was bright red.

There was a long pause and the two officers looked at each other.

Was I positive it was red?

Yes, one-hundred percent positive. Bright red.

Another long pause, and then the detective said, “We have him in custody, and when we arrested him, he was driving a brand new Something-or-Other that was bright blue.”

And I instantly knew what had happened. That car was being touted in commercials on every television channel and in print ads in every magazine, and in each case, in each print ad and each commercial, it was being shown in bright red. I had simply conflated what I saw in the ads and commercials with what I had seen in my driveway.

So how do we now reconcile the polar opposites of sworn testimony from two very believable people, each of whom is absolutely certain they are speaking the unvarnished truth? I suspect Ms. Ford probably did have some extremely unpleasant experience at some party at some house in some neighborhood at some time, but I also suspect her thirty-six-year-later identification of Brett Kavanaugh is due to a conflation of unrelated events. She may have seen him at some other party, or he may have reminded her of her actual attacker, or… Who knows? Memory is both fallible and unreliable. Hence the statute of limitations.

Contrary to a posting making the rounds of Facebook, presumption of innocence is not confined solely to criminal cases; it is the basis for all legal proceedings and, more importantly, all civilized behavior. Due process in a legal sense is not an issue here, but the same Facebook posting claims nothing is being taken from Mr. Kavanaugh. Oh, really? Reputation is no small thing and taking that from a man can destroy his life as effectively as taking his liberty or his rights or his property.

Alan Dershowitz, the liberal Democrat lawyer and legal scholar, doesn’t care one way or the other about Brett Kavanaugh, and he believes Merrick Garland should currently be seated on the Supreme Court, but Mr. Dershowitz rightly pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal article that this is no longer about Mr. Kavanaugh’s qualifications. Instead, according to Mr. Dershowitz, it has devolved down into nothing more than a fundamental issue of fairness. Mr. Dershowitz goes on to point out, quite correctly, that we live in a new age of sexual McCarthyism, where all that is needed is an allegation—never mind how outrageous, improbable or impossible to prove—to ruin a man’s life.

The poet, philosopher, and theologian Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined the term “motiveless malignity” to describe Iago’s evil glee in destroying Othello. The same term might be equally applied to the Democrat members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and their equally evil, equally gleeful attacks on Mr. Kavanaugh. If you really believe Roe v. Wade is so important a touchstone that preserving it justifies any degree of dishonesty, filth, hate-mongering, smirking innuendo, character assassination, and posturing, then you have no business serving in any government at any level.

Did a crime occur? Definitively. The crime that has occurred is the ruthless destruction of a man’s good name, based purely on allegations, without any scintilla of evidence, never mind proof, by the likes of such paragons of probity and honesty as Senator Spartacus, Richard I’m-a-Courageous-Vietnam-Vet-Who-Never-Set-Foot-in-Vietnam-and-Lied-About-It Blumenthal, Dick Weaponize-the-IRS Durbin, Mazie-I-Believe-Her-So-We-Don’t-Need-No-Stinking-Constitution Hirono, Dianne-My-Chauffeur-Was-a-Chinese-Spy-and-My-Husband-Has-Made-Millions-in-China Feinstein, et al.

There is no limit to the depravity of man, but it sure as hell hits its zenith in politics. Or should that be nadir?

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