Archive for January, 2024

The Immigration Mess

Yesterday, the House Homeland Security Committee approved, along party lines, two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. A floor vote is likely within the next week or so.

Republicans charge Mayorkas didn’t uphold immigration laws, exceeded his authority, risked public safety, made false statements to Congress, obstructed congressional oversight and impeded construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Many, if not all, of the charges are likely overstatements of the situation, if not false.

From what I see, Mayorkas – and anyone in his position – is in an impossible situation. The U.S. currently doesn’t even have a legally consistent and unified position on immigration. Neither party has an actual policy that could be legally implemented at present, nor does Homeland Security have the resources to find, stop, process, or reject the vast number of illegal immigrants.

The Republicans are right in demanding a workable and effective immigration policy, but impeaching Mayorkas won’t do anything to improve the immigration mess, because the proceedings are effectively admitting that Congress has failed for decades, under both parties, to deal with the problem, and making Mayorkas a scapegoat for long-standing Congressional failure won’t do anything constructive.

A Senate coalition is making an effort at a comprehensive bill to at least start in dealing with the problem and what do the House Republicans do? Try to impeach a bureaucrat who’s saddled with inadequate resources to deal with the overwhelming number of illegal and legal immigrants, conflicting laws, and a Congress that doesn’t really want to make hard choices.

That’s political posturing, not leadership.

Destroying Truth

I have a long history of political involvement. My father was an attorney and a local city councilman, as well as acting mayor for a time. My mother worked in local politics. Both were Republicans, although in the 1990s, my mother left the Republican party because of its growing misogyny.

My college degree was in political economy, and after my time as a Navy search and rescue pilot during the Vietnam War, I went into the business sector, first as an industrial economist and then as a real estate salesman. At the same time, I got involved in grassroots politics, as a Republican precinct committeeman [about the time I sold my first story]. That led to working as a paid research director on a successful Republican congressional campaign, after which the congressman hired me as his Washington, D.C., legislative assistant. When he became a senator, I was hired by his successor as his staff director. When the Reagan Administration took over, I became the head of Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the U.S. EPA. After three years there, I moved back into the private sector as a senior manager at a Washington, D.C., consulting firm for another seven years.

Stress and associated health issues prompted me to leave D.C. and the high pressure, but I continued political and regulatory consulting for another three years, until my writing finally provided enough income. But I continued to follow and comment on government and politics.

And after fifty years of political involvement, I can honestly say that I have never seen as great a disdain for the facts as is now evidenced by almost the entire Republican Party. While U.S. political parties have never been known for their strict adherence to the facts, in the last century, with the blatant exception of the McCarthy years and until the last ten years, they tended to limit their excesses to selective omission, modest misrepresentation, implied connections to problems, non-verbal visual allusion, and the like. There were always some outliers, but they were the definite minority.

From what I can see and read, the Democrats have intensified the old tactics, but there’s still a certain accuracy there, if not so much as there used to be.

As for the Republicans, and especially the far right and the Trumpists, accuracy and truth have largely ceased to exist. There was no insurrection, just a peaceful demonstration. Trump didn’t do anything wrong; the Democrats and the left invented it all (despite court convictions that are likely to increase). Hillary was behind a porn/sex ring in the basement of a pizza parlor (except the pizza place didn’t have a basement). Democrats will confiscate every gun in America (except that the Supreme Court has effectively ruled that they can’t).

The list of blatant lies is endless… and Republicans could care less. They’re so invested in their anger and their grievances that they’ll not only shred the truth, but the entire country, and democracy with it.

The “Elephant” in Political Parties

Perhaps because I have a degree in economics and spent roughly twenty years in politics, I tend to look at numbers, and what they suggest about people… and about political parties.

I’ve felt for a long time that Republican politicians and Republican voters are very uneasy about women in politics. Certainly, Donald Trump doesn’t care much for women, and he certainly doesn’t respect them, but it’s definitely not hurting him among Republican voters.

Going into the recent Iowa caucus, polls suggested that Nikki Haley would get around 22-24 percent of the vote. But she only got 19 percent, a shift of almost five percent overnight, when nothing else changed. My own personal feeling is that nothing did change, but that three to five percent of the Republican voters could say they favored Haley, but when it came to voting, they couldn’t do it, but they never wanted to admit it.

Women in the U.S. have had the vote for just over a hundred years, but today only thirty percent of the members of the U.S. House are women. But when you break those numbers down, they get really interesting, because 46% (almost half) of the Democratic representatives are women, while only 14% of the Republican representatives are women.

In the Senate, 33% of the Democratic senators are women, but only 16% of the Republican senators are.

Why might that be?

Could it just be that Republicans just don’t like women in public office?

Those statistics might just explain a lot, including much of the support for Donald Trump, but I haven’t seen any poll or study that addresses this aspect of political parties, possibly because men don’t want to address it directly… and women in politics can’t, not without alienating too many male voters.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

The other day I ran across a reader comment that said (I kid you not) that the Corean Chronicles were derivative from the Crescent City series (Sarah Maas), which is a little problematical, since Legacies, the first Corean book, was published eighteen years before the first Crescent City book. Even if the reader had meant to say that it felt derivative, that really doesn’t make much sense because the meaning of derivative is “imitative of the work of another person,” and, since I don’t have a time machine, how could I be imitating work that hadn’t even been published, let alone considering the fact that Ms. Maas was all of sixteen years old when Legacies was published.

So…barring that non-existent time machine, either Ms. Maas’s work is derivative from mine or she came up with her concept and stories independently of mine, which is most likely, although given how long my books have been in print, it’s possible she picked up a little from me.

All authors are influenced by what they’ve read, and any author who denies that is either lying or deceiving themselves, but usually, because most authors read widely, the influence of any one author is rather dilute, unless, of course, the author is actively trying to replicate another author’s style. One of the great examples of this is Zelazny’s “The Naked Matador,” in which he offers a modern version of the Medusa myth told in the style of Hemingway.

In turn, some of my books certainly have a hint of the flavor of Roger Zelazny, no doubt because I read a great deal of Zelazny when I was much younger.

This sort of reader misunderstanding is hardly new. More than twenty years ago, I came across a reader who commented that Tolkien had borrowed way too much from Terry Brooks, which is another reason why I deplore blind reader reliance on ratings and on-line comments.


I’m now receiving roughly a hundred emails a day, and sometimes more, from right-wing Republican candidates for office, from ultra-conservative right-wing groups, and from both Trump and Trump Junior. I’m even getting blasts on my cellphone, and that’s a number that I only give to a few people and certainly not to political types.

These emails are essentially devoid of even the semblance of factual accuracy, with such leads as Get Justice for all January 6th Protesters!; The Need to Impeach Joe Biden; Impeach Alejandro Mayorkas; Stop the Media Blitz to Destroy Clarence Thomas; Stop Biden’s Assault on Retirees; The Democrats Lied About January 6th; Investigate the Corrupt January 6th Committee; Expose the Democrats’ Plan to Establish Authoritarian Rule.

I even got one entitled “GOP Election Integrity Report” – which I find rather ironic coming from the party who tried to steal the 2020 election and whose leadership continues to lie about what happened.

All those don’t include near-hourly protests from Donald J. Trump about how the entire government is persecuting him and how all the judges are corrupt and impossibly biased.

And why am I getting this barrage of rightwing falsehoods?

I suspect there are two reasons. First, email barrages are cheap. I took a look at some of the bulk email services, and the rates for continuing services (most offer free services for a short time to hook the user) seem to run between 1-2 cents per name per barrage (if I read the information correctly), which is far, far cheaper than junk postal mail.

Second, so far as I can determine, it’s simply because I’m a registered Republican. It’s not because I contributed to any Republican candidates for office, because I haven’t made a contribution to any Republican candidate or organization in twenty years. I also haven’t ever contributed to any PACs, conservative or otherwise.

But if I’m getting all this bombardment of garbage propaganda, I hate to think what most Republicans are getting… and from the polling data I suspect it’s having some effect. How much we may not ever be able to determine, but the only effect it’s having on me is convincing me that the Republican Party leadership and most of its candidates make Darth Vader look like an honest man.

The Christmas Dachshund

Last year, those of you following my blog read about the Christmas dog lawn ornament, a smiling canine with paws atop a wrapped Christmas present. That Christmas dog failed to survive the holiday season because, cheerful as his demeanor was, his internal construction was no match for three storms with close to hurricane-force winds, despite my best efforts to patch and restructure the Christmas canine’s internal bracing.

Hearing that we were bereft of a suitable holiday hound, our youngest grandchildren pled with their parents, and, low and behold, well before the time of holiday decorating, a package arrived from them – an inflatable dachshund wearing a red Santa hat and a green vest, and, of course, a wide smile. The pneumatic canine, if of a size five times that of either of our flesh and blood dachshunds, also came with lots of tie-downs and stakes to anchor him relatively close to the ground.

The scientists have already declared that 2023 was the warmest year ever, and, here in Cedar City, so was the fall, as well as December, and there were no hurricane-force winds, and no appreciable snow at all, for the first time in the thirty years we’ve lived here. So, the giant dachshund was neither shredded nor blown to the nether reaches – until New Year’s Day, which arrived with snow, followed by more snow two days later, and then even more, along with freezing temperatures.

And the poor, low-slung, giant holiday dachshund certainly won’t be blown away, even if we do get high winds, because all we can see of him now, even fully inflated, is his cheerful grin and his red Santa hat.

PS Last night (January 11th) we got another 6-8 inches of snow, totally burying the dachshund, although he just might be able to peer out later today.

The Expertise Fallacy

A number of years ago a couple we know well visited us, and the talk briefly turned to music. Now, as some readers know, my wife is a former opera singer who’s also taught music on the collegiate level for over fifty years, and who diligently keeps current on developments, techniques, and new works and new findings about old ones. The visitors were both professionals with graduate degrees, one in finance, the other in computer science, certainly well-educated in their fields. But they made a number of assertions about music that were, shall we say, less than well-founded, but became almost confrontational when my wife pointed out that what they believed wasn’t in accord with what most music scholars believed.

My wife, being well behaved, did not persist, but said after they left, “I’d never dream of impugning their statements about finance or computers, let alone be that insistent.” What she didn’t say was that we both knew they’d be outraged if she’d done the same to them.

Just because someone is an expert in a field, or perhaps two or three, doesn’t mean that they’re experts in everything, or that their judgment about matters outside their expertise is anywhere close to comparable to what they know in their own field. But in the arts and in fields where most people have some limited knowledge beyond their recognized expertise, such as writing, the environment, education, and politics, I’ve found that far too many highly educated individuals are woefully ignorant and refuse to realize it, let alone admit it, and often pontificate inaccurately even when their knowledge is limited and/or inaccurate – and then get offended when corrected.

Part of this comes from the belief many people have that because they went through school, they’re experts in education, or because they play an instrument or sing, they’re experts on music, or because they follow politics, they’re political experts. Or because they’re experts in their field, they’re experts in all fields.

Another part occurs because people have a tendency to believe that what they like is good or excellent, whether it is or not and often feel that what they believe is correct even when facts show otherwise.

Part of it is also because knowledge in many fields becomes dated, more quickly than ever before in human history, and even older experts in a field, unless they keep up to date, may not be aware of recent advances or discoveries. (Fear of becoming dated is why I subscribe to and read a wide range of periodicals dealing with science, avionics, economics, environment, politics, archaeology, and history).

But then, since when has ignorance ever stopped anyone from revealing it?