Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Illegal border crossings are down, but immigration issues remain

Immigration is the movement of people into a destination country of which they are not natives, or where they do not possess citizenship, in order to settle or reside there, especially as permanent residents or naturalized citizens.

Immigrating to the US is not a right; it is a privilege.

Most folks do not leave their home open to anyone with the desire to enter and live in them. They want to be sure that those they allow into their home do not want to harm them, or damage or steal their belongings.

Likewise, we must not leave the national borders open so that just anyone can come in. We have to make a determined effort to be sure that those who are allowed to legally enter America share our values, or agree to adopt them. They need to get a job and support themselves and their families, and to become true Americans.

The sloppy enforcement of our immigration laws and philosophy in recent years has produced a body of illegal aliens totaling around 11 million, according to some reports. The term “undocumented immigrants” is not appropriate for these people: Immigrants enter the country legally; these people entered the country illegally, or came in legally and over-stayed their visas.

As a result, the good people who come here for the best reasons, but are not here legally, have been overshadowed by the wicked deeds the many bad ones have committed. It’s time for that to change.

Seeing this problem clearly, unlike the previous resident of the White House, President Donald Trump campaigned on tougher enforcement of our borders and other measures to reduce or eliminate illegal entry into the U.S.

Since Trump was sworn in, good things have already started happening relative to illegal border crossings.

As reported in the Washington Examiner, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Thomas D. Homan, said that since Trump entered office, “illegal border crossings have crashed by almost 70 percent, ‘an historic low,’ arrests inside the country have jumped 40 percent and that demands for illegal criminals in local jails has skyrocketed 80 percent.”

"You can like President Trump, not like him, like his policies, not like his policies, but one thing no one can argue with is the effect they've had," Homan said. He is a 30-year immigration agency veteran, and the former chief of ICE enforcement.

Echoing that sentiment, National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd said on C-SPAN that the reduction in the number of illegal border crossers between the U.S. and Mexico is “nothing short of miraculous,” putting the reduction at 53 percent of the same period last year, all before construction of Trump’s vaunted border wall has even begun.

Judd told Fox News, “There’s a vibe, there’s an energy in the Border Patrol that’s never been there before in 20 years that I’ve been in the patrol.”

Complicating the illegal alien problem is the movement by more than 300 cities and counties to protect illegals in “sanctuary” jurisdictions. Homan said that ICE will hire 10,000 new agents and crack down on these sanctuaries. “In the America I grew up in, cities didn’t shield people who violated the law,” he noted.

While denying that ICE is being pressured to meet quotas, Homan said that ICE will focus on targeting fugitives, criminals, threats to national security, and illegals who had previously been deported and came back into the United States.

In a move that runs counter to Trump’s “America First” initiative and efforts to provide jobs for Americans, the Department of Homeland Security earlier this month increased by 15,000 the number of H-2B visas for low-wage, seasonal workers for the remainder of this fiscal year on the basis that many businesses will not be able to find enough American workers this summer.

Defenders of such policies contend that Americans will not work these jobs because they are unpleasant or because they don’t pay enough; therefore foreign workers are the best solution. However, the Center for Immigration Studies found that the average hourly pay for an H-2B visa holder last year was $12.31, roughly 70 percent above the federal minimum wage.

You would think a lot of minimum wage American workers would take that increase in pay, as well as a lot of unemployed Americans who could get back into the labor force, even if temporarily. A Maine resort town, faced with a shortage of H-2B workers, solved their problem by hiring … Americans!

Our immigration problem would not have grown to its current crisis level had past administrations strictly enforced national immigration laws. As a result, millions of people are here illegally. The bad ones are now targets of government, but what do we do with those who are generally good people, except for their method of coming to America?

Some truly just want a better life and are living a generally good, clean life. What is the best way to deal with these “Dreamers?” There is a great sentiment for providing a strict and complex path to citizenship, and deporting millions of them is virtually impossible.

Perhaps a suitable compromise can be found.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Is it desperation, OCD, or is there actually some “there” there?

Who dares to deny that the circus-like atmosphere surrounding the Trump presidency is the most unusual political phenomenon in recent memory?

There is a lot of true craziness among the anti-Trump crowd. They criticize him for virtually everything, or nothing. Like the non-story involving Poland’s First Lady, who set the anti-Trump world ablaze when, after her husband and Trump shook hands, she had the audacity to shake the hand of Mrs. Trump before greeting the president. Oh, the horror! And daughter Ivanka sat in for him briefly at the G-20 meeting wearing a pink dress with – gasp – bows on it!

Perhaps the best evidence of compulsive obsession and the Left losing its grip on reality was Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Cal., who wanted to impeach Trump before he was even sworn in.

Other evidence of the high degree of obsession comes from a survey by the drug and alcohol rehabilitation group Detox, which found that “Over 73 percent of Democrats would give up drinking for the rest of their lives if it led to the impeachment of President Donald Trump...” Teetotaling would be good for those Democrats, as well as the country, however the survey did not provide a mechanism for assuring allegiance to the pledge.

It is quite likely that many people who desire impeachment don’t understand what it is or how it works. Impeachment is a political remedy; it deals with breaches of public trust, or injuries done immediately to the society itself, by certain government officials, but not criminal activity.

The grounds for impeachment require the significant likelihood that "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors" (crimes by public officials against the government), have been committed, according to Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution. It is not the appropriate solution for those dissatisfied with the results of an election, or the most fervent wish to be rid of a president some don’t like.

Impeachment does not remove a president from office. It is the first step in a two-step process; bringing formal charges against him or her, much like a grand jury indictment. Remember, Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1998, but went on to serve out his term as president because he was not convicted in step two, the trial by the U.S. Senate, requiring the affirmative vote by at least two-thirds of its members.

The only other successful impeachment of a president was Andrew Johnson, who was acquitted by the Senate in 1868. Richard Nixon likely would have been impeached and convicted over the Watergate affair a few decades back, but avoided impeachment by resigning from office.

The record for presidential impeachment shows it is a difficult process without much success, as deliberately designed by the Founders.

Failures don’t impede Democrats in their efforts at futile goals, however. Obsession and compulsion are tough masters to defeat. Perhaps their real goal is just stirring up negative opinion among their faithful followers to interfere with the president’s agenda.

“If they had a good case based on real information, I think they would mention it by now and put their cards on the table,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative government watchdog group. He is also a former Pennsylvania state prosecutor and former counsel for the board of directors at the Legal Services Corporation. Talking with The Daily Signal, he added, “They don’t have high crimes and misdemeanors. They don’t have low crimes and misdemeanors.”

Despite any compelling evidence, or even evidence that isn’t compelling, those on the Left who have rallied to the idea include:, Democracy for America, and other progressive or “resistance” groups, and a group of Congressional Democrats who either don’t understand the issues or the process, or just seek recognition.

This list includes the aforementioned Rep. Waters, along with Texas Rep. Al Green, California Rep. Jackie Speier, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, Maine Sen. Angus King, Texas Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal. And, let us not forget Virginia’s own Sen. Tim Kaine, who actually mentioned “treason.”

After admitting nothing has yet been proved, Kaine said, “We’re now beyond obstruction of justice, in terms of what’s being investigated. This is moving into perjury, false statements, and even potentially treason.”

California Rep. Brad Sherman actually has introduced articles of impeachment, although the House Democrat leadership hasn’t fallen in line with that move. The effort is almost certain to fail because only one Democrat, Al Green, has signed on to it, and based on known facts, it won’t go anywhere in a Republican-controlled Congress.

At some point, however, Democrats must chill down the rhetoric. Emotion and desire, however fervent and crushing they may be, must be put aside, an objective look at the actual case must be undertaken, and then they need get back to performing the national service for which they were elected. Fixing Obamacare and filling hundreds of government positions, for example, are important issues.

Obstruction of the nation’s business and deliberate clouding of the national narrative are harmful to the country.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Do Republicans really vote against their constituents’ interests?

It is not news – not even fake news – that the political Right and the political Left do not see things the same way; they are different, just as men and women are. The Left frequently sees things as problems that the Right does not regard as problems, and vice versa. And even when the two sides agree that something is a problem, they have different ways of addressing it. The gulf between the two factions is wider today than ever before.

The idea that Republican voters sometimes/often vote against their own interests is a Democrat talking point, and was the subject of a New York Times podcast that was discussed in a National Review online article by senior writer David French recently. The podcast host, Times managing editor Michael Barbaro, interviewed domestic-affairs correspondent Sheryl Gay Stolberg, who cited the situation in the state of Kentucky, one of the states that suffered mightily when the War on Coal put enough people out of work to run Kentucky’s coal jobs to their lowest level in 118 years.

The out-of-work miners, forced onto Medicaid by the War on Coal, benefited greatly from Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, Stolberg said, “yet, its Republican senators are leading the charge for Obamacare repeal, including for Medicaid reform. How can that be?”

The answer to that question comes from the different ways of looking at the world and at life from opposite sides of the political spectrum.

Which of the following sets of ideas do you most closely observe?
1. The nuclear family is an antique idea, traditional ideas of morality and culture are holding us back, sexual autonomy is a virtue, and we just can’t get by without government “help.”
2. First, we graduate from high school, get a job to sustain ourselves, get married, and then have children and raise a family.

If you chose 1, you likely lean toward the political Left; if you chose 2, you likely lean toward the political Right. These different views of how to live our lives define why Republicans vote against what seem to be their interests.

“Now, between the two parties, which one has centered its appeal around married parents with kids and which party has doubled down on single moms,” French asks? “Even worse, the Democrats’ far-left base has intentionally attacked the nuclear family as archaic and patriarchal. It has celebrated sexual autonomy as a cardinal virtue. Then, when faced with the fractured families that result, it says, ‘Here, let the government help,’” he writes.

How does this relate to Kentucky’s Republican Senators? They are voting on their ideas of what makes America great, and according to French, those interests “depend on the complex interplay between our faith, our families, and our communities.” It’s all about core values.

New York Times columnist David Brooks traces these values back to American frontier towns, where life was “fragile, perilous, lonely and remorseless,” where a “single slip could produce disaster,” and as a result the frontier folk learned to practice “self-restraint, temperance, self-control and strictness of conscience.”

Those values are at the heart of the American experience of carving a powerful and free republic out of a wilderness, a nation that has as a result led the world for decades. They reflect the Biblical values brought here and cultivated during America’s first turbulent and troubled decades, and which formed the basis of the government created following the “Colexit” of the Colonies from Mother England’s repressive grasp.

Republicans, or at least those who are true conservatives, honor the ideals of freedom, personal responsibility, self-reliance, and limited government, and to a less-than-perfect degree – but a far-greater degree than those who call themselves liberals, progressives, or socialists – try to live by these values.

Kentucky’s Republican Senators dislike the government’s solution to the problem that the government itself created when it over-regulated nearly everything, and so they see a vote against maintaining this absurdity as a virtuous one. They prefer a system freeing Americans to make their own decisions about healthcare and health insurance without the one-size-fits-nobody concept that the Democrats created that we commonly call Obamacare.

Their vote seemingly punishes those they should most want to help: their constituents and supporters. But the bigger picture shows instead the desire to free their constituents from the damaging big government policies that put them on the government dole. The want to create an environment where they can find another job that can sustain them above the poverty line, and off of Medicaid.

Republicans want to do away with this Democrat-created problem. Their fundamental goal is to free Americans from this horrible, failed big government mechanism. Its aim was to ultimately create a single-payer, totally government-controlled healthcare system that would mirror the British system. You know the one: it recently took control of decisions on seriously ill infant Charlie Gard’s care away from his parents, and effectively ordered the Charlie’s death.

That case demonstrates precisely how government-run healthcare can, and likely will, degenerate into a system where government makes decisions about who lives and dies. And that explains why Republicans seem to vote against their constituents’ interests.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Getting it right in the battle against opioid overdose deaths

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Alabama, Tennessee and West Virginia – in that order – lead the nation in prescriptions for narcotic painkillers. Nationwide, there were close to 60,000 deaths in 2016 from drug overdoses.

How is this possible, when narcotics are strictly controlled? A popular target for blame for this problem is the pharmaceutical industry, which is often the focus of criticism. “We would not have a drug problem if manufacturers weren’t trying so hard to sell them,” the reasoning, such as it is, goes.

But making and selling drugs is what drug manufacturers do: they spend millions or billions of dollars over a decade and often longer to find the right formula to create a product that will help people suffering from a medical condition. They work to get the product through lengthy clinical trials and the stringent FDA approval process. Then, they must sell enough of that product during the patent protection period to recoup the costs of its development so the company can invest that money in another product’s development.

Also understand that drug companies do not provide addictive drugs to individuals, neither the legal users, nor the illegal users. They provide them to distributors, or directly to pharmacies, and unless someone steals them or distributes them improperly, they will contribute not one bit to a drug problem.

Far too many prescription drugs do get to users through “pill mills,” and some physicians who don’t have sufficient information about the effects of some drugs as they need may, as a result, over-prescribe them. And, obviously, these problems must be addressed.

However, a recent Daily Signal article tells us that the painkiller abuse problem is not primarily caused by prescription drug abuse and misuse, although the news we hear might convince many of us that drug companies are at fault.

The article, written by former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Bill Bennett, who is also a former U.S. Secretary of Education, and Robert L. DuPont, MD, president of the Institute for Behavior and Health, explains that of the 60,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2016 from drug overdoses, 33,000 of them were opioid related.

And, they add that our news media mistakenly focus more attention on prescription drugs, instead of the illegal ones. Is that because Big Pharma is an easy and popular target?

Bennett and DuPont, in fact, say, “nearly 70 percent of our nation’s opioid deaths do not come via prescription abuse.” “The main problem today, and the growth for tomorrow,” they say, “is illegal opioids such as heroin, illegal fentanyl, and a hundred other synthetics, not legal drugs used illegally or in ways not as prescribed.”

They cite data from the Obama administration’s press office in 2015 saying that there were 33,091 opioid overdose deaths, 12,990 of which were from heroin. Another 9,580 were from synthetic opioids, mostly illegal fentanyl.

They propose a two-phased attack on the problem. First, fight harder against illegal drugs coming into the U.S. through better border enforcement to stop the drug traffic from and through Mexico, as well as working to have Mexico eliminate its poppy crops; have stricter monitoring of international mail services; and crack down on cartel activity, both here in the U.S. and at their source.

The second phase acknowledges that most money directed at the problem goes to “treatment, recovery, and urgent overdose reversal,” which they say is certainly important, but it is not enough. “We need to improve engagement in treatment, reduce dropout, and address the far too common outcome of relapse with sustained recovery—meaning no use of alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs,” by recovering addicts.

“But the main unaddressed nature of the opioid crisis,” Bennett and DuPont say, “is focus and energy on prevention.” This includes serious efforts to educate the public about what is in their medicine cabinets and how to keep those drugs out of the hands of those for whom they aren’t prescribed, and to educate the public about the dangerous nature of the drugs sold on the street. It is critical to also work to counteract the youthful use of alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and other drugs, where they say 90 percent of addictions begin.

Citing the rising death toll from illegal drugs, which they note is much greater than the crack cocaine problem in the 80s, the authors call for more effective action by political leaders, parents, the entertainment industry and health care professionals.

Looking back to the late 1970s and 1980s Bennett and DuPont recount how the nation conquered the serious drug problems of that time. “The nation rolled up its sleeves, went to work, talked about it, taught about it, and reversed it—and by 1992 we had cut drug use in half, and even more in some age groups.”

This problem is entirely preventable, and certainly can be dramatically reduced. “In sum, let us commence a strategy to stop the problems of abuse before they start,” they wrote. “It will take a nationwide effort, from the president’s bully pulpit down to local community messaging.”

Certainly, focusing on the real problem will produce positive results.