Steve Coon Blog

The New Congress: “One Nation under God…and Muhammad”

Everyone seems to have expert analysis of last Tuesday’s midterm elections. But these interpretations are really just personal opinions. Only the numbers are reliable.

As expected, the Democrats captured the House of Representatives; the Senate remains in Republican hands.

More interesting are those who were elected. Winners include 23 women in the Senate and 101 in the House. These include two Native Americans and two Muslims. And much is being made of how many Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer (LGBTQ) individuals were elected nationwide.

Is this significant? Perhaps but only to limited degree. The usual perception is that women tend to focus more on education, child care, reproductive rights and health than men. I think that is true and it should mean that in the next Congress there will be more sensitivity to and debate about these issues. But concern and discussion don’t guarantee more legislation.

NEW VOICES

I also doubt that Congress will quickly pass more bills promoting Native American, Muslim and LGBTQ interests.   In fact, what would such an agenda look like?

Will Native American representatives call for revised school curricula to include greater depiction in history classes of America’s indigenous populations? Or will they advocate for more money invested in improving health care and jobs on native lands?

Will Muslims in Congress demand that the Pledge of Allegiance in schools include the phrase, “one nation under God and Muhammad,…?” Or more importantly will they introduce bills requiring equal recognition of and more money for religious organizations?

What is the LBGTQ agenda? And end to all male-female bathrooms? A minimum percentage of LBGTQ employees required of all businesses that apply for federal monies?

I expect the new faces and voices in Congress will mean a broader more realistic examination and discussion of national challenges affecting the diverse segments of America. This should happen soon after the House and Senate convene next January.   But actual substantive results from these new voices will take much longer.

The confirmation process of Brett Kavanaugh was disgraceful

The U.S. Senate confirmation of Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh has been a shameful moment in America’s history.

Screen Shot 2018-10-06 at 2.27.57 PMThe hatred, bigotry, histrionics, lies and character assassination raised during the process are ugly graffiti on the portrait of the United States that we present as a shining example for the world to see and to which many nations aspire.

Unfortunately, the patina of the framework of the American Constitution has been damaged by persons intent or destruction rather than elevation. These misguided souls were mesmerized by Pied Pipers whose sole purpose was to thwart Donald Trump whom they consider an illegitimate president because he lost the popular vote in 2016 but prevailed in the Electoral College.

PROCESS

 I repeat that I was upset with the Senate Republican leadership when they refused to hold judiciary hearings on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court (SCOTUS). President Obama fulfilled his constitutional obligation to nominate a candidate for the vacant seat on the high bench. But the Senate Republicans violated their constitutional mandate to schedule hearings. GOP claims that a lame duck president should not name an associate justice was both wrong and unethical. The GOP deserves criticism for that unscrupulous ploy.

But the current opposition by Senate Democrats and liberal activists is equally shameful. Trump opponents decided and acted early to sabotage the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh. Some pundits claim the orchestrated lies were fear that Kavanaugh would give SCOTUS an unstoppable conservative majority intent on reversing Roe vs. Wade.

More important to liberals, however, was a desperate attempt to obfuscate the truth and delay a Senate vote until after the November midterm election when Democrats hope to take control of the upper chamber.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee were willing to sacrifice Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for the party’s selfish agenda. They were willing to assassinate the character of Judge Kavanaugh for the same purpose.

Even when the minority party leveraged an agreement from the majority to request an FBI investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh, the Democrats then claimed that very investigation was a white wash because the agency found no evidence of the accusations.

Delay, delay, delay.

CONCLUSION

 This process has been an outrageous display of duplicitous assertions designed solely to thwart President Trump from appointing his second conservative jurist to the Supreme Court.

I have no doubt that Merrick Garland was eminently qualified and deserved a serious and timely hearing about his judicial record.   The refusal to do so by the Senate Republican leadership is disgraceful moment in the history of our republic.

Equally, disgraceful was the Democrats campaign to mischaracterize Kavanaugh’s personal and professional history.

A careful, dispassionate review of his judicial rulings shows that he is a thoughtful, sincere jurist. His decisions clearly demonstrate a wide range of fair conclusions that would satisfy both conservatives and liberals alike.

Most important to many liberals, Judge Kavanaugh will not threaten women’s reproductive rights. He has affirmed that Roe vs. Wade is established law. His Catholic values will not color his examination of abortion cases that come before the Supreme Court or influence his decisions.

Brett Kavanaugh now is an associate justice of the Supreme Court—the high tribunal once again has its full complement of nine justices. And, yes, the majority of justices are considered conservatives.

But history shows that many SCOTUS rulings have given comfort to liberals. The affirmation by the court that the controversial Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—is the law stands as most recent evidence of the court’s strict, impartial allegiance to the Constitution.

Of more concern, however, is whether this nation can regain its historic commitment to respectful, civic debate on this nation’s critical challenges? Are we as citizens and as a republic capable of sincere willingness to weigh the intellectual merits of competing views to reach the best decisions for America? Or are we so ideologically divided, so entrenched in partisan bitterness, so emotionally polarized that we are neither willing nor able to recognize legitimate, sincere differences?

We are at a critical crossroad and I fear that our national leadership is incapable of reversing direction and returning to the correct path.

I should have hope that next month’s midterm elections give us an opportunity to reject the dysfunctional political leadership in Congress. But our national anger and hatred may run too deep for Americans to cleanse Capitol Hill of incompetent, unwilling politicians. I will vote for change but am not optimistic that my fellow Americans will do the same.

Our Founding Fathers would surely weep.

Caricature of SteveSome pundits worry that our current level of virulent political attacks and reputational assassination unleashed by rabid ideologues threaten our very democracy.

I don’t believe that.

But certainly the American republic is traversing a rocky patch in 2018. One that challenges our nation’s civil resolve and questions whether we can rescue dispassionate, intelligent debate from the clutches of maniacal hate groups and individuals intent on destroying the foundations of free discussion and exchanges our forefathers struggle to defend.

The despicable spectacle of the Judge Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court (SCOTUS) nomination hearings is embarrassing proof of the latter.

Any intelligent person–not allied with the lunatic fringe of contemporary society–recognizes that Judge Kavanaugh is eminently qualified to be the next SCOTUS associate justice.

But intelligence has been supplanted in America this century by bitter emotional partisan diatribes devoid of meritorious content and replaced by moronic delaying tactics designed to derail worthwhile candidates for either appointed or elective office.

Yes, the decision by the Republican-controlled Senate to deny Judge Merrick Garland a confirmation hearing when nominated by President Obama was despicable. It was an inexcusable abuse of power based on a disingenuous rationale that was only a diaphanous excuse to avoid possible confirmation of a liberal justice.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was complicit in this shameless moment and deserves condemnation.

Equally despicable are the phony efforts by California Senator Diane Feinstein and her liberal colleagues on the same committee this year to thwart a fair hearing and scrutiny of Judge Kavanaugh.   The last minute questionable allegations revealed by Feinstein and her liberal colleagues is simply character assassination by anti-Trump activists pretending to be public servants.

Case in point is Christine Blasey, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University, who has accused Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct at a party when the two were adolescents.

Democrats who hate President Trump want to delay the Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Judge Kavanagh until Blasey’s accusations are fully investigated. Their opposition is another desperate stalling tactic to postpone a confirmation vote by the full Republican-controlled Senate before the Supreme Court’s fall session that begins October 6.

Judiciary Committee Chair Grassley has scheduled public testimony for next Monday to hear both Professor Blasey and Judge Kavanaugh. But now Blasey says she won’t testify until the FBI investigates her claims—despite the fact that the bureau already has completed its background probe of Kavanaugh and, according to its website, does not investigate sexual crimes unless they pose a national threat or are linked to serial rapists. Professor Blasey’s claim fails this test.

My first reaction to the anonymous allegation was disbelief. When the identify of the accuser was revealed I tended to believe her. But now that Blasely refuses to face Kavanaugh and the American people before the lights and camera of a public judiciary committee hearing next Monday, I doubt her story.

Instead I now believe she is a stooge by the anti-Trump cabal intent on resorting to any tactic no matter how disgusting to sabotage the appointment of a presumed conservative justice to the Supreme Court.

Republicans, Democrats, conservatives and liberals all have acted shameless in both the case of Merrick Garland and now in the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.

They have demonstrated their willingness to disregard almost all standards of ethics, honesty, civility and decency to achieve victory.

I think America will survive this moment. But future citizens should recognize this as a sad chapter in the nation’s history. A time when our elected leaders in the Senate and anti-Trump activists abandoned their commitment to a better America in exchange for selfish individual victories.

Our Founding Fathers surely would weep to witness this betrayal.

College admission–to consider race or not

Steve Blog College admission decisions by universities are fraught with considerable angst—especially at America’s elite institutions.

And President Trump is making the process more uncertain as he challenges the protocol established by his predecessor Barack Obama that argued for race as a consideration in college admission.

The Supreme Court upheld that Obama doctrine three years ago in Fisher v University of Texas at Austin

With so many equally qualified applicants of all sex, gender, race, creed and national origin, it is nearly impossible to decide who to invite and who to reject.

Of course, consideration should be given to persons whose backgrounds differ from the traditional college student. But how to do it fairly is the challenge admission officers confront with.

I would give zero advantage to legacy applicants (whose relatives graduated from the same college) and more weight to those who will be the first in their families to attend college.

However, a greater problem is the unacknowledged truth. All universities have a poor record of helping students of diverse backgrounds succeed on campus. They too often lack necessary support systems, have too few similar peers, and feel isolated or lost in the institutional bureaucracy that is strong on public relation promises but week on actual performance.

In the end how you support all students at your university is equally important as whom you admit.

Singapore Summit 2018

Caricature of SteveThere are two possible outcomes from the Singapore Summit between the United States and North Korea as the two countries work to reduce the threat of nuclear conflict.

One, North Korean President Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump reach an acceptable accord for further negotiations between their respective diplomatic aides.

This would involve a framework for future talks focused on a number of key points that appear to be negotiable at the moment.

Second scenario, both sides end their discussion in a stalemate that precludes any immediate progress toward solving the key issues that divide the two nations. Neither North Korea nor the U.S. wants to appear weak in the eyes of the world.

This second possibility would, of course, generate the most headlines despite likely continued behind-the-scenes talks among all interesting parties including South Korea and China.

Either way there will be more negotiations. Neither Kim Jong-un or Trump would have traveled this far diplomatically without hopes of eventual change.

Joy in England; Sadness in America

Caricature of SteveMillions of persons around the world watched and celebrated the Royal Wedding of American Meghan Markle and British Prince Harry.

The coverage of this spectacle was as expected—focusing on the joy of the moment, the attraction of celebrity and the extravagance that only centuries of royal opulence and tradition can realize.

On this side of the pond, however, there was another deadly shooting at an American school. This time it a student at Santa Fe High School in Texas where a student killed classmates and at least one teacher.

The year isn’t half over and already we’ve recorded 20 school shootings that either killed or injured someone.

The story is too familiar. He (almost always males) was a loner, didn’t have many friends, and started posting strange thoughts on social media.  The family will express shock and surprise.

But of course the warning signs were there long before the rampage.  People close to him weren’t really close to him.  Didn’t intrude his life (take an interest) to see how he was doing.  And they either ignored or refused to see the festering trouble.

In other words, they didn’t fulfill their parental responsibility of grooming him for the time when he was to leave home as a good person.  Everyone had their own rooms, own space, separated from each other (both physically and psychologically).

This weekend we have witness both the joyous and saddest of times. The pomp and ceremony of a royal wedding and the terrible, senseless of massacre at another American school.

We should celebrate good moments and wish the Duke and Duchess of Sussex all the best.

But we should also mourn the loss of the latest number of Americans who have perished at the hands of a gun-wielding killer as our elected leaders lack the courage to confront this reality.

This is the reality of our lives in 2018—a world of euphoria and evil.

National Security vs Civil Rights: China and America

Caricature of SteveChina has dramatically increased its domestic surveillance by investing heavily in new technology.

The effort is promoted as a means to beef up national security. But it also accurately reflects the hunger of President Xi jinping to consolidate his power and is a significant move toward a more authoritarian regime.

This might prove effective but we are reluctant do this in the United States.  The opposition to a “1984” scenario of Big Brother infringing on our civil rights still is too great.

There is no greater recent evidence of such reluctance than the failure of local and national law enforcement to stop Nikolas Cruz from massacring 17 persons  at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida February 14.  Police and FBI surveillance has indicated that Cruz was potentially dangerous.  But no action was taken.

Subsequent calls for increased surveillance following this tragedy will be countered by civil libertarians such as the ACLU who fear uncontrolled secret use of China-like technology by American law enforcement.

We in the United States value our constitutional rights and are willing to sacrifice shooting victims in order to prevent unconstitutional intrusion into and surveillance of our daily lives.

China’s President Xi obviously has no such concerns.  But then again China is no democracy.

The question is how is America to balance the constitutional rights of individual citizens with the equal right of persons to be safe in public places?

Democratic republics struggle to find an answer.  Totalitarian states do not.

China under President Xi is prepared to sacrifice individual freedoms to increase state security.  We in the United States are not.  At least not yet.