Poor Latin American Populations Dream of a Better Life

Waves of poor and mostly illiterate people are trying to enter the United States from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.  They all have one thing in common.  They want to escape their economic condition and gangs that terrorize them.  And so they beg for asylum.

Caution Immigrant Crossing Sign on California highways near Tijuana, Mexico

The U.S. response has been to send most of those people back to their country of origin.  This is not a new issue. It existed under the Obama, Trump, and now the Biden administration.  Even before Obama the issue of illegal immigrants into the United States was an ongoing problem.

The issue of Mexican and Central American people trying to obtain entry into the United States by any means goes back decades.  The year 1980 marked the opening of a decade of public controversy over U.S. refugee policy unprecedented since World War II. Large-scale migration to the United States from Central America began, as hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans fled north from civil war, repression, and economic devastation. That same year, in the last months of the Carter administration, the U.S. Congress passed the Refugee Act, a humanitarian law intended to expand eligibility for political asylum in the United States.

Until those countries provide their people with education, jobs, and safety from marauding gangs there will be no end to illegal entry from those nations. 

As long as there is little opportunity for those people in their native countries this issue will not go away.

President Joe Biden offers defense of democracy

This is a sad day when the president of the United States must defend democracy. That is precisely what he did in a speech today at Arlington National Cemetery, saying “democracy is more than a form of government — it is a way of being.”

“Democracy itself is in peril,” the president said.

“Democracy must be defended at all costs,” Biden said. “Democracy, that’s the soul of America. And I believe it’s a soul worth fighting for. And so do you. A soul worth dying for.”

It was obvious that he was standing up against those who would deny voting rights and the acceptance of free and fair elections.

Why did Biden make this speech? Because of people like Michael Flynn. Flynn is former President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser, who said that a Myanmar-like military coup “should” happen in the United States at a QAnon event in in a Dallas hotel. Sadly thousands, and perhaps millions, of Americans really believe Trump’s claim that the election was stolen.

Dictators like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are delighted with politics in the United States. They are telling their populations that democracy doesn’t work. They point to our political system in fighting as proof.

Republicans rediscover their concern for the national debt

Republicans who voted to grow the national debt under former president Donald Trump are trumpeting fiscal conservatism again during a Democratic presidency.

The national debt under former president Donald Trump grew from $19.9 trillion in January 2017 to a new high of $27 trillion In October 2020. That’s an increase of almost 36% in less than four years.

Today the debt is over $28 trillion.

Joe Biden’s spending plans will obviously increase the national debt to an even higher number.

The problem is that the political party that is out of power invariably voicing concerns of the growing debt.

Doyle McManus in the Los Angeles Times pointed out in his latest column  that more than $600 billion in taxes on 2020 income will go uncollected because the IRS lacks the manpower to audit the most tax returns. Unreported income of the wealthy is the issue. “The total shortfall over the coming decade could reach $7.5 trillion — more than enough to pay for all of President Biden’s ambitious spending plans.

“Collecting the taxes people are required to pay isn’t soaking the rich; it’s stopping the deadbeats and freeloaders from shirking a burden the rest of us are carrying.”

President Joe Biden is a Man in a Hurry

The president knows that his best opportunity to see laws passed that are on his agenda have to be completed during his first two years in office.  Why? Because control of congress usually is won by the opposition party in the second two years.

Biden has stuffed everything he dreams of accomplishing into his $2 trillion infrastructure and climate plan. He calls it the American Jobs Plan.  The ‘Imminent’ Collapse of Wastewater Reservoir in Florida Forces Evacuations definitely sends the message that America’s infrastructure is in very bad shape. America’s infrastructure received an overall grade of C- from the American Society of Civil Engineers, according to the group’s 2021 Report Card.

The control of the House of Representatives during Trump’s second two years went to the Democrats.  That very thing happened during Barack Obama presidency.  In fact both houses were controlled by the GOP during the last two years of his presidency.  It’s not a given since George W. Bush managed to have a GOP congress for four years but Eisenhower, who was president for two terms, saw both houses in Democratic control for six of his eight years in office.  The Democratic Party has a very narrow control of both houses.  Just the loss of one seat in the Senate and the GOP will again be in control. Doyle McManus in the Los Angeles Times reports that most prognosticators predict the GOP will gain control of the House of Representatives in the 2022 election.

Incidentally, I started writing this piece before the McManus column.

A reservoir in Florida that holds nearly 400 million gallons of wastewater from a former phosphate mine was leaking on Saturday, prompting hundreds of evacuations, the authorities said.

Ending the Filibuster in the U.S. Senate

What happened to majority rules? You take a vote on any subject and the majority wins.  That is not the way it works in he U.S. Senate.

The U. S. Senate is on its way to ending the filibuster. Rather than doing so in one step they are eating away at the idea of 60 votes to end debate. The intent of this process was to bring about compromise. The rule as created by the senate and is not in the Constitution. This nightmare rule denies the majority the power to pass legislation.

While Senate rules still require just a simple majority to actually pass a bill, several procedural steps along the way require a supermajority of 60 votes to end debate on bills.

The filibuster is an Informal term for any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter by debating it at length, by offering numerous procedural motions, or by any other delaying or obstructive actions.

The most common form of filibuster occurs when one or more senators attempt to delay or block a vote on a bill by extending debate on the measure. Changes in 2013 and 2017 now require only a simple majority to invoke cloture (The cloture rule–Rule 22–is the only formal procedure that Senate rules provide for breaking a filibuster) on nominations, although most legislation still requires 60 votes.

The Senate has a number of options for curtailing the use of the filibuster, including by setting a new precedent, changing the rule itself, or placing restrictions on its use.

For many matters in the Senate, debate can only be cut off if at least 60 senators support doing so.

In 2013 the rules were changed under the leadership of Democratic Senator Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) eliminated the 60-vote requirement to end a filibuster against all executive branch nominees and judicial nominees other than to the Supreme Court.

In 2017 the rules were again changed under the leadership of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) eliminated the 60-vote requirement to end a filibuster for approval of nominations to the Supreme Court formally by lowering the threshold for ending debate on a nomination to 51 votes from 60, paving the way for Neil Gorsuch to win confirmation to the Supreme Court.

It is time to end minority control.

Republicans are Fighting Against Democracy

This situation is the result of a president who tried to overturn the November 2020 election. Even before the election Donald Trump repeatedly said that the election process was fraudulent. He tried to take his claims to courts including the Supreme Court.

Just today the justices declined to take up an appeal from Mr. Trump that challenged absentee ballots cast in the presidential election in Wisconsin. The former president urged the Supreme Court to declare the election there unconstitutional and allow the state legislature to appoint its own slate of electors. Mr. Trump lost the state of Wisconsin to President Biden, and Mr. Biden was sworn into office January 20.

Sadly GOP controlled states are now passing new laws to limit future elections by limiting voting and making it harder for voters to return absentee ballots. Arizona, Iowa, Georgia, and North Dakota are the states passing regulations that require identification of voters, limiting voting to in person only voting. All these law are probably legal. Each stae has the power to set its own election rules. They are clearly designed to deny the right to vote to poor people who likely Democratic Party voters.

Georgia is just one of the 43 states collectively contemplating 253 bills this year with provisions restricting voting access, according to a tally by the Brennan Center for Justice.

As Dana Milbank of the Washington Post reported: the Supreme Court’s majority signaled it would be open to more such voting restrictions. In oral arguments, the conservative justices indicated they would uphold two Arizona laws that would have the effect of disproportionately disqualifying the votes of non-White citizens. One law throws out ballots cast in the wrong precinct, a problem that affects minority voters twice as much as White voters because polling places move more frequently in minority neighborhoods. The other law bans the practice of ballot collection — derided by Republicans as ballot “harvesting” — which is disproportionately used by minority voters, in particular Arizona’s Native Americans on reservations.”

Why are Republicans doing this? They believe that large turnouts result in Democratic Party candidates winning.

The United States is at War

The fear of domestic terrorists who want to bring down the United States government is real. The House of Representatives has canceled their Thursday March 4 session because there is credible evidence that there will be an attack on the Capitol building.

U.S. Capitol Police officials said Wednesday they have “obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4” — the date that far-right conspiracy theorists believe former President Donald Trump will return to power.

There are discredited internet conspiracy theories that allege the world is run by a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibalistic pedophiles. Followers of the fringe movement believe that the 2020 U.S. presidential election was stolen from Trump, who has pushed baseless claims of voter fraud along with his allies.

QAnon followers also believed that Trump would not actually leave office on Inauguration Day but rather would declare martial law, announce mass arrests of Democrats and stop Joe Biden from becoming president. When that didn’t happen, the date was moved from Jan. 20 to March 4.

There are many among the conspiracy groups who believe Ulysses S. Grant was the last legal president of the United States because he was the last president inaugurated on March 4.  That is the focus on March 4  as the day that Donald Trump will be inaugurated for a second term as the 19th president.  I do not know how the conspiracy people explain the four years that Trump was president.  There is no reasonable explanation.  The conspiracy theorists have yet to square the facts that is probably because they don’t want to look at reality.

Those of you who think this is all nonsense should look at what happened on January 6 at the Capitol. This is the start of a war. January 6 was the first attack. There will be more attacks if the perpetrators are unsuccessful on March 4.

America’s Defense Posture is out of Touch with the 21st Century

The United States is unlikely to be invaded by the military of another nation.

In his final speech from the White House, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned that an arms race would take resources from other areas — such as building schools and hospitals.

Despite that conclusion under President Donald Trump there was a build up of America’s military might. It’s true that under President Obama military spending did decline.

Microtrends itemized American military spending during the past four years

U.S. military spending/defense budget for 2019 was $731.75B, a 7.22% increase from 2018.
U.S. military spending/defense budget for 2018 was $682.49B, a 5.53% increase from 2017.
U.S. military spending/defense budget for 2017 was $646.75B, a 1.08% increase from 2016.
U.S. military spending/defense budget for 2016 was $639.86B, a 0.95% increase from 2015.

It’s nice to know we are well protected. But from who?

USA Today asks the question is this really necessary? America outspends every other nation in the world. Almost three times the money spent by the second largest military in 2019. The USA spent $731.8 Billion. China spent $261.1 Billion. The sum of military spending for the next ten largest military spenders is less than the US military budget.

In Germany, about 45,000 Americans go to work each day around the Kaiserslautern Military Community, a network of U.S. Army and Air Force bases that accommodates schools, housing complexes, dental clinics, hospitals, community centers, sports clubs, food courts, military police and retail stores. About 60,000 American military and civilian personnel are stationed in Japan; another 30,000 in South Korea. More than 6,000 U.S. military personnel are spread across Africa, according to the Department of Defense.

About 220,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel serve in more than 150 countries, the Defense Department says. But in today’s world it is not military invasion that is the issue. It’s the cyber invasion that is in process now.

David Sanger of the New York Times reported on December 13, 2020, “The Trump administration acknowledged on Sunday that hackers acting on behalf of a foreign government — almost certainly a Russian intelligence agency, according to federal and private experts — broke into a range of key government networks, including in the Treasury and Commerce Departments, and had free access to their email systems.”

Remember the cyber attack on Sony Pictures in 2014. The FBI blamed a North Korea scheme to retaliate for the comedy ‘The Interview.’

More recently Business Insider reported on February 25, 2021 SolarWinds, a major US information technology firm, was the subject of a cyberattack that spread to its clients and went undetected for months. US agencies — including parts of the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and the Treasury — were attacked. So were private companies, like Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, and Deloitte, and other organizations like the California Department of State Hospitals, and Kent State University, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The military Industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned about is still a reality. Jobs manufacturing military hardware are consequential in almost every state. Is President Joe Biden prepared to face the 21st century world? He must or the United States will be overwhelmed by its enemies.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas

The board that governs the flow of power for more than 26 million people in Texas has been blamed for the widespread outages, prompting the governor, lawmakers and federal officials to begin inquiries into the system’s failures, particularly in preparation for cold weather.

The five board members, who intend to resign at the conclusion of a meeting scheduled for Wednesday morning, were all from outside of Texas, a point of contention for critics who questioned the wisdom of outsiders playing such an influential role in the state’s infrastructure.

The board became the target of blame and scrutiny after the winter storm last week brought the state’s electric grid precariously close to a complete blackout that could have taken months to recover from. In a last-minute effort to avert that, the council, known as ERCOT, ordered rolling outages that plunged much of the state into darkness and caused electricity prices to skyrocket. Some customers had bills well over $10,000.

One of the striking things about the crisis was not just that Texas was hit worse than neighboring states, but that some parts of the state did much better than others. On Tuesday, at the height of the power disruptions, only .04% of households tracked in El Paso County were without power, while the comparable number was 29% in Dallas County, 44% in Travis County (Austin), 41% in Tarrant County (Fort Worth), and 18% in Harris County (Houston).

Texas is the only state that has its own grid, which it maintains in order to avoid federal regulation. The rest of the US is on either the Western power grid (like El Paso) or the Eastern Power grid, like the panhandle and a few counties on the state’s eastern border. (In Bowie County, home of Texarkana, 10% of households lost power.) So when Texas’ supply/demand situation went bad, the rest of the country couldn’t bail them out.

The result was a laissez-faire market design that rewards those who can sell power inexpensively and still recover their capital costs. That keeps prices low when demand is steady. When demand spikes, however, so do prices, which can climb as high as $9,000 per megawatt-hour to incentivize power plants of all kinds to fire up.

Texas lawmakers are trying to find someone to blame.  Republicans are trying to blame Democrats but that will be hard to do in a state that is run by the GOP.  More likely those five board members from outside Texas will be the fall guys for mismanagement.

Water Quality

The issue of dirty water is not new. Texas may be feeling the impact of the Big Freeze but other cities have faced similar issues. Flint Michigan comes to mind as a good example of mismanagement.

I live in Los Angeles. When the city was hit with an earthquake in 1994 we were told to boil our water during the following week. Instead we started buying bottled water. We bought the 2 ½ gallon Arrowhead containers at Costco. We have continued buying bottled water since that time. We consume 5 to 7 gallons a week. I keep six to eight containers in the garage and an additional five gallons in a storage shed.

The city Department of Water and Power (DWP) sends out an annual water quality report. Of course it reports that that the water is safe to drink. I just don’t trust the report. When we re-piped our house in the year 2000 the old pipes were filthy and clogged. Am I to believe that the city’s pipes are cleaner than the 60 year old pipe that lead to my house?

In July 2014 the massive Sunset Boulevard water main break brought geysers of water, a sinkhole, flooding on the UCLA campus — the risks that come with expansive water line systems installed decades ago. The main line trunk that burst and turned UCLA into a swimming pool was 93 years old.

The failure also led to a familiar “Band-Aid approach” that experts say is common when pipes in an aging system fail.

Water main breaks continue in the city every month. That those breaks are a continuing problem says that we have a serious problem that the city DWP has yet to confront. One of the latest was near my home on Topanga Canyon Boulevard. After posting this item another break on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks reported on February 24. These breaks tell me that the pipes are deteriorating everywhere. Anything breaking off inside those pipes that ends up at my house? Oh no they say. Everything is OK.

Contaminated pipes are everywhere. Lead pipes are everywhere.  This map shows where it is most prevalent.

Once again money is the issue.