Sydney M. Williams
The Month That Was – April 2017
May 1, 2017
“The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days.”
Mark Twain (1835-1910)
A few days ago, in a reply that showed a rare understanding of political realities, my 12-year-old grandson responded to a question from his 16-year-old brother: “Do you even know what Communism IS, George?” “Sure, I do. It’s when one man works two hours and another guy works fourteen hours and they both get paid the same!” George gets it! I wish more adults did as well.
Global news dominated: Kim Jong-un continued to play chicken with the civilized world; Russian bombers, off Alaska, came within 30 miles of U.S. airspace; the U.S. dropped the “mother of all bombs” on ISIS holdouts in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan; in retaliation for a chemical attack by Assad forces, the U.S. fired cruise missiles onto a Syrian airbase; food riots broke out in Venezuela, as Socialism broke down. These events demonstrate how delicate is civilization’s balance. Keeping Humpty-Dumpty on the wall is the most important job of world leaders, especially the American President.
The most significant events during the month were rising tensions between North Korea and the civilized world. Kim Jong-un has nuclear weapons. He is developing missile programs, which threaten South Korea, Japan, the United States and dozens of other nations. President Trump spent time during the month with Kim’s sole patron, China’s President Xi Jinping. He may have had some effect. By month’s end, it was indicated that China had reduced coal purchases from North Korea. Two failed launches may be ascribed to North Korea’s ineptness, or to cyber interference on the part of the U.S. We don’t know. American Naval ships have been repositioned to the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan. Mr. Trump, in a rare move, summoned all 100 Senators to the White House to discuss the situation. Missile defense should be front and center. A few South Koreans were reported to be upset with Mr. Trump’s declaration that it would be “appropriate” for them to pay for the missile defense system. But, after all, it is their hide that is in most immediate danger. (Last Saturday, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the U.S. would pay for the system.) Reality, as most South Koreans know, is that the U.S. is the only counter-balance to China.
Assad’s gas attack, which killed dozens of civilians in the rebel-held city of Khan Sheikhoun in northwest Syria, crossed a red line with Mr. Trump. Fifty-nine cruise missiles destroyed runways and planes on the ground at the airbase used for the chemical attack. With President Trump and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley citing Russia as a co-conspirator, tensions are at Cold War levels.
Voters in France will have a choice between two Presidential candidates at a run-off election on May 8: Emmanuel Macron, a left-of-center Europhile and Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front. World financial markets, and elites in Brussels and Washington, are treating Macron like the coming of a modern-day Jeanne d’Arc – a savior of Europe. They immediately anointed him a centrist. I am not so sure. While he talks of reducing corporate taxes and reforming labor laws, he would keep France in the EU, with its reliance on the U.S. for defense, bloated bureaucracies and ineffectual immigration policies. He is a former Socialist, member of Hollande’s cabinet, and supports BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), regarding Israel in respect to Palestine. Polls indicate he should win. With a slim majority in Parliament and with Labor in disarray, Theresa May announced a “snap” election for June 8. Assuming she is successful in increasing Conservatives’ majority in Parliament (as polls suggest), she should be able to negotiate a more palatable exit from the European Union. Even so, talks between Mrs. May and EU President Jean Claude Juncker have become testy. In Turkey, a referendum, though narrowly won, will allow President Erdogan to increase his authoritarian rule.
Islamic terrorists were busy. A group killed fourteen and wounded fifty on a train in St. Petersburg. The Taliban killed 140 Afghan soldiers in the Dihdadi district of Balkh Province. Four people were killed, and fifteen wounded, when a Uzbekistan-born ISIS sympathizer drove a beer truck into a crowded street in Stockholm. A Californian man, Kori Ali Muhammad (nicknamed “Black Jesus”), killed three white men in downtown Fresno. When he was grabbed by police, he shouted “Allahu Akbar.” A German-Russian man bombed a bus in Germany carrying the Borussia Dortmund soccer team. Reports were mixed as to whether the cause was greed or terror. A Jihadist attack in Paris killed one policeman and wounded another. Islamic militants bombed Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, killing forty.
Elsewhere overseas, China launched its first domestically-built carrier – yet unnamed – from the port city of Dalian, which abuts the Yellow Sea in China’s northeast. After speaking with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, President Trump agreed to renegotiate NAFTA rather than junk it. A young Indian girl, estimated to be between eight and ten, was rescued after being found living with monkeys. Mudslides in Colombia killed at least 300. Venezuela has devolved into anarchy, the consequence of Socialism unleashed. Inflation has risen 480%, while GDP has fallen 14%. People are starving and medical help is virtually non-existent. Where is the U.N.?
Neil Gorsuch was sworn in as the 113th Justice of the Supreme Court. Partisanship, along with unrestrained hatred for everything-Trump, meant that the Senate had to extend Harry Reid’s “Nuclear Option” to Supreme Court Justices. All but two Democrats, in a childish pique, refused to vote for a man they had unanimously confirmed to the 10th Court of Appeals in 2006. The President announced his tax plan, which the New York Times immediately characterized as a sop to the rich. The bill would eliminate the deductibility of state and local taxes (New York City residents bear the second highest tax burden in the nation). Did that fact influence their opinion? While all details are not available, the bill appears to be a boost for business and a major step toward simplification. Tax policies should always be considered dynamically, as taxes do affect economic activity. Voters in Georgia went to the polls to elect a Representative to replace Tom Price (now Health and Human Services Secretary) in the State’s 6th District – a seat held by Republicans for 38 years. Democrats around the country saw this as a battleground to send a message to Mr. Trump. Despite spending $10 million (almost all of it from out of state and much of it from Hollywood), Jon Ossoff, a documentary film maker, failed to garner the necessary 50%, so will face Karen Handel in June. A deranged man in San Bernardino, California walked into his estranged wife’s high school classroom, and shot and killed her. He also killed one student and wounded another, before shooting himself. Peggy Noonan, one of my favorite columnists, won the Pulitzer for commentary.
April is a month replete with anniversaries, besides our wedding anniversary! Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany a paper containing his 95 Theses. While he may not have realized it, his actions began the Reformation and were, in part, responsible for the blood that flowed for a hundred years between Catholics and Protestants. A hundred and fifty-two years ago, on April 14, 1865 – just five days after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox – Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. One hundred years ago, April 13, 1917, the United States entered World War I. Arthur Herman of National Review wrote that the decision “signaled the emergence of the of the US as the arbiter of a new world order.” Seventy-five years ago, on April 18, 1942 – just over four months after Pearl Harbor – American bombers struck back at Japan, when General Jimmy Doolittle led a group of B-25 bombers over Tokyo. Twenty-two years ago, 168 men, women and children were killed by domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City.
Preliminary Q1 GDP came in at +0.7%, above expectations of +0.5%, but not enough to support the level of debt we are carrying and the entitlements we have promised. It was the lowest quarterly growth since the fourth quarter of 2015, and gives lie to the claim that Trump inherited a strengthening economy. However, for the month markets rallied. The DJIA was up 1.5% and the NASDAQ Composite climbed 2.3% – the latter topping 6000 for the first time. Uber, an innovative company (a “creative destroyer,” according to some), announced they would test flying cars within three years. When its manufacturing plant in Venezuela was seized, General Motors announced it was leaving the country. Since 1999, the ruling party of Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez have nationalized more than 1,400 companies, almost all of which have subsequently failed.
In other domestic news, universities continued their battle against free speech – providing students safe places from conservatives’ “hate” speech. Ann Coulter and the University of California at Berkley were the latest. Universities now claim to be unable to protect speakers from harm. In contrast, in what was termed “free artistic expression” (but in fact was just poor taste), the University of Alaska refused to remove a professor’s graphic portrait, depicting a decapitated Donald Trump. Why is it that the Left hates so violently? Tom Perez, the new head of the Democratic National Committee, habitually uses the word s**tty, when speaking of Trump’s policies. California Congresswoman Maxine Waters referred to Trump’s cabinet as a “bunch of scumbags.” And New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand routinely invokes the F-word in interviews, when speaking of Mr. Trump. The President is accused of vulgarity, but have we ever seen or heard anything like this from Trump, or from any Republican?
Juxtaposed to the treatment of conservatives, the Wall Street investment bank, Cantor Fitzgerald is paying former President Obama $400,000 to speak at a healthcare conference – one hour’s pay equal to his annual salary as President! The spacecraft Cassini, launched twenty years ago, is a joint effort between NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. It flew between Saturn and its rings – a first. Among its discoveries – indications that an ocean that once existed on one of Saturn’s moons contains the chemical ingredients necessary for life. In images seen around the world, United Airline passenger Dr. David Dao was dragged down the aisle when he did not voluntarily give up his seat to a United employee. Arkansas became the fourth state to execute a prisoner this year. The other three states are Missouri, Texas and Virginia. At least two murders, including one by Steve Stevens of Cleveland, were filmed and then posted on Facebook! A book published this month – which I have no interest in reading, but is apparently “juicy” – is “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.”
In women’s NCAA basketball, South Carolina beat Mississippi. After 111 wins and two national championships, UConn’s women’s basketball win-streak came to an end on April 1. In men’s NCAA basketball, North Carolina beat Gonzaga for the national title. Two Kenyans, Geoffrey Kirui and Edna Kiplagat, won the men’s and the women’s Boston Marathon.
Don Rickles, the lovable comedian who drew laughs from insulting his audience, died at 90. He did not discriminate – anyone was fair game. Robert Taylor died last month at age 85. In 1966, he went to work for what is now known as DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), but then ARPA. In his office, he had three computer terminals, each linked to a different research team. But, since the teams were not linked, they could not collaborate. With persistence, three years later ARPAnet was created, the forerunner of today’s internet. Stick that in your pipe, Al Gore!
Almost before it began, April has become history. We welcome May, with its flowers wrought from April’s showers. Enjoy the month! And God, help preserve continued peace.