Thursday, July 19, 2018

Burrowing Into Books - "The Summer Wives"

Sydney M. Williams

Burrowing into Books
Reviews of Selective Readings

                                                                                                                                        July 19, 2018

“The Summer Wives”
Beatriz Williams

I’d forgotten about the scent of the sound, which had its own
particular tang, different from anywhere else in the world…”
                                                                                                Beatriz Williams
                                                                                                The Summer Wives

At an early age Beatriz was taken to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland by her parents. Most of her books contain fragments from those experiences.The Summer Wivescertainly does. Miranda, the main character who falls in love with a sailing-loving local, is drawn from her namesake in The Tempest. In Shakespeare’s play, Miranda is the daughter of Prospero. She is a compassionate young woman who lives on an island and who falls in love with a shipwrecked sailor, Ferdinand:

How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is!
O, Brave new world, that has such people in’t.”

As in all Beatriz’s novels, we travel between different time periods. In this case, most of the story takes place in the two years, 1951 and 1969, though we spend a few pages in 1930, when the story’s seeds – a double entendre, in the case of this book – are planted. We know there is a mystery; but it is unraveled slowly, allowing the reader to gradually realize its myriad tentacles. There is poignancy and happiness, love and hatred, envy and redemption. 

Toward the end of Beatriz’s novel, Miranda – now a stage and film star and no longer the naïf she was in 1951 – directs a play – Act One of The Tempest. The venue is set on a beach to celebrate the end of summer. An artist friend of her mother’s, Brigette, has been asked to play the slave Caliban. Brigette insists on playing the part her way, linking the role to the relationship between summer people and year-rounders. So, she tells Miranda how she sees Caliban: “He’s their slave…They have invaded his world, his island and now they rule him…This is their greatest fear, you know, that the savage will impregnate the gentile.” The present is thus embedded in the past.

We also get exposure to Troilus and Cressidaand Richard II. In the latter she quotes John of Gaunt in one of his most memorable (and one of my favorite) soliloquies: “…this little world, this precious stone set in a silvery sea, which… serves as a moat, defensive to a house against the envy of less happier lands…This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.” It is the way many of her characters, from both ends of the social scale, feel about their island.

The story takes place on a fictionalized version of Fisher’s Island, which is off the east end of Long Island and a forty-five-minute ferry ride from New London, Connecticut. Beatriz was intrigued by a place not well known to most Americans, but one to which summer residents have returned for generations. She was interested in the contacts and interdependency between those who live on the island year-round and those for whom the island is a summer interlude from homes on Park Avenue and Beacon Hill. Bianca, one of the natives, speaks to this relationship, in 1930: “You and your damned Families. You can afford anything, can’t you? One wife for the summer, and another wife for the rest of the year. My God, I am an idiot.” Relationships assume complexities and consequences, which Beatriz explores. 

With all that happens to Miranda over the years, it would be understandable should she have become cynical, but she doesn’t. She retains some of the characteristics of her name sake, and we are left hanging, not knowing what the future might entail, but we respect her. We leave her outside Greyfriars in 1970, a year after the story ends, looking toward the lighthouse (which plays a prominent role). She is watching the sails of boats populating the waters, when one catches her attention: “An ordinary sailboat, carrying an ordinary man, beating his way past the edge of Fleet Rock and up the treacherous channel toward me.” That is her last sentence, leaving the reader hungry for more. Like Trollope, Beatriz’s characters do not remain between the pages of a single book. Minor characters in one novel take on bigger roles in another. I hope, and I suspect, we have not heard the last of Miranda and Joseph.

In the meantime, enjoy this erudite and readable novel. Not only will you be entertained; you will be challenged.

"The Liberal Order Has Become Illiberal"

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day 
“The Liberal Order Has Become Illiberal”
July 19, 2018

We must especially beware of that small group of selfish men who would
 clip the wings of the American eagle in order to feather their own nests.”
                                                                                                President Franklin Roosevelt
                                                                                                State of the Union, January 1941

The so-called “liberal world order” arrived in the aftermath of World War II –an epic war between forces of good and evil. Millions had experienced the horrors of a hot war. In victory, the Allies wanted to ensure that such wanton killing would never happen again. It was a time when moral absolutes reigned. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” and C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” were written just before and just after the War. Both fantasy parables were based on the Biblical notion of good triumphing over evil.

In the wake of World War II, democratic nations agreed to create an international system – a liberal order – rooted in democracy, the rule of law and mutual respect for each country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It would be inspired by the U.S., but not submissive to her. Global organizations like the UN, NATO, WTO, World Bank and IMF were created to provide a forum for parties to meet, transact and discuss. But it was fear of mutually assured destruction – the threat of nuclear weapons and the power of a strong military – that kept major powers at bay during the first four and a half decades after the War. 

In the aftermath of the War, the United States was the only nation in a position to help revive its Allies…and its former enemies, and it did so. The U.S. had emerged from the War largely unscathed. Between the years 1940 and 1945, its economy expanded 75%, while those of other major combatants shrunk. The Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine and the deployment of U.S. troops provided economic assistance and acted as a buffer against the nascent spread of Communism.

The world evolved after 1945. While liberal capitalism helped drive economic growth and prosperity in the West, the East remained imprisoned, yoked to dictatorships and subject to the economic deprivation of Communism. The Cold War was eventually won by the forces of freedom, capitalism and democracy against confinement, poverty and authoritarianism. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States became the world’s sole hegemonic power. In 1990 President George H. W. Bush addressed the United Nations: “Out of these troubled times, our objective – a new world order – can emerge. Today, that new world is struggling to be born, a world quite different from the one we have known.” Unfortunately, the collapse of Communism created a vacuum of leadership in the West. The Cold War had been won, but what to do with the spoils? Reagan and Thatcher, the giants who had slain the Soviet dragon, were gone.

Over the past several decades, as politics in Europe moved inexorably to the left, American capitalism became questioned. The credit collapse of 2008 added fuel to those flames of concern, in part because most analyses ignored the consequential role played by government leading to that crisis. In the eyes of Europeans, the U.S. was no longer the savior it had been in 1945. In fact, it became begrudged. Simultaneously, to middle Americans, Europeans appeared condescending, arrogant, hypocritical, ethereal and weak. They were seen as Elois to the Morlocks who had liberated them. Americans came to resent the costs of defending a people who seemed unappreciative, self-centered, dependent on state-funded amenities and accepting as their due security provided by Americans. 

Over seventy years things change, and change happened in the West. Nationalism, which had been blamed for the rise of Nazism in Germany and fascism in Japan, became a component of liberalism during the Cold War, as the West urged nationalists to help defeat Communism. Keep in mind as well, Brits, French, Belgians, Scandinavians, Chinese and others had taken pride in their nations’ defeat of Hitler and Hirohito. Today, European elites condemn what they see as a rebirth of nationalism in Eastern and Central Europe, especially when progressive policies are challenged. Ivan Krastev, Chairman for Liberal Studies in Sofia, put it this way in a recent article for The Guardian: “Postwar German democracy was built on the assumption that nationalism leads ineluctably to Nazism…But, unlike German nationalists in 1945, central European nationalists in 1989 felt they’d come out the winners…” 

Sovereign rights and laws, once the domain of independent states, were relegated to bureaucrats in Brussels. Deprivation led to excess. Rising costs associated with ever-higher welfare payments, deteriorating demographics, increasing debt and dependence on an omnipotent rich uncle across the sea. In this fiscal morass, a debt-laden future was seen as acceptable to ensure a comfortable present.

Aggravating the situation, unfettered immigration policies put strains on cultures and economies. A rise in Islamic terrorism, emanating from the Middle East and Africa, and a return of socialist authoritarianism in Central America created floods of refugees – some in need, but among them many who look for “freebies” and a few were intent on harming their host country. Immigration, the engine of growth and diversity, became a fulcrum for division. From globalism emerged multiculturalism and then a concomitant dispersal of moral clarity. The lines between good and evil became blurred, washed away by a desire for inclusion. Under the guise of political correctness, the West adopted a theocracy of relativism. When asked whether the population of Muslims in Europe was a “very or somewhat” serious threat, more than 60% of respondents in Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands and England said yes. Yet, open borders are favored by many Western leaders in Europe and in the U.S. As Mark Steyn recently wrote, when the concerns of the majority are “regarded as unmentionable by mainstream parties, you have a crisis of democracy.”

For Americans, what is happening is consequential. A recent “Quality of Life” ranking by US News placed the United States 17thin the world, behind most of those helped. Social welfare states have been abetted and protected by the United States. Assumptions and expectations are that the status quo ante would continue, notwithstanding the human cost to administrative-led welfare states. In a recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Erica Komisar, psychoanalyst and author of “Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters,” wrote about Sweden, which has the highest personal income tax in the world: “While Sweden has worked hard to eliminate material poverty, it is creating a society whose children are suffering from emotional poverty.” A warning more than a quarter of a century ago by then Director of the UN World Health Organization Brock Chisholm portends ominously: “To achieve world government, it is necessary to remove from the minds of men their individualism, loyalty to family, traditions, national patriotism and religious dogmas.” His words are reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984.

As much as some Euro-centrics would like Europe to become politically, as well as economically, united, they should keep in mind that Empires have been tried in Europe and all ultimately failed. Think of the Holy Roman Empire, the epic battles between France and England during the Hundred Years War, Philip the II of Spain, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Napoleon and Nazi Germany. When the United States was formed, the history of individual colonies stretched back less than 200 years. The principal language was English, and a large percentage of the population came from the British Isles. Even so, the forming of the Union was not easy, and a Civil War had to be fought eighty years later to solidify the Republic that had been created in 1787. History, culture, religion, customs and language separate nations. Democracy, free trade and trade associations, forums to meet, student exchanges and the like are measures that help maintain friendships, alliances and peace, without forming an imperfect union.

If the EU were truly liberal, it would allow the UK to withdraw and then work out the mutually best trade, defense, cultural and immigration policies and practices. It would ask why and for what reason did Britain choose to withdraw? It would want to know, what is it that can be done better? It would make it easier for the aspirant to succeed by lessening regulations and reducing taxes. It would agree to eliminate all tariffs. It would become self-reliant in terms of defense, and it would face the harsh reality of domestic, social welfare policies that burden future generations, and which fail to account for changes in demographics.

At bottom, it is the cavalier attitude toward defense that is most troubling. In the years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, defense spending in the U.S. declined from 6.8% of GDP, during the height of the arms buildup in the 1980s, to 3.5% last year. Even so, as a percent of GDP, the United States still spends almost twice as much on defense as do France, Germany, the UK, Japan, Australia, Canada and Austria. Given the world we live in, amidst the threats that abound, we cannot afford to let defense spending slip further. Mr. Trump is not denying the relevance of NATO. He is asking, in his blunt and undiplomatic way, that beneficiaries re-think their obligations to help pay the price. He wants people to acknowledge the presence of good and evil, to stand up for the former and against the latter. As well, he wants trade with no tariffs. The current system has disadvantaged the United States, with deficits being garnered by the U.S. and surpluses gathered by those like Germany. The result, its trade deficit has ballooned, along with federal deficits and debt. In 1990, after a spurt in defense spending that brought down the Soviet Union, national debt was about 65% of GDP. Last year, it was 105%. The United States’ role as a rich uncle available for handouts is coming, by necessity, to an end. Nephews and nieces have done well and are now being asked to bear more of the burden, even if it means reducing the beloved welfare state.

The stories of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis remain relevant. Evil persists, in the guise of Islamic terrorists and in the re-birth of a territorial-aggressive Russia, and a China intent on dominating Asian seas and trading routes to Africa and the Middle East. Iran is on a glide toward nuclear weapons. Syria’s Assad remains in power. Kim Jong-un clings to his nuclear weapons. But, I believe we must also watch warily the growth of the Administrative State – executive and administrative orders, without legislative support, and non-elected district judges who issue nationwide injunctions. The risk to liberty too often emanates from inside. A Freedom House report last January noted that seventy-one countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties, while thirty-five countries experienced gains: “Democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades in 2017.”

It is democracy and republicanism that is wanted – the voices of the people and their elected representatives, not sanctuary cities, political correctness, “hash-tags,” “diversity,” “victimization” or edicts from Washington, London, Paris, Berlin or Brussels that is critical to liberalism. Tolerance, respect, universal values, fairness, equality of opportunity and obeisance to laws and cultural norms are necessary guidelines for a civilized, liberal society.  

In the rubric at the start of this essay, Roosevelt was speaking of dictators in Europe and Japan, but his warning, in both a domestic and global sense, has relevance today.

Monday, July 9, 2018

"Words and Phrases - Fake or Twisted?"

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Words and Phrases – Fake or Twisted?”
July 9, 2018

But no one was interested in the facts. They preferred the invention,
Because this invention expressed their hates and fears so perfectly.”
                                                         James Baldwin
                                                                         Notes of a Native Son, 1955

The media are less a window on reality, than a stage on which
officials and journalists perform self-scripted, self-serving fictions.”
                                                                                                Thomas Sowell
The Vision of the Anointed: Self    Congratulations as a Basis for Social Policy

As the two rubrics show, the concept offake” ortwisted” news is not new. The media has long been used for purposes of disinformation, propaganda and deceit. Aesop’s fable of the boy who cried wolf tells a story of deception gone wrong. The Federalist Paperswas written to persuade the undecided to support the Constitution. Lenin argued that capitalists bought up newspapers to control what was printed. Hitler employed Joseph Goebbels as his minister for propaganda. Using words to coax and prod others is the province of politicians, columnists, bloggers and essayists, including yours truly. What is distressing today is that editorializing has seeped into the news room, so that news is comingled with opinions. That does not mean we should be a nation of cynics, but skepticism is healthy. For whom or for what is the writer or speaker an advocate? 

One example: The front-page, top right-hand column of the July 2, 2018 New York Timeswas headlined, “Curbs on Unions Likely to Starve Activist Groups.” The article by Noam Scheiber, in reference to Janus v. AFSCME, read: “The Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory union fees forgovernment workers was not only a blow to unions…” Why did Mr. Scheiber use the word “for”? The fees are not forworkers; they are paid byworkers. They are for union leaders, certainly not for workers who disagree as to how money is spent. The editors of The New York Timeare scrupulous in words they choose; the use of “for” had to have been deliberate. One subtle example of editorializing on the front page.

Another example is the hue and cry over abortion, in regard to the replacement of Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court. Reality tells us that the prospect of overturning Roe v. Wade is remote. It was handed down forty-five years ago. It is embedded in law and social norms. Besides, conservatives’ respect precedent. Nevertheless, the law should not be confused with culture. Culture comprises the milieu. Law defines the boundaries. Law is – or should be – created through legislative bodies, affirmed by courts and executed by the Executive. Culture is a construct of religion, tradition, values and learning. It responds to whimsical winds of change. Yet, whenever a Republican President nominates a candidate for the nation’s highest Court, the cry goes forth – Republicans want to ban abortions. We are provided the specter of returning to back-alley doctors, dirty operating rooms and metal coat hangers.

Reactions by the Left to the prospect of a “conservative” Court have been eviscerating. They include the twisting of history and the substituting of fear for facts. Thirty-one years ago (before the “borking” of Robert Bork), Justice Kennedy was subjected to the same accusations when he was nominated by President Reagan. In 1986, Antonin Scalia demurred when asked by Senator Ted Kennedy if he would vote to overturn Roe: “I do not think it would be proper for me to answer that question.” Justice Scalia lamented the Roe decision, not because of its finding, but because the decision was based on a few Justices imposing their cultural values and not a result of a vote by state legislators. Could a nominee to the Court today be as forthcoming as Justice Scalia? No candidate for the Court should be asked to opine about cases that may or may not come before them. Such questions, in a vacuum, cannot be answered sincerely. Have we so politicized the process that straight-forward honesty is no longer possible? Should not wisdom and equanimity, along with knowledge of and respect for the Constitution – its declarations, amendments, precedents and limits – be the characteristics we should want in a Supreme Court Justice?

Diversity” is a word whose definition focuses on what is politically correct – race, religion and sexual orientation – and ignores ideas that are deemed unacceptable. Consider a recentNew York Timesarticle about the reaction of summer residents in Martha’s Vineyard – an exclusive enclave of the liberal rich – to Alan Dershowitz, former professor at Harvard Law School. Because his defense of the Constitution has meant, at times, defending President Trump, he has become persona non grata on, “an island that prides itself on civility and diversity,” to quote the Times. The irony embedded in that sentence appeared lost to the reporter. For there was nothing civil about the treatment of Mr. Dershowitz, when his conditioned support for Mr. Trump did not conform to what was considered socially acceptable. When they are accused of being neither fair nor civil, nobody hates with the intensity and venality of the Left. 

Equality” has lost its meaning. Are we speaking of opportunities or results? We are not equal and never can be. Is it fair that I am not equal to my neighbor in terms of wealth? Was it fair that when I was in high school the tall, blond football player ended up with the best-looking girls? We possess different abilities and bear different aspirations. We are individuals. We have different tolerances for risk. We will never be equal in aptitude, education or wealth. But we are, and we should be, equal as citizens under the law. Each individual should have equal opportunities to succeed? We should each strive to do our best and take responsibility for our deeds and words. We should acknowledge and celebrate our differences, not lament what cannot be. We should be civil and respectful of others, not use inequality as a political sledgehammer. 

Victimization” is a word whose meaning has become diluted by overuse. It is used by universities to countenance “safe (segregated) places,” and by politicians to justify compartmentalizing (segregating) voters into easily accessible units. 

Ironically, it has been Donald Trump, often portrayed as linguistically-challenged, who has proved to be a master of words. He intentionally enflames his antagonists. He knows what he is doing when he exasperates “Never Trumpers,” “Trump Haters” and “Resisters.” His opponents, like Maxine Waters, snap at the bait. They sound and react like extremists. They suggest he is a Nazi or a fascist. They call for impeachment and even his assassination. If he were a true threat to democracy, such actions might be excusable. But, the consequences of his actions – not his words – have been to limit the reach of government, not expand it, through cuts in regulations and reductions in taxes. It is the Left that desires a more powerful executive, an enervated Congress and a compliant Judiciary. It was they who politicized the IRS and the FBI.

It is too much to ask in this age of social media, but it would be nice if we could receive our news from unbiased sources – with facts laid out, without opinion or nuance – allowing the reader or viewer to develop his or her own opinion. But we can’t, or we won’t. So, we must endure the Twittering, blogging, biased reporting, and late-night TV comedians and hosts. To counter this wealth of propaganda, we must therefore read as widely as possible, to become as informed as we can and to then make decisions that suit our own, educated interpretation of events

Sunday, July 1, 2018

"The Month That Was - June 2018"

Sydney M. Williams

The Month That Was – June 2018
July 1, 2018

I went to Cannes – leaving Jeeves behind, he having intimated that
he did not wish to miss Ascot – round about the beginning of June.”
                                                                                                P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975)
                                                                                                Right Ho, Jeeves, 1934

Perhaps the universe operates according to a plan? I don’t know. But life on earth is in constant and unpredictable flux. Change is ever-present, whether caused by nature or man. What is needed are pilots to help navigate treacherous shoals, not whether to move left or right, but to plot courses based on a moral compass, in accordance with the ideals laid down by the Founding Fathers and one dependent on simple, proven principles of right and wrong, like common sense, the Ten Commandments, or Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.”


No month is without news highlights and June was no different. Certainly, Singapore vied for top billing. However, the story in the winning envelope was the release of the Inspector General’s report on its probe into the actions of the FBI and the Justice Department during the summer of 2016. It tells a story of corruption, collusion and bias within the nation’s premier law enforcement agency. Even The New York Timesreported that it painted a harsh portrait of the FBI during the 2016 presidential election, describing a destructive culture in which James Comey, the former director was “insubordinate… Senior officials privately bashed Donald J. Trump, and agents came to distrust prosecutors.” Current FBI Director Christopher Wray, in a subsequent press conference, appeared in denial: He said he took the report seriously, but nothing in it “impugns the integrity” of the FBI. “Our brand is doing just fine.” The Wall Street Journalreported: “Though IG Michael Horowitz’s conclusions are measured, his facts are damning.” While the report claimed there was no documentary or testimonial evidence to suggest political bias, facts suggested otherwise. Most damning was the text exchange between Peter Strzok, the FBI agent in charge of the Trump-Russia investigation and his paramour, top FBI lawyer Lisa Page. In August 2016, Ms. Page texted Mr. Strzok, “[Trump’s]not ever going to become president, right?” Mr. Strzok responded, “No. No, he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

On the day the news broke, the Times gave space for Mr. Comey to respond in an op-ed, which he did, in his familiar, sanctimonious manner, giving lie to the title of his self-serving book. One consequence of the IG report: the Mueller investigation may face a legal obstacle. As David Rivkin and Elizabeth Price Foley recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal, the investigation “is tainted by antecedent political bias.”

The reason this story came before the Trump-Kim meeting is that a self-governing democracy, which is the United States, relies on trust in its institutions, especially those that enforce the nation’s laws. The principal threat to democracy is not an external enemy; it is when the foundations of a republic crumble from within – when freedoms give way to the insidious demands of omnipotent government, when emotional outcries supersede rational responses. Its demise can be a function of a people grown too dependent on government’s largesse, when people forego personal freedom for the comfort of assured care. Unscrupulous politicians take advantage of people’s proclivity to be led. Democracies can also end in anarchy, with a loss of trust in leaders and government institutions. The Founder’s concept of liberty held that self-determined government would include checks and balances, a free people but with the constraint of tradition and civil behavior, all bound by the rule of law. Michael Horowitz’s report was an expose that all is not as it should be.

Clues to watch for in faltering democracies and fledgling tyrannies are more government: higher taxes, increased regulations, and spending that rises faster than GDP. Watch for rogue bureaucrats who put politics above the will of the people, smooth-talking politicians who purport to do good, but in fact deceive citizens and deprive them of liberty. Look out for intensification of partisanship, an inability of Congress to function and the refusal of government employees to heed electoral results. Beware of a backlash.


The other big news during the month was Singapore – the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. Whether their agreement results in de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is anyone’s guess, but it was a step forward. The two participants spoke in glowing terms, despite mutual insults of a few months earlier. Reaction was as expected: Republican lawmakers applauded the summit but were cautious regarding expectations. Democrats said Mr. Trump made too many concessions. Chuck Schumer called it “purely a reality show.” Nancy Pelosi claimed the “hasty” meeting “elevated” the Communist dictator to the world stage. “Never-Trumpers” were silent. The pact to which this agreement is compared is the Iranian deal of 2015. But there are differences. For one, no $400 million in cash has been delivered to Pyongyang on wooden pallets, as was sent to Tehran in 2015. For another, compare Mike Pompeo and John Bolton to John Kerry and Susan Rice. Which team is tougher, more willing to take the harder line? 

As for me, I am from Missouri, skeptical but hopeful, despite Mr. Trump’s propensity for braggadocio. What makes me skeptical are Mr. Trump’s egotism, his imperviousness to criticism and the history of two prior Kim regimes. What makes me hopeful is the overwhelming negative reaction on the part of mainstream media. For example, an article in the June 13 issue of the Financial Times, a once esteemed and unbiased paper, was headlined: “Kim judged clear winner even before ink dries on Trump deal.” The article quoted six “experts,” none of whom had anything positive to say. They claimed Mr. Trump had made “big concessions,” which included a “security guaranty,” but they didn’t say which ones and from whom. The only concession was the announcement that the U.S. would halt joint military exercises with South Korea – something that could be re-started in a matter of months, as our troop level in South Korea is to remain the same. No mention was made that sanctions, which includes ones from China, would remain in place, sanctions that drove Mr. Kim to the bargaining table. No mention was made of Mr. Trump’s own skepticism, embodied in his observation, “we’ll see.” With expectations so low victory may be possible.


Important for the preservation of the separation of powers was the announced resignation of Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. His doing so provides Mr. Trump the opportunity to appoint another individual who will help put the Constitution above politics. An overblown, hyped story was one of children being separated from their parents at our southern border, a subject addressed in a TOTD on June 20. I use the word “overblown” because such separations, while never desirable, are nothing new and have been used by Presidents since at least the mid 1990s. The difference is that Mr. Trump was vocal in issuing a “zero tolerance” order regarding illegal crossings. Other Presidents have hidden such draconian actions behind deceptive, sweet-smelling words of inclusion. Until the border is secured, the problem of illegal crossings will persist. One recommendation worth pursuing was made by Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institute at Stamford: Illegals and their families could be housed temporarily in under-used college and university housing during summer months. College dorms are better decorated, beds more comfortable and meals tastier and more nutritious than those found on Army bases. Besides, it would provide elites a chance to get to know people they know now only as symbols and see only at a distance. 

The U.S. withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council, which has become a platform for authoritarian countries, like Cuba, Rwanda and Venezuela. It has little to do with human rights. The Group of 7 met in Quebec City and ended with school-yard taunts in which all leaders looked ridiculous, especially the six who decided not to accept Mr. Trump’s recommendation that all tariffs be abandoned. In Colombia, the pro-business candidate Iván Duque Márquez beat former guerilla Gustavo Petro for the Presidency. Italy’s new coalition government will be comprised of the right-wing League, which won 37% of the vote and the left-wing Five-Star Movement, which won 32%. Spain unveiled a new government led by Socialist Pedro Sánchez but could be short-lived as his party has only a quarter of the seats in Parliament. He introduced his “pro-gender-equality, cross-generational” cabinet, which hopefully includes the best and the brightest. Mexico’s election will be held today, July 1. It is widely expected that the left-leaning anti-American Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) will win. President Trump announced he would meet with Vladimir Putin on July 15 in Finland. “Remainders” in the UK, taking their cue from “Resistors” in the U.S., blamed Russian interference for Brexit, not free and democratic elections.

Five people were killed when Jarrod Ramos, a man with a grudge against Annapolis’Capital Gazette, blasted his way into the newsroom, killing five and wounding two. Four Supreme Court decisions will have long-lasting effect. All were 5-4 decisions, indicating the political polarization of a court that should be above politics. In Janus v. AFSCME, the Court decided for the plaintiff – that unions cannot force members to pay for political activities with which the individual disagrees. In South Dakota v. Wayfair, the Court determined that state and local taxes must be collected by on-line sellers, regardless of whether the seller has an operation within the state. In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the Court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the State of California from compelling licensed pro-life centers to post information on how to obtain a state-funded abortion. In Trump v. Hawaii, the Court upheld the President’s right to impose a travel ban on those countries he deems a threat to national security. Primaries were held in a number of states. While generalizations are famously inaccurate, Trump-backed Republicans did well, while Democrats swung further left, reminding one of Yeats: “…Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”  
In financial markets, the most noteworthy changes during the second quarter were the rise in short rates, accompanied by a flattening of the yield curve – from 104 basis points to 92; declines in the price of gold and Bitcoins, and rises in oil prices and the U.S. Dollar. The TED spread – the difference between 3-Month Libor and 3-Month US Treasuries – narrowed, indicating less perceived credit risk. Bucking modestly positive stock market trends were the Shanghai Index and the Emerging Market Index, both down about ten percent. For the month, stocks in the U.S. were generally flat – the DJIA closed down 0.006% and the S&P 500 closed up 0.005%. Volatility ebbed. The Federal Reserve, as expected, raised Fed Funds Rates by a quarter point. The Institute for Supply Management released its report for the non-manufacturing sector, which suggested aggregate demand is overtaking aggregate supply, which, could lead to higher prices and stronger wages. The University of Michigan’s measure of consumer sentiment rose to 99.3 in June, from 98.0 in May. Amazon, JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway named Atul Gawande, a prominent surgeon and writer, to become CEO of their joint venture to tackle US-employee healthcare. Trade and tariff wars remained on center stage, affecting market commentators more than markets. Whether they reflect a game of chicken, blind-man’s bluff, or the hard-ball negotiating tactics of the Trump Administration remains to be seen. (I suspect the latter.)   

The announcement by Harley Davidson, the iconic American manufacturer of motorcycles, that they would move some production to Thailand caused an uproar, a manifestation of the hyperbole on the part of politicians and the press, and indicative of the political chasm that seems unbridgeable. Both sides exaggerated the planned move. First, the company initially announced the decision in January, to little fanfare. Second, Harley already has manufacturing facilities in Australia, Brazil, India and Thailand. Keep in mind, companies have four constituents: customers, employees, shareholders and communities. To the best of their ability they must satisfy all, which is what Harley Davidson is attempting. Michael Bloomberg said he would spend $80 million on behalf of Democrat candidates in the mid-term elections. Some Amazon employees said they will not be involved in selling face-recognition equipment to law enforcement agencies. (Ironically, it was face recognition technology that led to the identification of Jarrod Ramos in Annapolis.) A team of medical researchers at Mt. Sinai in New York City concluded that certain viruses, including Herpes, affect the behavior of genes involved in Alzheimer’s. The photograph “crying child,” used as a cover on Time Magazineto highlight the Trump Administration’s separation of children from their parents at our southern border, was phony. The child was with her mother. Wildfires in Colorado destroyed over 1000 homes and twenty-six square miles. The morally-challenged Samantha Bee called Ivanka Trump a “c—t”, with Sally Fields seconding the description. Not to be outdone, the verbally-challenged Robert De Niro, at the Tony Awards, twice repeated his call for action: “f—k Trump.”  “The Band’s Visit” won the Tony for the best new musical. “Koko,” the gorilla who charmed Mr. Rogers, died at age forty-six. New York City Mayor de Blasio chose to water down admission criteria at the City’s elite public school, swapping intellect for a more representational balance of race and ethnicity. Kathleen Kraninger, of the White House Office of Management and Budget, was nominated to lead the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFBP.) Inexplicably, the FDA decided that “pure” maple syrup must carry the label, “Sugar added.”

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave birth to a baby girl, the second elected leader in modern times to give birth while in office. (In 1990, Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto gave birth to a daughter.) Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was returned to office with 53% of the vote. The long-running dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia looked like it came to an end with the naming of the country just north of Greece as the Republic of North Macedonia, but not all i’s are dotted, or t’s crossed. Spain accepted 629 migrants stranded when Italy’s new government refused them entry. (Over the past four years, Italy, a country of 60 million, has taken in 640,000 migrants.) Pope Francis met with a group of oil company executives to discuss climate change. An earthquake in Guatemala’s left 300 dead or missing. Studies published in the Journal of Science indicated that discoveries by NASA’s “Curiosity Rover” showed traces of Methane on Mars, indicating that life might once have existed there. In a case of political correctness carried too far, Tommy Robinson, a British journalist was jailed for live-streaming activities outside a courthouse in Leeds where some Muslim men were facing trial on charges of child rape and sex trafficking, “grooming” is the euphemism used for such mendacious behavior by the British courts, when it applies to Muslim men. 

In sports, the Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship and the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup. The French Open was won by Simona Halep (Romania) and Rafael Nadal (Spain). “Justify” won the Belmont Stakes, the 13th three-year-old to win the Triple Crown. Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. Yale beat Harvard in the 153rdBoat Race on the Thames in New London, CT. 

The Grim Reaper made his appearance and took away a number of our finest: Gena Turgel, a Holocaust survivor who helped Anne Frank in her final days and who found love with a British soldier-liberator. She died at 95. Ellan Brennan, matriarch of one of the nation’s premier restaurants, Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, died at 92. Poet Laureate and New Hampshire resident Donald Hall died at 89. Sadly, suicide took Kate Spade at 55 and Anthony Bourdain at 61. A neighbor and friend In Essex, Douglas Bennet, who led both NPR and Wesleyan University, died at 79. And my good friend Harold Rubin died of Multiple Myeloma, at age 76.


Not all the news was dramatic, horrific or just plain bad. Three items during the month suggest a nascent, positive change in higher education: The first was an interview on C-Span with Yale Professor John Lewis Gaddis, author of On Grand Strategy. Professor Gaddis discussed the Yale-sponsored sojourns he requests of his students, to spend time in small towns across the U.S. The idea is to immerse themselves in the world outside the ivied walls within which they are privileged to study. Another example: Salena Zito, a political journalist, was recently invited to teach a class on small-town America at Harvard. The students spend two or three days in towns in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Despite myriad ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, most students in both colleges came from coastal urban and suburban areas, with similar political viewpoints. The lesson learned is that the wisdom of the people is a far better arbiter of principles of democracy than the dictates of those who have been spent careers in ivory towers. The third item suggesting the possible beginnings of a positive change in higher education was an op-ed in The Wall Street Journalby Emily Esfahani Smith. Ms. Smith is with the Hoover Institute. She wrote of Heterodox Academy, an organization founded in 2015 to promote viewpoint-diversity on campus. The Academy now numbers more than 2000 professors and graduate students in the U.S., and includes such luminaries as Steven Pinker of Harvard, John McWhorter of Columbia and Robert George of Princeton. In 2015, the University of Chicago issued a statement validating the importance of free speech. To date, forty-two colleges, from Columbia to the University of Minnesota, have adopted the Chicago principles. It is true that these examples represent a small fraction of our educational institutions, but, as the saying goes, from little acorns giant Oak trees grow. It is a start.


June was a month of remembrances. Seventy-eight years ago, on June 4-12, 1940, 338,000 British soldiers were evacuated from Dunkirk, because thousands of civilians risked their lives to save their fellow countrymen. Four years later, on June 6, 1944, a full complement of Allied soldiers returned to the beaches at Normandy; the re-taking of Europe began.

We enter July, the start of the second half of the year and the month we celebrate our Declaration of Independence. It is a fitting time to consider the hard-fought unity that brought forth that document and to recognize the civility that permitted its issuance, and which is necessary for our democracy to survive.