Sydney M. Williams
The Month That Was – September 2018
September 30, 2018
“For it’s a long, long time
From May to September,
But the days grow short
When you reach September.”
Kurt Weill & Maxwell Anderson
Sung by Walter Huston
“Knickerbocker Holiday,” 1938
Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister for Propaganda, once said, if a lie is repeated often enough it becomes truth. The anti-Trump crowd has mastered Goebbels’ advice. We have been told repeatedly, in increasingly shrill voices, that Mr. Trump is incompetent, self-obsessed, destructive, toxic, impulsive, petty, adversarial, ineffective. One U.S. Senator, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a woman who lied about her heritage, has urged Congress to remove him by invoking the 25thAmendment. Another, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a man who lied about his experience in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, called him “an unindicted co-conspirator,” questioning the legitimacy of his presidency. Two reporters from the Financial Times, in an article on Brazil, compared Mr. Trump to Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte, claiming him to be anti-gay, anti-women and anti-Black. So, the question is:given his successes:the 2017 tax bill, reducing regulation, lowering unemployment, returning the capital of Israel to Jerusalem, rendering ISIS less dangerous, bringing North Korea to the table, and getting European nations to up their payments for NATO. What would his achievements have been if he had been thoughtful, constructive and competent?
Increasingly, Democrats rely on hate. Hate needs a menace, as Shelby Steele noted in a recent Wall Street Journalop-ed. What started out by Democrats sixty years ago as a fight against injustice – especially racism and segregation – has morphed into fictional enemies, ones necessary for the Left to obtain and retain power. Like Machiavelli, means, no matter how insidious or dishonest, are justified because of the “noble” end sought. Mr. Steele suggests (optimistically?)that “the source of its angst and hatefulness is its own encroaching obsolescence.” I hope so. The use of personal smears to gain political advantage has become endemic to the Left, making imperative the need for at least one prominent Democrat to stand up, using words like those uttered by Joseph Welch in 1954, in response to Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) attacking Army Secretary Robert T. Stevens: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?Have you left no sense of decency?” Democrats are not alone in the willful destruction of people’s character, but they have taken the practice to new levels. Character assassination comes directly from the playbook of Joseph Goebbels.
Partisanship grows deeper. Every time Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) opens his mouth, the gulf widens. In his farewell address to the nation, George Washington warned against what he called the “…baneful effects of the spirit of party…” rooted in “the strongest passions of the human mind.” But, could he have envisioned the priggish hyperbole of those like Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-NY), as they interviewed Judge Brett Kavanaugh for a seat on the Supreme Court, or the sullying of his character by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) who withheld until the last minute a letter from a woman alleging Judge Kavanaugh assaulted her as a teenager? Could President Washington have predicted the publication of a letter published in The New York Timesby “Anonymous,” disparaging the White House as an out-of-control fraternity house and the President as an impetuous, tempestuous idiot? Could the man who spoke the words, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports” have predicted a society where religion is disparaged, morality considered relative and students instructed to find their “own” truths? Could the Father of our Country have envisioned a time when his descendants would create a dystopian world where concepts of dignity and respect have become subordinated to victimization and identity politics? Have we fallen so far that rising again is not possible? Has partisanship made our legislative bodies dysfunctional? Do we no longer elect individuals who can think and act independently of party? Have we reached the end of civilization? I don’t think so, but it is easy to become discouraged.
Now, that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s move on, or, rather, at first, backward, as the Kavanaugh plight has me thinking back more than a hundred years. In 1889, Emile Zola wrote a letter to a French newspaper accusing the government of false charges, charges based on discrimination because the accused was Jewish. This was the conviction of Alfred Dreyfus, an Army staff officer, for espionage. Zola titled his letter “J’Accuse,” as Dreyfus had no opportunity to rebut. The court’s decision was abetted in the kangaroo court of public opinion. Have we returned to that even earlier pre-Enlightenment time when Salem witch trials sent the accused, with no corroborating evidence, to the gallows? A core tenet of Anglo-American law says that an accused is presumed innocent until guilt is proven, that the burden of proof must be made by the one making the accusation, and that the credibility of the victim and accuser should not be influenced by race, religion, ethnicity or gender and that evidence must be gathered and substantiated. I worry about my granddaughters, but with allegations alone enough to permanently scar one’s reputation, what happens in thirty years to my teenage grandsons? Will they live in fear of any female acquaintance they once had? Men can be victims as well as women. It is principles of fairness, respect, civility and decency that should be in the forefront of our thinking. We live under the rule of law and within a code of rules. A civil society cannot be otherwise. It is what prevents chaos. In any event, as we well know, the political Left’s argument against Judge Kavanaugh is not about sexual harassment, it is for the soul of the Constitution. (The media, doing the Left’s bidding, is focused on the red herring of sexual assault.) The Founders believed in the separation of powers, that the role of the Court was to interpret the law and to ensure that laws passed met criteria embedded in the Constitution. The making of laws is reserved for the legislature, composed of those who are accountable to the electorate. This is what Judge Kavanaugh believes. The Left, in contrast, finds Courts convenient to make laws where and when legislatures choose not to do so.
In what amounted to a circus, a “sham” in the words of Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), the Senate Judiciary Committee met last Thursday to hear the testimony of a lawyered-up Dr. Ford and to listen to the rebuttal by a passionate Judge Kavanaugh. On an emotional level, both were deemed credible, but Dr. Ford, the accuser, had no corroborating witnesses. For Democrats, the goal all along has been delay, no matter the despicable means. Both individuals and their families have been through an unnecessary and emotionally stressful wringer, none of which was necessary, as the allegations by Dr. Ford were uncovered by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) in early July. The Judiciary Committee whose mission is to offer advise and consent to the President on judicial nominations has become, in the words of Judge Kavanaugh, a committee whose purpose is “to search and destroy.” However, the Committee, on a Party-line basis, did vote to send the nomination to the full Senate, where Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), after being accosted by two women in an elevator, managed to convince Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to delay a full Senate vote for a week, to give the FBI time to conduct its seventh investigation into Judge Kavanaugh’s past. Democrats are simply more ruthless than their Republican counterparts. Give them an inch and they take a mile. Should the FBI return in a week with no new information, Democrats will demand more time. The whole sorry episode could have been scripted by the Marx brothers.
Setting aside the rude, supercilious snickering at the start of the President’s speech, Mr. Trump spoke of America’s “policy of principled realism,” which means “we will not be held hostage to old dogmas, discredited ideologies, and so-called experts who have been proven wrong over the years, time and again.” He addressed myriad topics, from North Korea, Iran (the Iran deal was a windfall for Iran’s leaders”), Syria, ISIS, trade ( “fair and reciprocal”), energy ( “reliance on a single foreign supplier can leave a nation vulnerable to extortion and intimidation”) and Venezuela (“where socialism has bankrupted the oil-rich country and driven its people into abject poverty”). In explaining why the U.S. left the U.N. Human Rights Council, why the U. S. will not recognize the International Criminal Court and why the United States would not participate in the new Global Compact on Migration, he said: “We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.” But it is wrong to conclude Mr. Trump is an isolationist: “We are standing up for America and for the American people. And we are also standing up for the world.” He added: “Sovereign and independent nations are the only vehicle where freedom has ever survived, democracy has ever endured, or peace has ever prospered.” The speech should be read it in its entirety, not left to interpretation by biased reporters and commentators.
Far-left candidates in at least three northeast states did not do well. Governor Gina Raimondo defeated challenger Matt Brown in Rhode Island’s Democrat primary. She will face Republican Allen Fung. In New York, despite multiple corruption charges, Governor Andrew Cuomo easily beat Cynthia Nixon in the Democrat primary. In Delaware, incumbent Senator Tom Carper, a moderate Democrat beat progressive newcomer Kerri Evelyn Harris for the U.S. Senate nomination. He will face Kevin Wade. However, Progressive Boston city councilwoman, Ayanna Pressley, did defeat incumbent Representative Michael Capuano, in the Democrat primary for a Congressional seat in that State’s Seventh Congressional District. Barring a fluke (there is no Republican challenger), Ms. Pressley will become the first Black individual to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives. Hurricane Florence, downgraded to a category 1 when it hit the North Carolina shore, killed 47 and did at least $50 billion in damage, mostly in North and South Carolina. Additionally, it was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 5,500 hogs and between 3 and 4 million chickens and turkeys. Most of the damage was caused by flooding, due to heavy rainfall and the slow-moving nature of the storm. Some rivers, like Cape Fear River, did not crest until a week or more after the hurricane made landfall. In Micronesia, an Air Niugini flight on its approach into Weno’s airport crash-landed in a lagoon. All 47 passengers and crew were safely evacuated.
Theresa May showed backbone after being humiliated by smug and insincere European elites, including Council President Donald Tusk and French President Emmanuel Macron, in Salzburg where she presented her Chequers plan for Brexit. It was rejected forthwith. “We are at an impasse,” said Mrs. May, upon returning to London where she stood ready to leave the EU without a deal. While Tory Eurosceptic MPs endorsed her, the Left claimed she was pandering to the Right. In a rebuke to Viktor Orban, Europe’s parliament voted to censure Hungary, warning against growing nationalism (by definition, a threat to the EU), but in fact reflective of immigration policies that have overwhelmed Europe. Sweden Democrats, a right-wing party, continued to gain ground, winning 17% of the vote, making it difficult for the Social Democrats to form a government. Viktor Orban and Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini pledged to obstruct Europe’s agenda on migration. (European elites, not being personally affected, have been impervious to the consequences of their immigration policies.)
The world’s largest Muslim country, Indonesia, a country run by secularists, may be moving toward extremism. A radical cleric, 75-year-old Ma’ruf Amin, was chosen by President Joko Widodo to be his running mate in next year’s election. Syria, according to reports, has approved the use of Chlorine gas to cleanse the last rebel stronghold in Idlib, the northwest province that contains three million people, including 70,000 opposition fighters. If used, President Trump has promised retaliation. In Xinjiang Province, China’s gateway to Central Asia and a key part of its BRI initiative, over a million Uighur Muslims have been moved to re-education camps – a euphemism for jails. On the other end of the political spectrum, in the Maldives, democracy prevailed. Opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed defeated President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who had been moving his country closer to China. Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula moved closer to reality, with Kim Jong-un’s offer to decommission a plant that makes fissile material for nuclear weapons, an offer contingent on unspecified concessions on the part of the U.S. The United States is defunding UN programs that aid Palestinian terrorists, closing the PLO office in Washington and threatening to impose sanctions against the International Criminal Court, as “ineffective and unaccountable,” a jurisdiction the U.S. does not recognize.
The United States Census Bureau issued its annual report on the U. S. economy. It showed that real medium household income increased 1.8% to $61,372 between 2016 and 2017, while the poverty rate dropped 0.4% to 12.3%, with improvements across all sectors, including among Hispanics and Blacks. The share of people earning less than $15,000 fell to 10.7%, the lowest level since 2007. Households making more than $150,000 rose by 0.7% to 14.7%. Higher incomes lifted a million people out of poverty in 2017. Consumer confidence rose to a 17-year high. In contrast, between 2009 and 2014 median household incomes stagnated and poverty increased, as the expansion of welfare programs reduced the incentive to work. Unshackling regulation and a reduction in corporate and personal taxes have lifted animal spirits. On the negative side, an immediate effect has been an increase in the federal deficit. On the positive side, a one percent increase in GDP growth will increase annual GDP by about $190 billion and create about 1.5 million jobs. Faster GDP growth will, in time, increase federal tax revenues. The deficit is a spending problem, made worse by the fact that about 85% of all spending falls into three categories difficult to reduce: mandatory (61%), which includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs; defense (16%), and interest (8%). Higher interest costs are a given. A dangerous world means we cannot cut back on defense. Unless and until Congress tackles mandatory spending, the deficit will continue to grow. It is expected to rise from $665 billion in FY 2017 to $833 billion in FY 2018 and $985 billion in FY 2019 – a frightening prospect in a time of prosperity. The Federal Reserve raised the Fed Funds rate for the third time this year, to 2.25%. Concerns over Iran caused the spread between Brent and West Texas Intermediate crude prices to widen. For the month, the DJIA rose 1.9 percent. Volatility remained subdued. Yield spreads narrowed.
The European Central Bank announced plans to wind down its €2.5 trillion quantitative easing program, by halving its monthly bond purchases to €15 billion a month and phasing them out entirely by year-end. In his last State of the Union speech, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said he vowed to turn the Euro into a reserve currency to rival the U.S. Dollar. He was referring, particularly, to energy purchases, which are denominated in Dollars, on imports from Russia and the Middle East. A report from the U.S. Energy Information Agency on September 12 noted that the United States is now the largest producer of crude oil in the world, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia. NAFTA’s fate was unknown as this essay was published, but it appears that the U.S. and Mexico are close to a deal.
Typhoon Mangkhut killed sixty-nine people in the Philippines and Hong Kong. A 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, killing thirty-nine. A Tsunami hit Indonesia, killing over 400. Seven were injured, including two British tourists in a knife attack in Paris. Youssef Najah was arrested, terrorism was not cited as a motive. Brazil’s Natural History Museum was destroyed by fire. The HMS Endeavor was discovered off the coast of Rhode Island. Captained by James Cook, the ship was the first European vessel to sail into Botany Bay, in what is now Sydney, Australia, in 1770. North Korea’s 70th Anniversary parade was noticeable for the absence of any intercontinental ballistic missiles. Of the 2.3 million Venezuelans who have fled their country, one million have arrived in Colombia, a country of 50 million. President Trump is considering further sanctions against the illiberal regime of Nicolas Maduro. Liberia is investigating the disappearance of more than one million newly printed bank notes, worth $104 million, or about five percent of the country’s GDP. According to a report in The New York Times, ISIS, which carried out fourteen successful attacks in North America and Europe in 2015, twenty-two in 2016 and twenty-seven in 2017, has only managed four in the first eight months of this year. The scale, in terms of deaths, has also fallen. An agreement between the Vatican and the Chinese government gives Beijing the authority to name Catholic Bishops in China. After an eighty-year run, Volkswagen AG said it was halting production of the Beetle.
With politics hanging heavy, Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) provided an unintended humorous interlude with his “Spartacus moment.” Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an executive order requiring all Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) detainees be transferred out of city custody immediately. California’s electric power prices have risen 25% since 2013, to a level 41% higher than the national average. Senator Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren (D-MA) proposed an Accountable Capitalism Act, which would mandate that every new and existing public corporation with over $1 billion in revenues be required to obtain a federal charter. (There are about 400 qualifying companies in the U.S.) Representatives of employees would have to fill forty percent of all board seats. And most of us thought shareholders elected directors to represent their ownership interests! Upsetting Beijing, the U.S. approved the sale of $330 million worth of military goods to Taiwan. Bill Cosby was sentenced to three to ten years in a Pennsylvania state penitentiary. Bob Woodward’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” was published. It prompted a one-word response from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, as regards comments he is alleged to have made: “Bullshit.”
Two shootings in Alabama left one dead and eleven wounded. Two shootings in Bakersfield, California left seven dead and four wounded. Breaking with tradition, ex-President Obama re-entered the political arena, with a speech to students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He cast his net wide: “The politics of division and resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican party…in an appeal to racial nationalism that’s barely veiled.” Really? Representative Chris Collins (R-NY), indicted on insider trading charges, decided to stay on the ballot, reversing an earlier decision. Fifty million Facebook accounts were hacked. Following a controversial penalty against her, Serena Williams lost to Naomi Osaka in the U.S. Open. In the men’s finals, Novak Djokovic defeated Juan Martin del Potro. Tiger Woods won his first major tournament in five years. In the movie “The First Man,” a story of Neil Armstrong and the first moon landing, Ryan Gosling, a Canadian, omits him carrying the American flag, which caused Chuck Yeager to say: “That’s not the Neil Armstrong I knew.” Rewriting history is fine for writers of fiction but does a disservice to those who are interested in the past, warts and all. At a memorial service for the victims of 9/11 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, President Trump spoke movingly of the forty crew and passengers aboard that doomed flight: “They boarded the plane as strangers and they entered eternity linked forever as heroes.”
Death made its appearance. Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang died at 61 after a serious illness. Actor Burt Reynolds died at 82. Richard DeVos, founder of Amway and father-in-law of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos died at 92. Also dying at 92 was Freddie Oversteegen, who as a brave, teenage Dutch resistant fighter lured Nazis into secluded wooded areas where she dispatched them. And I lost a good friend in Bob Wood, a gentle, gentleman who died at 89.
To return to my opening paragraphs: The Left wallows in hypocrisy. In a little over half a century, they have gone from advocates for sexual liberation to a preference for nunnery-like behavior. The New York Timeshad an article in which they wrote that Trump had galvanized women to action, that “…the battle over his [Judge Kavanaugh’s] confirmation has swelled into an event of titanic consequences in the nation’s evolution on matters of gender and women’s equality.”Nothing was said about discovery of truth, or of the need for mutual respect between genders in civil society. They did not explain why women are more credible than men, nor did they wonder at the lack of corroborating evidence. They never asked why the more repugnant President Bill Clinton (in matters sexual)did not elicit similar responses from women twenty years ago. The answers lie in false narratives, perpetrated by Democrats who tell us that Republicans don’t support women’s rights. It is a lie repeated ad nauseum by those who believe words speak louder than actions. A lie becomes truth, as Goebbels noted. As President Trump would say, “sad.”
We move on to October, a time when nature prepares for months of hibernation. Let’s hope it also gives birth to peace and civility. But I fear that is more a wish than a hope.