Friday, May 24, 2019

Kris Crossed

Kris Kringle—also known as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Papá Noel, Père Noël—comes around one day a year, traveling by sleigh. He brings gifts for young and old that are generally appreciated (except for the odd “That tie is positively ugly”). By his example of generous gift giving, he has inspired people to do the same, thereby boosting both the local and national economies.

Need we point out that he is one of the most beloved—if, unfortunately, imaginary--figures in many cultures (as his many names indicate).


Another Kris, the unimaginary Kris Kobach—hereafter to be known as “The Knob”—is, unfortunately, with us all year round. He attended Harvard and received a law degree from Yale.(1) After losing attempts to gain a seat in either the Kansas state or national legislature, he finally found a job he could be elected to—Kansas secretary of state. The job consisted mostly of paper-pushing, such as regulating including sports agents, trade unions, cemeteries, and funeral homes.(2)

Obviously, sniffing around graveyards and funeral homes was not going to raise the heartbeat of The  Knob, Ivy League striver. So he latched onto another paper-pushing aspect of the secretary’s job: administering elections and voter registration throughout the state. In that role, he mounted his Rocinante and ventured out to tilt against the windmills of voter fraud. His quest was summed up perfectly in this sub-head of a Bloomberg article: 
Wild goose chases, phony accusations, imaginary threats: Nice work if you're Kansas's secretary of state.(3)
Another headline:
Judge Tosses Kansas' Proof-Of-Citizenship Voter Law And Rebukes Sec. Of State Kobach(4)
In that federal court case, The Knob—forgetting the old adage that a man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client—was, besides being the loser in the case, sharply rebuked by the judge:
Chief District Judge Julie A. Robinson sanctioned Kobach — who led President Trump's voter fraud commission— by ordering him to take a legal class on the rules of evidence or procedure. 
So much for a Yale Law School education!


Unfortunately, as I said above, unlike Kris Kringle, Kris The Knob is with us all year round, showing up in the most astonishing places. The latest sighting found him stuffing papers into an envelope to be delivered to the Grifter-in-Chief; it was an application to join the grifter mob as immigration czar. Actually, in addition to an application, this political loser(5) included a list of demands:

Kris Kobach’s Conditions for Becoming Immigration Czar
Mr. Kobach submitted the following list of demands during discussions for an administration post.
  • 1. Office in the West Wing.
  • 2. Walk-in privileges with the president.
  • 3. Assistant to the President rank - at highest pay level for WH senior staff.
  • 4. Staff of 7 people (2 attorneys, 2 research analysts, 1 scheduler, 1 media person, 1 assistant).
  • 5. POTUS sits down individually with Czar and the secretaries of Homeland Security, Defense, Justice, Ag, Interior, and Commerce, and tells each of the Secretaries to follow the directives of the Czar without delay, subject to appeal to the President in cases of disagreement.
  • 6. 24/7 access to either a DHS or DOD jet. Czar must be on the border every week.
  • 7. Ability to spend weekends in KS with family on way from border back to DC, unless POTUS needs Czar elsewhere.
  • 8. Security detail if deemed necessary after security review.
  • 9. Serve as the face of Trump immigration policy - the principal spokesman on television and in the media.
  • 10. Promise that by November 1, 2019, the president will nominate Kris Kobach to be DHS Secretary, unless Kobach wishes to continue in Czar position.(6) 


Amazing, wouldn’t you say? Even outdoing the other grifters with their dining tables and telephone booths—“24/7 access to either a DHS or DOD jet,” anyone?

Old Kris Kringle, who brings joy each year, somehow manages with a sleigh propelled by some Arctic fauna. 

Hey, Knob! You’re not in Kansas anymore!


(1) Now, really, how many knobs, beside The Knob, have graduated from these places and infiltrated into our lives, government, and culture?


Monday, May 20, 2019

Death Un-Donne

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee 
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so . . .
John Donne

How right was the great poet, and it was shown the other day. Death—mighty and dreadful though it appears to be—will be obliterated by a stroke of the pen:
E.P.A. Plans to Get Thousands of Deaths Off the Books by Changing Its Math                   NY Times*
According to the story, the Trump Environmental Protection Agency (an oxymoron, if ever there was one) will finagle some figures to make it seem that “the 1,400 additional premature deaths per year that the E.P.A. had initially forecast as a result of eliminating the old climate change regulation” will not occur. 

Take that, old Grim Reaper! The sleight of hand of a new modeling method will foil you.

The Times continues:
The new modeling method, which experts said has never been peer-reviewed and is not scientifically sound, would most likely be used by the Trump administration to defend further rollbacks of air pollution rules if it is formally adopted.  But the proposed change is unusual because it relies on unfounded medical assumptions and discards more than a decade of peer-reviewed E.P.A. methods for understanding the health hazards linked to the fine particulate matter produced by burning fossil fuels.


Today in my mailbox the daily Pacific Standard newsletter contained two links to stories relevant to the ongoing pollution crisis. The first story tells of the dangerous levels of air pollution in Mexico City, which have caused authorities in Mexico City to declare 
an environmental emergency on Tuesday after pollution reached potentially hazardous levels. . . .
On Thursday, the Mexican government took steps to limit residents' exposure by closing primary schools and limiting public works projects, according to the [Washington] Post. Authorities advised parents to close windows and keep children indoors.**

 The second article is even scarier. The headline reads:

The sub-head explains:
A new report finds that inhaling air pollution doesn't just impact the heart and lungs: It can damage all parts of the body, and cause or worsen diseases.***
The article notes that in addition the damage caused to the heart and lungs, pollution also causes damage to “the brain, bladder, and skin” and that various other health conditions “such as diabetes, dementia, cancer, and brittle bones, may be caused or worsened by air pollution as well.”


So you may experience everything from rashes to tumors, but never fear: the E.P.A. has you covered. In the US, at least, you won’t die because of pollution. Maybe in Mexico—but then again, when did Trump ever care about Mexicans?



Also here: 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Hunger Games

In the coming weeks, thousands of college students will walk across a stage and proudly accept their diplomas. Many of them will be hungry.

Thus the New York Times in an article entitled “Tuition or Dinner? Nearly Half of  College Students Surveyed in a New Report Are Going Hungry.”(1) The article tells the stories of some of the “45 percent of student respondents from over 100 institutions [who] said they had been food insecure in the past 30 days.”  

I would like to offer those undernourished graduates-to-be the wish that they have enough strength in their legs to make it to the podium to collect their sheepskins. However, I must—in all honesty—warn them that their lunchless days are not going to disappear if they follow the advice offered in an article in USA TODAY entitled “You don't need that: Average American spends almost $18,000 a year on nonessentials.”(2) In that piece Maurie Backman of The Motley Fool provides a list that purports to show “How Americans spend on luxuries” and urges us to ditch, among other things, our ride shares and our gym memberships. (One imagines that we can get our exercise by walking from one end of town to the other.) But most striking about the alleged luxuries to be dumped is lunch, which is claimed to cost $173.62 per month. And what is one to do with the money not spent? Why, buy life insurance, say the folks behind the information-gathering (who just happen to be in the business of selling? that’s right, life insurance).(3)


A week ago, the Warwick, Rhode Island school district told students with unpaid bills they had only one choice for meals: a sunflower butter and jelly sandwich.(4) That announcement raised an almighty wrong-headed tsunami of protests—to which the school district reacted by abandoning the new policy. You perhaps are wondering why I wrote “wrong-headed”? The new policy would have been for those students perfect preparation for their real world future. From unappetizing sunflower butter and jelly to the hunger of college to lunchless workdays—what a seamless transition!

But they have no reason to despair at what life holds for them: at the end of it all, there will be some insurance money to pass on to their descendants.


         (3) For a takedown of this article, see:

         (4) Not even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!