Let’s step back, look in the mirror and be really honest.

Who knows someone who desires to abruptly leave home in the dark of the night; taking only what they can carry; dragging along young children who are already traumatized; and expecting to travel hundreds – maybe thousands – of miles to a strange land where they don’t speak their language and where they know no one?

People who fall into this dilemma are sometimes called:  Refugees;  Migrants; and/or Asylum seekers. Whatever label seems most appropriate, they tend to number around one million people annually across the globe.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) was created in 1950 to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes as an outcome of WWII.

Over the ensuing 68 years, UNHCR has become the premier expert on migration, working with 128 countries and assisting well over 50 million refugees to successfully restart their lives.

Mixed movements (or mixed migration) refers to flows of people traveling together, over similar routes and using the same means of transport, yet often for different reasons.

The men, women and children traveling in this manner often have either been forced from their homes by armed conflict or persecution, or are on the move in search of a safer (better) life.

People traveling as part of mixed movements have varying needs and may include asylum-seekers, refugees, stateless people, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied or separated children, and migrants in an irregular situation. Mixed movements are often complex, and can present challenges for all those involved.

An asylum-seeker is someone whose request for sanctuary has yet to be processed. National asylum systems are in place to determine who qualifies for international protection. During mass movements of refugees, usually as a result of conflict or violence, it is not always possible or necessary to conduct individual interviews with every asylum seeker who crosses a border. These groups are often called ‘prima facie’ refugees.

Donald “King of the Con Men” Trump has the attention span of a gnat, the moral turpitude of a ‘made man’ and the integrity of a Carnival Barker.

Mr. Trump has leveraged his expertise as a Carnival Barker to master the classic Shell Game which relies on distraction to temporarily fool the audience toward a false conclusion.

For weeks, Trump — in cahoots with his acolytes and sycophants – has maintained that potential asylum-seekers entering the U.S. at legal border crossings would not be prosecuted, and would be processed in turn.

Sounds good, right?  Except these elected and appointed U.S. officials concurrently made it virtually impossible for these migrant asylum seekers to cross the border legally and enter their petition for sanctuary.

These elected and appointed U.S. officials have consistently denied that their evil policy to criminalize mothers fleeing unimaginable atrocities in their home countries and accompanied by young children who cross into the U.S. at any place other than a legal border crossing – even those who tried to enter at an official entry point but were prevented by arbitrary and capricious gate keepers – was intentional, discriminatory and dangerous.

Most egregious:  We have recently learned that Stephen Miller, the White House senior advisor who is the architect of many of the Trump administration policies on immigration, is the great-grandson of a Jewish immigrant who fled the poverty and pogroms of the Russian Empire in the early 1900s.

Stephen Miller may have a serious learning disability which has prevented him from learning the lessons of history which help inform the thoughts and actions of informed, compassionate and successful servant leaders.  Perhaps Mr. Miller needs some medical intervention which could help him focus on humane, considerate and civilized thoughts and behaviors?

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Another branch of our armed forces?

I just can’t imagine an Industrial Engineer who would look at the current structure of the Pentagon and the U.S. military and not conclude that we have an extraordinarily inefficient approach to defense.

Air, land and sea.  Sounds good, right?

Except that we have 5 branches which overlap, compete with each other directly and indirectly, and don’t always communicate well.

Now, the Master Obfuscator and Distracter-in-Chief wants to start a 6th branch!

I can only conclude that The Donald is running wild trying to divert attention away from some of his self-created demons: Immigration; His war on Canada; His new love affair with Kim Jong Un; A ‘tax reform’ plan which will leave America bankrupt; The deterioration and ultimate disintegration of the American health care system; The ‘Russia thing’; Cyber security intrusions and risks across the entire U.S. public and private sector; Rapidly deteriorating physical infrastructure across the U.S.; Escalating gun violence, the NRA and 21st century gun control; Mueller and his ‘Russian Witch Hunt Hoax’; Stormy Daniels; and Dozens of other critical issues which need to be addressed in an honest, responsible and strategic fashion.

Donald J. Trump has the attention span of a gnat, the moral turpitude of a ‘made man’ and the integrity of a Carnival Barker.  Despite that, he is our POTUS, and he continues to dash along his path toward fooling many of the people most of the time.

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 was approved by the One Hundred Fourth U.S. Congress, and was signed into law by President Clinton on September 30, 1996.

The evolution of this federal law began just after Republicans assumed majority party status in the House and Senate after the 1994 mid-term elections. Moved forward under the leadership of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the evolution of this Act was long and contentious.

The Act was a major step forward on securing our borders. Among other things, it provided for a dramatic increase in the number of Border Patrol agents; allocated $12 Million for a 14-mile triple fence along the US border from San Diego eastward; provided funding to the INS for acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment including aircraft, helicopters, night vision goggles and four-wheel-drive vehicles.

A critical focus of the Act was to provide stronger enforcement efforts and penalties for persons who: attempt to enter the U.S. illegally; smuggle immigrants into our country; or live inside U.S. borders without proper documentation.  A key driver of the legislation was a popular groundswell to improve oversight of immigrants to reduce and/or eliminate those aliens who had strong propensities toward bad behaviors.

By way of background, a wave of people fleeing from Central America’s ‘Northern Triangle” in the 1980’s –El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – helped to create a perfect storm to challenge U.S. immigration enforcement.

The great percentage of these Northern Triangle immigrants were people who wanted to find a stable environment for their family; to assimilate; and to become productive members of their new community.

A small number of these individuals were survivors who had fought in civil conflicts — some of whom were naturally drawn into street gangs, including MS-13 — most of whom were unattached males with no children.

One of the tenets of this 1996 Act clarifies and codifies the role of an examining immigration officer to determine when an arriving alien is inadmissible for admission to the U.S. for having engaged in fraud or misrepresentation, or because the alien lacks valid documents.  The Act empowers the officer to order the alien removed without further hearing or review, unless the alien states a fear of persecution or an intention to apply for asylum

It further provides that an alien subject to expedited removal who states a fear of persecution or an intention to apply for asylum shall be referred for interview by an asylum officer, and if that officer finds that the alien has a credible fear of persecution, the alien shall be detained for further consideration of the application for asylum under normal non-expedited removal proceedings.

When the asylum officer determines that the alien does not have a credible fear of persecution, the asylum officer will order the alien removed from the United States.

The alien may then request a review by an immigration judge of the asylum officer’s credible fear determination. If the immigration judge also finds that the alien does not have a credible fear of persecution, the alien will be removed from the United States pursuant to the asylum officer’s order.

What is missing from the Act is a clear prohibition of separating immigrant children from their parents.

Why is that prohibition missing from the Act?

One has to conclude that no one in 1996 – not even Newt Gingrich – could have imagined that any official in the United States would consider this approach to be a viable solution.

True, Bill Clinton signed the law which made some major strides forward in our responsible and rational enforcement of U.S. immigration policy.

Yet, there is nothing — NOTHING — in this — or any law — which encourages separation of children from their parents.

Martha Stewart served prison time for a conviction on insider trading.

There is a cadre of Trump Insiders who are privy to Mr. Trump’s rants which roil the financial markets, some of whom are getting rich off of their advance information of what he will say or do.

Donald Trump’s frequently irrational, generally unpredictable — and often arbitrary and capricious — tweets, pronouncements and actions have proven to significantly move financial markets, often creating a whipsaw effect.

Today – May 31, 2018 – Mr. Trump allowed tariffs to be enacted on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the E.U. on the grounds that such materials are being imported into the United States “in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security of the United States.”

There is no credible evidence that steel and/or aluminum imported into the U.S. from Canada, Mexico and/or the E.U. pose any threat to the national security of the U.S.  In fact, there is no credible evidence that such imports pose any threat to the U.S. domestic economy.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s action today to impose tariffs on imports from our closest allies was apparently not expected in the financial markets, leading to a 1% drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

We now have several data points relating to financial market response to irrational actions by President Trump which clearly represent huge arbitrage opportunities for Trump insiders.

The ‘out-of-right-field’ announcement in early March 2018 by Mr. Trump that the U.S. would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports precipitated an almost immediate 500 point drop in the DJI.

 

It’s bad enough that Trump’s actions pose a tremendous risk to the entire U.S. society and our economy.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) needs to reign in this illegal behavior by Mr. Trump, and to charge those insiders who are illegally profiting in the financial markets from advance knowledge of what sort of disruptive, arbitrary and capricious pronouncements President Trump will make in the near term.

Hillary Clinton has consistently refused to use alternative facts to describe her own actions and behavior.  She pays her bills.  She has never gone bankrupt.  She stayed with Bill despite some bumps in the road.  She is the mother of an extraordinary emerging world leader.

Above all, Hillary does not dwell on the past.  She learns from the past, and she offers productive solutions for the future.

And, she is a very smart, highly-educated, incredibly experienced and assertive female who represents the very essence of the threat described in Spencer Johnson’s book, “Who Moved My Cheese?”

Donald Trump built his reputation – and his empire — on his larger-than-life persona as the ‘Great White Leader’.  He wants the world to see him as ‘a man’s man’ who will lead the loyal believers back to 1957 when America reached its apogee.

Donald wants the world to believe he is both clairvoyant and razor-focused on his vision of restoring the world to his vision of how it ought to be.

Yet, Trump’s sense of self-worth is continually at risk. When Trump feels imbalanced, he reacts impulsively and defensively, constructing a self-justifying story that doesn’t depend on facts and always directs the blame to others.

A consensus of psychiatrists and psychologists have determined that Trump’s mental instability and pattern of violence –bullying words, aggressive actions and denials of truth — are dangerous and have already caused unprecedented anxiety and stress across the nation.

Meanwhile, although Hillary is her own worst enemy, Trump is the greatest threat to the viable and productive future of the U.S. – and the entire world – that we have seen since the 1940’s.

A half century ago, the Baby Boomer generation entered adulthood with plenty of energy and commitment to help make our world safer and better.  As they set forth to establish families of their own, careers and all of the rest, they faced some unexpected head winds.  The rapidity of technological change combined with growing economic and social divides put extraordinary pressure on these young families, and they became self-absorbed.

The direct socioeconomic impacts of American suburbanization didn’t really begin to take hold until the 1970’s.  The resulting economic and racial segregation shielded the next generation(s) of middle class young people growing up in suburbia, away from their less affluent peers who were left behind in urban neighborhoods. They lost touch with each other, not able to see common ground.

Somehow, things have begun to change for the positive.

Maybe Trump’s legacy will be as the unconscious ‘uniter’ of the people of good will — Americans who reject corruption, self-dealing and bullying — who regardless of hair color, height, weight, economics, gender, race, skin tone, religion, sexual orientation, learning and/or mobility differences, and many more… — refuse to participate in the Trump Swamp.

This emerging generation, evidenced by the Parkland students, are showing signs of unity under a new paradigm of The American Dream, where the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are honestly and equitably recognized and applied.

To date, Trump has certainly distinguished himself as the polar opposite of genuine American values.

While it’s still too early to celebrate any victories, I am betting on the young people who have taken an active role in the March For Our Lives movement — and the millions of their supporters (average age 48!) — to continue to energize and inspire the vast majority of U.S. citizens and residents who want to see common sense prevail.

Florida, the Gunshine State

February 17, 2018

I’ve been calling Florida my second home for 40 years, and I was finally able to move here permanently in January 2017.  Florida has some fabulous positive attributes.  Firearm regulations are not on that list.

I’m a dues paying member of the NRA and a gun owner.  I think the 2nd Amendment is a good thing, and I’ve read it dozens of times.  I’m not sure exactly what the folks who wrote it were trying to say, and they are all now deceased so we can’t ask them in person.

Florida has been the location of several recent massacres involving young people wielding AR-15 weapons.  On February 14, 2018 a young man named “Cruz” stormed a high school in Parkland, FL with an AR-15 rifle.  He killed 17 and wounded many more.

Florida seems to have some ‘fast and loose’ controls over gun acquisition, gun possession, gun ownership and the sale of ammunition and accessories.

Florida State Senator Dennis Baxley, a Republican who wrote the Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ law in 2005 and is a major gun-rights backer, doubts any proposals aimed to restrict or control guns will gain traction. “I don’t see any interest here on that,” said Mr. Baxley, who represents parts of Sumter, Marion and Lake Counties. “We’re pretty comfortable that freedom works.”

The FBI confirmed that someone close to Cruz called an FBI tip line on Jan. 5 with information about Cruz’s desire to kill people, erratic behavior, disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.

On February 16, 2018, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel confirmed that the Broward Sheriff’s Office received “20 calls for service over the last few years” regarding Cruz.

After the Orlando massacre in June 2016, Florida Governor Rick Scott— where the killer also used a military-style semiautomatic rifle — said that “the Second Amendment didn’t kill anybody.”

Following the February 2018 Parkland school massacre, Mr. Scott told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer,  “Everything’s on the table, all right? I’m going to look at every way that we can make sure our kids are safe.”

Concurrently with his ‘everything on the table’ remark, Scott released a detailed statement essentially blaming the FBI for the Parkland school shooting, concluding with, “… the FBI failed to act… The FBI Director needs to resign.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also slammed the FBI, saying the agency “utterly failed the families of 17 innocent souls.  The fact that the FBI is investigating this failure is not enough,” Rubio said in a statement. “Both the House and Senate need to immediately initiate their own investigations into the FBI’s protocols for ensuring tips from the public about potential killers are followed through.”

This Scott/Rubio circus closely follows the Republican playbook which resulted in the firing of former FBI Director Comey in May 2017; and the continuing barrage of criticisms, innuendo and distractions which attempt to cast doubts on the reliability and/or veracity of the FBI and its current director, Christopher Wray.

Some political operatives have focused their diversions on mental health issues, yet Federal law already bars people who have been adjudicated mentally ill or committed to institutions from buying firearms.

In February 2017, at the request of a Republican Congress, President Trump signed an order to repeal restrictions on gun sales to an estimated 75,000 individuals who have been determined to be mentally deficient by certain Federal agencies.

And, despite their rhetoric, Florida state Republican leaders have not proposed expanding mental-health restrictions inside Florida.

Deflection is a powerful political tool because it can mask attention from other issues, such as making sure powerful assault weapons, high capacity magazines, bump stocks and armor piercing bullets can’t be bought by teenagers – or any civilians – who wish to live in a civil 21st Century society.

As the calendar moves forward toward an expected announcement from current NJ Governor Chris Christie on his candidacy as the potential GOP nominee for president in the 2016 election, stories about – and soundbites from – Christie abound.

With the radio tuned to news in the background, I listened to some of these stories and soundbites today.

I’m left feeling that Chris Christie has no moral compass. Christie is apparently willing and able to lie about almost anything and everything.

Here’s a soundbite from Christie’s appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, June 7, responding to recent comments from Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton who called out for significant expansion in voter access, calling out several prominent GOP leaders – including Christie – accusing them of purposefully limiting voter access in their states through policies such as voter identification requirements and limited early voting.

Said Christie: “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. In New Jersey, we have early voting available to people. I don’t want to expand it and increase the opportunities for fraud. Maybe that’s what Mrs. Clinton wants to do. I don’t know.”

Christie continued, “But the fact is: folks in New Jersey have plenty of an opportunity to vote. And maybe if she took some questions some places and learned some things, maybe she wouldn’t make such ridiculous statements,” he said.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/chris-christie-hillary-clinton-is-clueless-on-voter-fraud/

What Christie failed to note in his response is that it is more common in New Jersey (and many other states) for elected and appointed public officials to commit fraud then it is for a voter to commit fraud.

And, more alarming: Just 31% of eligible voters in New Jersey exercised their voting rights in the 2014 election. [http://www.electproject.org/2014g]. Seems to me that the real opportunity here is to address and/or eliminate existing obstacles or impediments to help increase voter participation, not creating more obstacles which have the probability of discouraging potential voters.

Chris Christie: You are both a phony and an opportunist, and it’s very sad that you were elected to a position of trust (Governor of New Jersey) and as such, (a) you have tremendous power over the infrastructure and inner workings of our 11th largest state, and (b) you have tremendous influence over the functionality and decisions of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the public authority which builds, operates, and maintains critical transportation and trade assets in the NY Metro area.

PANYNJ controls a network of aviation, rail, surface transportation and seaport facilities which annually move millions of people and transport cargo throughout the New York/New Jersey region.

We can only hope that the ongoing ‘Bridgegate’ investigation will soon expose your culpability in the ensuing mess that (at best) inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of bridge users on those days where access to the bridge was restricted; and (at worst) exacerbated economic losses well into the 100’s of millions of dollars through a ripple effect to commercial entities in the Tri-State region, and throughout the U.S.

I, for one, would be delighted to see you spend the next 8 years, or so, in the Big House, not any other house.

The Walrus recently learned that former Town of Somers Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy was appointed as executive director of the Westchester County Tax Commission by County Executive Rob Astorino, a fellow Republican. The job, which enjoys a six-year term, pays $132,155 a year.

Ms. Murphy told a local media outlet that she was “…very grateful for the opportunity to serve the people of Westchester, I was supervisor for 16 years, and I certainly dealt with tax issues during my tenure there. It brought exposure to multiple levels of government. “

The Westchester County Tax Commission ostensibly serves as the repository for the assessment rolls from the county’s multiple taxing jurisdictions; is tasked to provide advisory services to municipalities concerning assessments and assessment procedures; and produces an annual report to the county Board of Legislators.

Off hand, I’m thinking this person is absolutely unqualified and not fit to serve in this position. But, that is the nature of a system where officials are often elected to office based on a ‘beauty contest’ enhanced by a campaign war chest of dubious origin; then those ‘elected officials’ are free to appoint political hacks into positions which can have dramatic impact on society.

This pretty much says it all, another quote attributed to Ms. Murphy from her tenure as Supervisor in the Town of Somers: “We have a good way of reporting our tax bills, and did not see a desire for it by the constituency. The town has a very good reputation for its tax rate.”

According to what source? And on what standing?

The old “Home Rule” defense rears it’s head again. And, it was a great idea in pre-revolutionary war days. Sometime after the Civil War, Home Rule became obsolete, yet we still follow that logic in 21st century New York State?

Wondering why Westchester County has won the prize to become the highest property tax location in the U.S.? It’s entirely due to Home Rule and the incredible waste and duplication of services which result.

Most egregious? The folks in the wealthy white suburbs who are willing to pay through the nose to fund their quasi-private public schools, town and village police, etc. but who balk at the idea of providing any support at all to County taxes which in turn support social safety net services for their less fortunate neighbors.

I spotted this headline, and couldn’t resist clicking on it. The intro says,

“Two studies released last week {August 2013} confirmed what most of us already knew: the ultra-wealthy tend to be narcissistic and have a greater sense of entitlement than the rest of us, and Congress only pays attention to their interests. Both studies are consistent with earlier research….”

This does seem to ring true for the most part. I think there are those rare individuals who were raised in privilege — maybe 3rd generation blue bloods? — who have minimal affectations and are really decent people.

As I’ve heard said, ‘they were raised right.’

The truly self-centered seem to be the pirates who rose from a proletariat family to economic aristocracy on their own – hell-bent on becoming rich and powerful – no holds barred.

My poster child for this syndrome is Joseph Cassano, who grew up in Brooklyn, where his father was a policeman. He earned a political science degree from Brooklyn College in 1977. No blue blood here!

In 1987, American International Group (AIG) hired Cassano as Chief Financial Officer for their Financial Products group.

By 2000, Cassano had risen to the position of CEO of the AIG Financial Products group, which had developed a very lucrative business selling Credit Default Swaps to various Investment Banks as protection against their potential losses on mortgage-backed securities.

Some said that Cassano was at the very center of the Great Recession due to his leadership of this lightly-regulated AIG subsidiary which seemed capable of writing its own rules on how it assessed risk; on how it priced risk; and how it compensated executives.

It has been reported that between 2000 and 2008 — the year he left the company — Joseph Cassano’s compensation from AIG was more than $300 Million.

Cassano walked away free, absolved of any improprieties by federal prosecutors.

Meanwhile, U.S. taxpayers injected $182 Billion into AIG to prevent it from destroying our American financial system.

What a fabulous inspiration for young people on how to achieve the American Dream!