Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A Book Review - "The Guarded Gate"

I’ve just read “The Guarded Gate” by Daniel Okrent (Scribners – 2019) which deals with “bigotry, eugenics, and the law that kept two generations of Jews, Italians and other European immigrants out of America.”  There’s enough in this book for all Americans to be ashamed of and for the scientific and academic communities, both of which (with rare exceptions) failed to live up to the standards expected of them for half a century, to share in that shame.  Okrent’s critical perspective is sometimes a bit overwhelming, but the vile nature of the subject matter makes that understandable, making the book more political and social commentary than pure history.

Some of the material in the book clearly resonates even today.  Here’s an example, taken from the period just after World War One, when some Americans feared that an increasing number of immigrants were on their way here:  “One congressman … claimed the Soviet Union was smuggling one hundred Bolshevik agents into the United States from Mexico every day (and) … had become chairman of the House Committee on Immigration.” (pg. 255)
Another example citing communication between two leaders of the immigration restriction movement had one asking the other, “Can we build a wall high enough around the country, so as to keep out these cheaper races or will it only be a feeble dam which will make the flood all the worse when it breaks?” (pg. 256).  

Even more:  In Calvin Coolidge’s first Annual Message to Congress in 1923, the President stated that “America must be kept American.  For this purpose, it is necessary to continue a policy of restricted immigration.” (pg. 336)
"Send These, the Homeless, Tempest-tossed to Me ....

The book concludes, after World War Two had shattered many of the mistaken ideas of the immigration restriction movement and the phony science of eugenics (which Adolf Hitler had adopted), with President Lyndon Johnson signing a new Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965 within sight of the statue of Liberty.  The author closes his work saying that “for believers in the promise of the nearby statue, the future of American immigration policy looked as bright as the brilliant sun overhead.”

Now, 54 years later, I am not so sure.  I suspect that if our 45th President were to read “The Guarded Gate,” he would ally himself with some of its “bad guys.”  And they were truly bad, ranging from the courtly Senator Henry Cabot Lodge to the media gurus at the old Scribner publishing house and at the Saturday Evening Post.

These vicious, usually wealthy, gullible, often misguided, sometimes not very bright and sometimes very selfish, but always very respectable, Ivy-League educated people almost destroyed the American dream in their effort to keep America frozen in the elitist, White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant heritage which they believed was essential for the nation’s "biologic" survival.   Though they were reluctant to publicly admit it, their groundless fears for America's "bloodline" were grounded in antii-Semitism and a abhorrance of Italians, the groups most involved in immigration to the United States.

The restrictive, genetically-designed immigration quotas spawned by half a century of lies, reinforced by pseudo-scientific nonsense, were undeniably perniciously racist, and sadly, the American people bought into them in the 1920’s and 1930's, knowing no better.  In this light, incidents like the refusal of the United States to allow the refugee-carrying vessel, the St. Louis, to land in 1939 become more understandable, although still inexcusable, 
The goals may be a bit different today but you can still see some of these discredited ideas hard at work in slogans like “America First” and “Make America Great Again.” That really means "like it was before 'other' people started getting off the boat, or crossing the border," just as their own forebearers had done years before, but they’ve forgotten about that.

Jack Lippman

Sunday, June 16, 2019

George Will and Some Advice for Democrats

Practicality Versus Ideology!

In a recent column, George Will suggested that “sooner rather than later, even Democrats will come to suspect that denigrating people until they vote for you lacks a certain strategic plausibility.”  He’s talking about people like ME, who in this blog have repeatedly blamed the presence of an incompetent, failed, immoral, business cheat in the White House on the gullibility, if not the stupidity, of the American voter.

In this vein, I have frequently quoted the otherwise reprehensible H.L. Mencken who said that “as democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people.  On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s delight at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

I guess this is not the best way to “win friends and influence people” and more importantly, to get them to vote for your candidates.

Will suggests, if you follow his sophisticated reasoning, that the Democrats had better nominate someone who will attract the votes of those for whom “government is more a practical than an ideological concern.”  Targeting African American voters as a crucial group, he mentions their concern with health care, employment and schools rather than impeachment, abolishing the Electoral College and other “gesture-promises” which to them “probably are distractions.”

Trump’s victory in 2016, Will points out was based on this kind of practical, rather than ideological, appeal when he went after the votes of “non-college whites” part of a faction which “felt itself a casualty of an economic dynamism that had most benefited people who admire this faction least.”

Will’s words are a caution to the Democratic Party, suggesting their candidate should be one who soft-pedals ideological reform and concentrates on what is practical for crucial voting groups.  Keep your eyes and ears open during next week’s Democratic candidates’ “debates,” which are not really debates but rather forums in which they will state their positions.  If Will is correct, polls in crucial states after the debates should favor those whose positions come off as the most practical rather than the most ideologically pure.

Jack Lippman

Someone"s Watching You

Someone's Watching You and it's Not Big Brother

I read the other day that this year, digital advertising businesses like Facebook and Google will be bigger in the US this year than traditional advertising businesses like TV, radio, and newspapers! That’s where the money is being spent. Check it out, if you wish but that’s what is happening. 

Why?  Well, traditional advertising is a “scattershot” process, hoping you pick up the magazine or newspaper, or tune in to the TV or radio station where their ad appears.  Sure, they place those ads where their research suggests their potential customers are (such as readers of ‘Vanity Fair’ or ‘Money’ magazines) but that research is nowhere near so sophisticated as is the ability of digital advertising businesses such as Facebook, Netflix or Google to hone in on potential customers for their advertisers with great precision.  That’s because these advertising platforms know about their users in great, if not intimate, detail and can use that information to sell ads to their micro-targeting advertisers who would like their ad to reach, for example, middle-aged married women who like Italian food and have a kitten as a pet!

A follower of this blog alerted us to a website which lists many of these digital advertising business websites, some of which you certainly have visited, and to which you have provided information over the years, intentionally or otherwise, about yourself.  CLICK HERE NOW to visit https://www.vpnmentor.com/research/whos-watching-you/#/ or, copy and paste it on your browser line if that doesn’t work for you.  Learn a bit about the strategies of those who are watching you when you visit their sites.

(Please, because we are no longer sending out “blog posting alerts,” visit www.jackspotpourri.com whenever you have a chance!  The blog is now being updated several times a week.)

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Understanding the Mueller Report

"We wrote it.  You read it."

Hey ... I am getting to enjoy these more frequent, brief, postings on the blog.  Keep "tuning in" to them.  And tell others to visit www.jackspotpourri.com.

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Understanding the Mueller Report

A letter-writer published in today's Palm Beach Post suggested that all Special Counsel Mueller's investigation was supposed to involve was Russia's interference in the 2016 election.  "Not so," says I, resulting in my writing this letter, setting readers straight, on what the Mueller Report really said.   I hope they publish it.

Being retired with adequate time on my hands to read the Mueller Report, I have done so.  I do believe that many who comment on it have not done that.  An example of that is the letter-writer of June 11 who declared that the extent of Special counsel’s role “was to investigate Russian influence and the Trump presidential campaign to establish whether a crime was committed and provide the requisite evidence to support his findings and if need be, recommend indictment.”  That is incomplete.  It goes much further. The introduction to Volume Two of the Report specifically states that “The order appointing the Special Counsel gave this office jurisdiction to investigate matters that arose directly from the FBI’s Russia investigation, including whether the President had obstructed justice.”

Further quoting from the introduction to Volume One of the Mueller Report, “‘A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts. In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of “collusion”.

Unfortunately, the legalese language in which the Mueller Report is written, by lawyers for lawyers, prevents most Americans from understanding that cooperation did indeed exist between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign, although not to the level which qualified as criminal under conspiracy law, and that in regard to the President, immune from indictment according to Department of Justice opinions, it concluded Volume Two by stating that “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.  Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgement.  The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred.  Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” 

The June 11 letter-writer obviously feels that such a conclusion goes beyond the scope of the Special Counsel’s mission.  I disagree. Those who have not read the Mueller Report should be encouraged to try to do so before commenting upon it.

It's all there in the Mueller Report, but unfortunately, getting at it is comparable to bothering to read all of the fine print in the deed to your home, your mortgage or rental agreement or even the "Terms of Service" of the internet service through whose servers you are reading this.

"All of the Above is Fake News.  I Wuz Exonerated."

A Survey Where the Loser is the Winner!

Democrats sometimes lose the presidential electoral votes in states where they actually are a majority and should win.  The key is getting out the vote.  Even one percent more might be a significant difference.  See if the following hypothetical exercise helps you choose your choice for the Democratic presidential candidate.

It’s Election Day, it’s raining out and you haven’t yet voted early or by mail.  You probably will grab an umbrella and go out to vote for your favorite.  Fine.  But think about it this way.  With which one of the following leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination at the head of the ticket are you MOST likely to decide not to get your feet wet and stay home, skipping voting?  Hmm. Interesting question.  (Listed in alphabetic order).  The one who gets the fewest votes in this hypothetical survey should be the Democratic candidate. 

Other aspirants for the nomination are not included in this poll because none of them, really, have a large enough loyal following which would go out in the rain to vote for them.  I believe these five do, but some more than others … and that’s what this survey is all about.

___ Joe Biden
___ Pete Buttegeig
___ Kamala Harris
___ Bernie Sanders
___ Elizabeth Warren

Remember, the loser in this survey, the one with the fewest votes, WINS!

Note:  If you really want to participate in this survey, send me your choice as to which of these five, heading the 2020 Democratic ticket, would deter you from voting on a rainy 2020 Election Day. You know my email address. (Riart1@aol.com) And remember, the candidate with the fewest votes in this hypothetical poll might be the one with the greatest chance of winning on Election Day.  They would get that elusive one percent to the polls.

Jack Lippman