Sunday, November 22, 2015

'Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor...(But You Still Have to Go Through Ellis Island)'

If you listen enough to some people, you would think that the United States of America has forever been a nation of porous borders, lenient immigration policies and a virtual open door to the huddled masses of the world yearning to be free as now inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

It hasn't. Our history of enacting and enforcing immigration laws and processes has been pretty consistent throughout our history with the notable exception of the past 25 years when our immigration control system has been overrun by omission and commission under the Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama Administrations

Did you know that the 6th largest segment of our 11 million+ illegal immigrant population today is from India? Illegal immigrants from Mexico make up close to 60% of this population but illegal immigrants from The Philippines, Korea, China and Vietnam also make up substantial segments of our current illegal immigrant population in America.

Ever since the 1880's, America has been confronted with the question of how many immigrants this country was going to legally admit each and every year and for what reason.

Millions of Irish emigrated from Ireland in the wake of the devastating potato famine from 1845-1849 with over 1 million coming to America alone. (One of them was our great-great?-grandmother Maggie O'Quinn who signed over 7 years of her life to come over as an indentured servant)

Millions of other Europeans from Germany, Italy, France and England have come through legal channels since then.

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese immigrants were processed through the West Coast immigration offices.

Just through Ellis Island alone, 12 million people were processed and allowed legal immigrant status in the US from 1892-1954. Millions more were not granted legal status for some reason or another and were deported back to their home country.

Not every person who has tried to come to the United States has been accepted over our history, you know. The immigration laws have been enforced throughout most of our history with the illegal immigration from Mexico and Latin America in the 1990's and early 21st century being one of the largest exceptions to that rule.

Asylum and refugee status are different than regular immigration laws but they are no less important when it comes to screening potential new immigrants to America. Especially today when we know that there are jihadists associated with ISIS and Al Qaeda who would like nothing more than to somehow slip into America and pull off a Paris-style attack and kill hundreds or thousands of innocent people.

With that in mind, we thought we would go back in history to see when millions of people came through Ellis Island in New York and other processing centers around the nation, including San Francisco during the late 19th century and see exactly how they processed immigrants coming to the US.

Were the 'good old days' any better than today when it came to how the US processed legal immigrants over 100 years ago? Were the standards then more harsh or more lenient than today? Did Emma Lazarus write her poem about the 'huddled masses yearning to be free' and America just opened its doors, economy and security to anyone who could get here by foot, by boat or by plane and automatically gave them citizenship no questions asked?

Judge for yourself by reading from the archives below a 1905 account of our immigration system then written and published in the Popular Science magazine. One interesting thing to note is how the immigration laws at the time held the carriers of the immigrants responsible for the pre-screening process such that if they were rejected once they got to New York, the private carriers and steamship companies had to pay for their return back to their home country.

We will offer some more thoughts on the immigration issue later but wanted to remind everyone, especially in the face of the pending Syrian refugee issue, that our immigration and homeland security system have very important jobs to do to not only offer sanctuary for the widows and orphans of the ISIS war and any other around the globe, but to make sure that anyone who is allowed to come into this country is not going to be a mortal threat to anyone already here.

'Immigration Archives - How Immigrants Are Inspected at Ellis Island circa 1903

By Dr. Allan McLaughlin, U. S. Public Health and Marine Hospital Service.

Inspection of our immigrants may be said to begin in Europe. The immigrant usually buys his steamship ticket in his native town from an agent or sub-agent of the steamship company. The agents of the best steamship lines are held responsible by the company, for the passengers they book for America, and if they ship one of the excluded classes they are likely to lose their agency. This makes the agent examine the applicants for tickets, and probably quite a large number of defectives are refused passage by agents of the first-class lines. These defectives then usually try some less particular and smaller lines and take chances of escaping inspection at the Canadian or Mexican borders.

The next scrutiny to which the immigrant is subjected is that of the steamship authorities at the port of embarkation. This was formerly a perfunctory examination, and is so still, as far as some lines are concerned, but first-class lines, notably the English and German, examine the immigrants carefully and with due regard for our laws.

The strict enforcement of our laws, and especially the imposition of one hundred dollars fine for bringing to our ports any ease of a contagious character, have occasioned some improvement in the inspection made by ships' doctors at European ports. At the port of embarkation the immigrants' names are recorded upon lists or manifests, each list containing about thirty names. After each name the steamship officials are required by law to record answers to a certain number of queries relating to the immigrant.

1903 Passenger Manifests

Section 12 of the act of 1903 provides that the manifests shall state, in answer to the questions at the top of the manifest sheet:

  1. The full name, age and sex ;
  2. whether married or single;
  3. the calling or occupation;
  4. whether able to read or write;
  5. the nationality;
  6. the race;
  7. the last residence;
  8. the seaport of landing in the United States;
  9. the final destination, if any, beyond the port of landing;
  10. whether having a ticket through to such final destination;
  11. whether the alien has paid his own passage, or whether it has been paid by any other person or by any corporation, society, municipality, or government, and if so, by whom;
  12. whether in possession of thirty dollars, and if less, how much;
  13. whether going to join a relative or friend and if so, what relative or friend, and his name and complete address;
  14. whether ever before in the United States, and if so, when and where;
  15. whether ever in prison or almshouse or an institution or hospital for the care and treatment of the insane or supported by charity;
  16. whether a polygamist;
  17. whether an anarchist;
  18. whether coming by reason of any offer, solicitation, promise or agreement, expressed or implied, to perform labor in the United States, and
  19. what is the alien's condition of health, mental and physical, and whether deformed or crippled, and if so, for how long and from what cause.
  20. The master or first officer and the ship's surgeon are required by the same law to make oath before an immigration officer at the port of arrival that the lists manifests are to the best of their knowledge and belief true, and that none of the aliens belongs to any of the excluded classes.

Alien Identification Cards

Each alien is furnished with a card, with his name, the number of the list on which his name appears and his number on that list. The cards of minor children are given to the head of the family. These cards are valuable and necessary for identification, and facilitate inspection at the port of arrival.

Conditions on Steamships

The condition of the steerage quarters of a modern steamship depends largely upon the age of the ship and the degree of overcrowding. The steerage of a first-class ship of recent construction will afford accommodations equal to those accorded second cabin passengers on less progressive lines.

First-class lines are careful also to prevent overcrowding. On some of the smaller and older ships the accommodations are limited, and overcrowding is permitted. But it is safe to say that the worst steerage accommodations to be found on any ship entering New York harbor to-day are infinitely better than the best afforded by the sailing vessels or old 'side wheelers' of the past.

Inspectors Boarding of Ocean Liners

On entering New York harbor the ocean liners are boarded by the state quarantine authorities, and the immigrants inspected for quarantinable disease, such as cholera, small-pox, typhus fever, yellow fever or plague. Then the immigrant inspectors and a medical officer of the Public Health and Marine Hospital Service board the vessel and examine the cabin passengers, paying particular attention to the second cabin.

This cabin inspection is very necessary, and, before its institution, the second class cabin was the route most often employed by persons who found it necessary to evade the law. After the completion of the cabin inspection the ship's surgeon reports any cases of sickness among the aliens in the ship's hospital. The medical inspector examines these cases and later arranges for their transfer, if deemed advisable, from the ship to the immigrant hospital. The immigrants are then taken from the ship upon barges to the immigrant station, Ellis Island.

Medical Examination at Ellis Island

The medical examination at Ellis Island is conducted according to a system which is the result of many years of development. The doctors work in pairs, and divide the inspection between them. The immigrants, coming in single file, are examined for certain defects by the first doctor. who detains each one long enough to keep a space of ten to fifteen feet between the immigrants.

The second doctor, placed about thirty feet from the first, disregards that part of the examination entrusted to his colleague and confines his examination to such defects as are not looked for by the first doctor. The file of immigrants makes a right-angle turn just as it reaches the second doctor and this enables the examiner to observe the side and back of the passenger in the shortest time possible.

The examiners follow a routine in this examination, and the scrutiny begins at the approaching passenger's feet, before he comes within fifteen feet of the examiner. The examiner's scrutiny beginning at the feet travels upward, and the eyes are the last to be inspected. In this way, lameness, deformity, defective eyesight (through efforts to adjust his vision, after making the turn, to a new course) are detected.

The gait and general appearance suggest health or disease to the practiced eye, and aliens who do not appear normal are turned aside, with those who are palpably defective, and more thoroughly examined later.

The medical examiners must ever be on the alert for deception. The nonchalant individual with an overcoat on his arm is probably concealing an artificial arm; the child strapped to its mother's back, and who appears old enough to walk alone, may be unable to walk because of infantile paralysis; a case of favus may be so skillfully prepared for inspection that close scrutiny is required to detect the evidences of recent cleansing, and a bad case of trachoma may show no external evidence and be detected only upon inverting the eyelid.

After the last alien in line has passed the doctor, the suspected ones turned aside are thoroughly examined, idiots and those suffering with a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease are certified and sent to the board of special inquiry. Cases not deemed fit to travel are sent to the hospital, and cases with some disability likely to make them a public charge are certified accordingly and also sent to the board of special inquiry.

Minor defects, such as anemia, loss of an eye, loss of a finger, poor physique, low stature, etc., are recorded on the alien's card and he is allowed to go to the registry clerk and immigrant inspector in charge of the manifest, who takes the defect into consideration as contributory evidence, and may or may not send him to the board.

Grouping of Immigrants

After passing the doctors, the immigrants are grouped, according to the number of their manifest sheet, into lines of thirty or less. At the head of each line is a registry clerk, or interpreter, and an immigration inspector. The clerk, or interpreter, interrogates each alien, and finds his name, and verifies the answers on the manifest sheet before him, and if, in the opinion of the immigrant inspector, the immigrant is not clearly and beyond doubt entitled to land, he is held for the consideration of the board of special inquiry.

Board of Special Inquiry

A board of special inquiry according to the law of 1903 `consists of three members selected from such of the immigrant officials in the service as the commissioner general of immigration, with the approval of the secretary of commerce and labor, shall designate as qualified to serve on such boards.'

"The decision of any two members of a board shall prevail and be final, but either the alien or any dissenting member of said board may appeal through the commissioner of immigration at the port of arrival, and the commissioner general of immigration to the secretary of commerce and labor, whose decision shall then be final, and the taking of such appeal shall operate to stay any action in regard to the final disposal of the alien, whose case is so appealed, until receipt by the commissioner of immigration at the port of arrival, of such decision."

To this `board of special inquiry' are sent the aliens certified by the medical officers as suffering from loathsome or dangerous contagious disease, idiocy, epilepsy and insanity.

Deportation for Unfit Immigrants

In cases so certified the law is mandatory, and the medical certificate is equivalent to exclusion, the board simply applying the legal process necessary for deportation. Aliens certified by the medical officers as suffering from disability, likely to make them public charges, are also held for examination before the hoard of special inquiry.

The board in these cases takes into consideration the medical certificate and such evidence as may be adduced by the alien or his friends which, in the opinion of the board, would offset the physical disability. In these cases the hoard has full discretionary powers, and in a great majority of instances the alien is admitted.

Those certified as defective by the doctors group themselves naturally into four classes, and the following table indicates the disposition of such cases by the boards of special inquiry at New York during a fairly representative month:

Disposition of Immigrants Certified at Ellis Island, New York

Month of October, 1903

Reconciliation of CasesClass I
(Dangerous Contagious)
Class II
(Insanity and Idiocy)
Class III
Class IV
(Likely to Become A Public Charge)
Cases pending beginning of month100030
Cases certified during month8311393
Total to be accounted for9311423
Cases deported611130
Cases landed400349
Cases pending close of month280044

Immigrants not detained for the board of special inquiry have their money changed into United States currency, and buy their railroad tickets, under the supervision of government officers. If they are destined to points beyond New York City, government supervision is maintained until they are taken to one of the great railroad terminals and placed upon the waiting train.

These precautions are taken to protect the immigrants front the boarding house runners' and other con men who lie in wait for them at the Battery. Aliens detained as not clearly entitled to land are brought before the board, and, if the evidence is complete, either deported or discharged.

When the evidence is incomplete, the immigrant is detained pending the verification of his story, or the arrival of his relatives or friends. All cases are disposed of as rapidly as possible, and immigrants are detained the minimum amount of time required for procuring and carefully considering the evidence in the case. Those ordered deported are returned to the ship as soon as possible after the decision is rendered, providing no appeal is made.

Organizations and Representatives Meeting Immigrants

Missionaries and representatives of various religious denominations and societies have offices upon Ellis Island and render valuable assistance to the immigrant. They provide temporary shelter and protection for discharged aliens, and direct them to legitimate employers of labor. In this way they relieve the government of caring for many temporarily detained aliens, especially young women traveling alone. 'They write letters and send telegrams to the friends of the detained immigrants, and assist them in many other ways.


The fine adjustment of details and perfection of system which enable the federal officers at Ellis Island to examine, under our laws, thousands of aliens each day must be seen to be fully appreciated. Nor is this careful and strict execution of our laws limited to Ellis Island.

The writer has roughly described the inspection at New York, because it is our largest port of entry, but the same attention to detail and strict enforcement of laws and regulations can be said to exist at all our ports, and an investigation, by any one interested, will reveal the fact that not only are the laws for our protection strictly enforced, but their enforcement is marked by humane and kindly treatment of the Alien.'

Source: The Popular Science Monthly, February 1905, Volume 66, Pages 357-361.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

'Lucky Lindy', Charles Lindbergh and American Isolationalism: Does it Work?

Aftermath of Yet Another ISIS Attack in Paris
Charles Lindbergh was a legitimate American hero.

He was the first person to complete a non-stop transatlantic flight to Paris, France on May 20-21, 1927 after taking off from an airfield on Long Island, New York and thereby claiming a $25,000 challenge prize from a prominent New York hotel owner.

His baby was kidnapped and murdered in 1932 which captivated the nation not unlike the OJ Simpson trial in 1995.

He was also a nationally and internationally-known leader of the 'America First' isolationist movement and a full-throated apologist for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

Until December 7, 1941. Pearl Harbor. 'A day that will live in infamy' as Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared in an address to Congress the next day. Immediately, Charles Lindbergh and the America First isolationist brigade went into hiding and were never taken seriously again.

Until President Barack Obama was elected in 2008. He campaigned on a promise to remove all American troops from Afghanistan and Iraq plus other anti-Bush policies such as closing down the Guantanamo Bay prison where the most notorious of all terrorists have been held.

The American public were tired of seeing American soldiers in harm's way in the Middle East and the majority of people voting in states that determined the winner via the electoral college elected President Obama to fulfill those promises.

However, much like Charles Lindbergh in the 1930's, the well-intentioned but dreamy-eyed utopian ideals of President Obama, his policy advisors, his campaign directors and his most fervent supporters are being proven to be sorely inadequate to confront and defeat the scourge of very real malefactors in the world stage today: the leaders and foot soldiers of ISIS and Al Qaeda.

'America will retreat from the world stage!' these dreamers pronounced loudly.

What then? What happens in the vacuum of leadership and military personnel, equipment and materiel in the Middle East and worldwide when the world's greatest superpower retreats into its own shell?

The Paris Massacres Friday night should have the same discrediting effect on any supporter of the Obama 'Lead from Behind' foreign policy since 2009 and anyone in America who has been sticking their head in the same isolationist sand as Lindbergh did when he ignored the almost demonic rise of Hitler in the 1930s.

The history of America dating back to the Revolution has been that when we have let our national defense guard down and let our military force wither or be slashed to the bone, we have soon found ourselves fighting another war to defend our freedom and free others around the globe.

What should a great superpower do when confronted with a budding evil group, leader or empire that is hell-bent on doing nothing productive for humanity but only to sow death, destruction and terror among peaceful innocent people as witnessed in these deadly Paris attacks this weekend?

For one thing, a great superpower such as the United States can't just run off and hide and say:
'Someone else has to stand up to ISIS. We have done enough to save Europe and Korea and Japan from totalitarian threats over the past century and sacrificed far too many American lives being the world's policeman. It is time for someone else to save the world. Not the United States'.
That hardly sounds American, does it?

Our greatest export over the past 236 years to the world has been freedom and democracy, not American ingenuity, technology or products. Should we step back and wait for ISIS to continue to export terrorism and fear throughout the world, or just wait for it to come to our shores as we all know it will come...if it hasn't already?

Perhaps a little-known lesson from history might give our policy-makers some clues as to how to fight such an asymmetric sui generis type of threat such as ISIS poses to everyone today.

King Mithradates of Pontus, in modern-day Turkey, was known as the greatest threat to the Roman Empire over a 25-year period from 89 BC to 63 BC. He, like Al Qaeda and ISIS before him, deeply resented the presence of a Western Empire in his territory and vowed to fight to the end of his life to destroy and eliminate The Roman Empire.

In the spring of 88 BC, he orchestrated a simultaneous massacre of at least 80,000 Roman citizens, and possibly as many as 150,000, in a single day with the help of other sworn enemies of Rome in Rome's new Province of Asia called Anatolia.

How King Mithradates was able to do it and keep the entire plan secret without any spies or informants spilling the beans in that day with such precision and timing without cell phones, Twitter or any other form of instant communication is still a subject for scholars to answer.

Just under 4000 people were killed on 9/11 by Al Qaeda. Close to 400 people were killed or wounded during the Paris attacks this past weekend just to put some perspective on the magnitude of Mithradates' massive terrorist attacks on a single spring day in 88 BC.

How did The Roman Empire respond to these terrorist attacks?

Much as the United States responded to 9/11: they attacked Mithradates and his army of guerrilla warfare warriors time and again to weaken him and his threat to the Roman Empire.

Eventually, after 25 years of fighting, successes and losses, the Roman army was able to trap Mithradates who committed suicide rather than submit to Roman justice which decapitated the terrorist operations and ended the threat to Rome.

They didn't retreat from engaging the enemy. They didn't wait for 'someone else' to stand up to Mithradates. They were not afraid to label Mithradates as an enemy of Rome. They didn't try to make amends with Mithradates by 'apologizing' for Roman strength throughout the centuries leading up to 88 BC nor did they seek to appease Mithradates and his followers by not calling him all sorts of Roman names that probably can't be repeated in this post even if they are in Latin.

Mithradates made it his life mission to destroy the Roman Empire, much like the leaders of ISIS have made it their sworn jihad to destroy 'The Great Satan America' and all of western civilization with it.

There can be no negotiations with killer terrorists who seek one purpose: the annihilation of all they hate. ISIS and Al Qaeda hate America and western civilization. They will not stop until they win, or are completely annihilated themselves.

The next US President is going to have to understand that sad and gruesome reality before being sworn into to office as out next Commander-in-Chief on January 20, 2017.

Ronald Reagan projected that sort of determination during his campaign in 1980. 30 minutes before he was sworn in on his Inauguration Day in 1981, the Ayatollah Khomeni of Iran released the 52 American hostages they had been taken hostage at the US Embassy in Tehran 444 days earlier under President Jimmy Carter whose foreign policy of appeasement was an earlier replica of President Obama's foreign policy.

In less than a decade, the Soviet Union crumbled along with the rest of the Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe that was behind the Iron Curtain as described by Winston Churchill in 1946. All without a major conflagration on a massive battlefield. All without massive loss of life as in World War I where over 20 million people perished or World War II where between 60 million and 85 million people died in less than six years.**

Coincidence? Doubtful.

The buildup of American defense strength and a recognition by our adversaries that Presidents Reagan and Bush 41 were willing to use it to advance the cause of peace and freedom around the globe as a causality of peace under Presidents Reagan and Bush 41?

Definitely true.

What do you want from your next Commander-in-Chief: a continuation of Obama 'Lead from Behind' policies that have apparently 'left us behind' these deadly terrorist forces worldwide or a real chance at eradicating these terrorists from the face of the earth?

You are the key to deciding what sort of future you want to live in and what sort of future you want to leave behind for your children and grandchildren.

If you vote for someone such as Hillary Clinton who is defending the foreign policies of President Obama mainly because she served as his Secretary of State for many years in his Administration, you will most likely get the same results as we have witnessed these past 7 years.

If you vote for someone on the Republican side, outside of Rand Paul and to some extent, Ted Cruz, you will be voting for a return to the 'Peace Through Strength' military and diplomatic stance of Presidents Reagan and Bush 41.

It is up to you. Remember the Paris Attacks of November, 2015. They are not going to go away unless the United States helps eliminate and eradicate ISIS and Al Qaeda soon.

What if it had happened in New York, San Francisco or Washington, DC? There is no conceivable reason to not want to prevent that from happening on our shores as well.

** Terrorist attacks under Reagan, PBS

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

One Year From Now

On November 8, 2016, we will elect a new President of the United States of America.

These momentous elections only come along every 4 years so you better make the right choice not only for you but the nation.

Just to put in perspective how important we Americans think our Presidential elections are, consider the following mind-numbing facts:

  1. In February 2015, 114 million people watched the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.
  2. Over roughly a two-week span of time, or about the same amount of time early voting periods exist in most states around the country, 215 million viewers watched the 2012 Summer Olympics from London.
  3. In 2012, 126 million people voted for either President Obama, Mitt Romney or one of the lesser challengers.

Now, we readily acknowledge that sports in America today is darn near close to a religious fervor in many cities and states across the country.

But doesn't it strike you as odd that electing a President, a person who makes decisions and sets policies for you that affect you and your families and friends every single day of your life, is considered just about as important as whether Russell Wilson can throw a touchdown pass on the last play of the Super Bowl (he didn't last time around) or whether Hussein Bolt of Jamaica can set world track record after world track record in the most recent Olympics?

We think electing a new President is about 10,000 times more important than any sporting event you can conceive. Whoever you choose, or allow, to be the 45th President of the United States of America will have their finger on the pulse of this country for the next 4 and possibly 8 years depending on their physical health and the re-election campaign of 2020...which will start 10 seconds after the results of the 2016 POTUS election are declared.

That being said, the most important thing you have to answer for yourself is this:

'Will the person I vote for on November 8, 2016 help me: 1) get a job; 2) make more money so I can take care of my family and 3) keep us all safe from ISIS, Putin and all the other crazy dangerous people running amok in the world today?' 

There are plenty of other issues you can be concerned about: the environment, abortion, religious freedom, racial relations.

But when it comes down to it, you really have to vote for someone whom you truly believe will help make your life better and in most cases, that means opening up economic opportunities for you first and everyone else at the same time.

We came across these startling figures about the state of the American workforce in Forbes which might help you make your decision on November 8, 2016:

After 7 years of economic and fiscal and public policy initiatives under President Barack Obama, there AT LEAST 20 million Americans who want to find full-time employment who can't find it.

The numbers break down roughly as follows:

  • 9.8 million unemployed
  • 6.8 million under-employed (meaning taking jobs to make ends meet)
  • 2.2 million marginally attached to the workforce
In addition, the workforce has had 14 million people drop out of it since December 2007 of which between 2 million and 5 million could be attributed to resignation that further job search efforts were futile and they just plain and simply gave up hope of finding a job.

In short, based solely on any objective analysis of the facts and numbers under the Administration of President Barack Obama, his economic policies and initiatives have failed to bring the US economy anywhere close to its full potential or employment maximum utilization.

As you listen to the candidates in the seemingly interminable debates in this seemingly eternal campaign (can we pass legislation limiting the Presidential Election to just 2 months like they do in England when they call for an election for a new Prime Minister and Parliament?), just keep asking yourself this one question:

'Will Hillary/The Donald/Bernie/Ben/Jeb/Marco/Ted/John/Chris or any of the rest of them have the best economic policies that will help me find a job in the next 4 years of the new presidential term?'

If you think you have found that person, by all means vote for them in the primaries next spring and in the general election next November 8, 2016.

Just under one year from now.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

'The National Democratic Party Is In Trouble!'

General, Governor, Senator Adelbert Ames
The Last Republican Governor
of Mississippi until 1992
Last night's election of the nation's 32nd Governor, this one in Kentucky, has to set off alarm bells in the offices of the Democratic Governors Association in Washington.

32 of the nation's 50 Governors are now Republican.

To put that in some sort of proper historical context, consider this:

'In 1868, at the very peak of Radical Reconstruction for the South after the Republican North won the Civil War, 31 of the nation's then-37 state governors were Republican'

1 was a Military Governor in Mississippi, Adelbert Ames, who was a Radical Republican himself and Union General during the War but perhaps as a concession to the sensibilities of the Democrats in Mississippi at the time, was labeled only as 'Military'.

So 32 of the 37 states in the Union at the end of 1868 were Republican whether Ames was designated as such or not.

That had to have been the high-water mark of Republicans in Governor Mansions for the past 147 years.

Since the FDR Revolution of 1932 when the nation turned to the Democrat Party, we can't think of any other modern period of time when Republicans held onto so many Governor Mansions around the country as today, November 4, 2015.

In addition to that, there are over 1000+ more elected Republicans now serving in Congress, the US Senate and state legislatures across the country than in 2008 before President Barack Obama was elected for the first time.

We served in the US Congress for 10 years ending in 1994. Want or care to know how many Republicans were in the US House at the time?

176 Republican Representatives. 82 seats in the minority. The sheer definition of 'The Loyal Opposition', mainly because there were not enough Republicans to win on anything ever by themselves.

So why is the national narrative in the news media decrying the 'end of the Republican Party as a viable party if they don't win the White House in 2016!'?

Having the White House in your column is a decided advantage, there is no question about that. A President of either party can:

  1. set the national agenda; 
  2. veto anything he/she wants to and just dare the other side to override that veto with 2/3rds majority, not just 50%+1; and 
  3. 'speak with one voice' versus the cacophony of voices from either the Senate or the House
Imagine the euphoria the news media would crow about on cable and the nightly news if the shoe was on the other foot and the Democrats were as ascendant as the Republicans are today and a Republican, say, Richard Nixon was in the White House face with massive Democrat control of both houses of Congress as was the case during his first and cut-short second terms:
'The Republicans as a national party are done. 
Richard Nixon may control the White House, but with 57 seats in the Senate under the direction of Democratic Majority Leader Mike Mansfield of Montana and Democratic Speaker John McCormack of Massachusetts controlling 248 Democrat seats in the House, President Nixon will be fortunate to get Senate bean soup served to him on time if he ever got to Capitol Hill'.
Without poison, of course. That would come after Watergate in 1973-74.

Why is that not the mirror image of the Democrat Party today? Or is our national media so in the tank for the Democrat Party that they just can not bring themselves to equate the state of the current Democratic Party with that of the Republican Party nationally under Nixon in 1969?

We think any objective analysis purely of the numbers of elective offices in America today would show the Republican Party on the ascendancy and the Democrat Party on the descent.

However, all is not well for either party when you dig down a little deeper.

Taylor Batten of the Charlotte Observer had a compelling column recently about the very high number of officially registered Unaffiliated or Independent voters in the state of North Carolina.

Here's a clip from his column:

'According to data from Republican consultant Paul Shumaker, unaffiliated voters now outnumber Republicans in 33 of 100 N.C. counties (including Mecklenburg). They outnumber Democrats in 16 counties and they outnumber both in 4 counties.

Over the past 10 years, Shumaker says, Republicans have lost ground in 66 N.C. counties. Democrats have lost ground in 99 counties (the one county where they haven’t? Mecklenburg!). Unaffiliated voters, in contrast, have gained ground in all 100 counties. Soon there will be more registered unaffiliated voters than Republican ones statewide.'

So, as much as the Republican Party might want to crow about their recent legislative success, the fact remains that more people are fleeing both the Republican and the Democratic Parties than are running to them.

We have asked this question before so we will ask it again:

'What will happen when the number of registered Independents in the State of North Carolina exceeds both the established Republican AND Democratic Party registered voters?'

What then? Who will control the balance of power electorally when both established parties are in a minority position relative to the plurality or even flat-out majority (50%+1) of the Independent voters in North Carolina?

The Independents are the ones who are totally and completely and abjectly sick and tired of all the political posturing, finger-pointing, childish political maneuvering and flat-out lying from both sides of the political spectrum, usually at both extremes.

They want great people to run for office; get elected; compromise and cut deals and get things done...and then come home. From Washington or the state capitals, it doesn't matter.

One day, some enterprising Independent of some stature, achievement and accomplishment is going to raise his or her hand, throw their name into the nomination and force a 3-way race for a big race such as governor or senator in North Carolina. It will take some time to get the requisite signatures to get on the ballot as Taylor Batten's column points out but once that is done, think of the advantages an Independent in NC might have going forward:
  1. Over 2 million registered Unaffiliated voters who are looking for someone to vote for;
  2. No Primary.
  3. Victory in the fall would be by plurality, not majority. An Independent could win with just 34% of the general election vote if the other 2 main party candidates split the rest of the vote 33-33%.
It feels like it is going to happen one day. Doesn't it?

Republicans probably should enjoy this high water mark while they can. The Whigs thought they were going to rule the American political roost forever in 1832 after the total demise of the National Republican Party probably. Until Lincoln and the Republicans came back to life in 1852, that is, just 20 years later.

That is the nature of American politics over the past 2 centuries. The more we change, the more things stay the same, to paraphrase the French phrase.

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Saturday, October 31, 2015

'Is This A Comic Book Version of a Presidential Campaign'?

Now THIS is a Comic Book Version of a President!
With that question, CNBC contributor and recent (but never again probably) GOP Presidential Debate interviewer John Harwood may have cemented the reputation of modern American media as being completely 1) biased; 2) incompetent; 3) petty or 4) (add in whatever pejorative statement you want to make about what used to be one of the most important parts of our democratic republic: a free and impartial press)

The 'comic book version' of a presidential campaign has come mostly from the media side of things. They have chosen to portray current GOP front-runner Donald Trump as some sort of buffoon and second-place runner Dr. Ben Carson as an idiot while they saluted Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton as a Queen-in-Waiting for Her Coronation for having 'such a great week' during her Benghazi hearings.

Even though it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that she really did lie about the attacks on the embassy there and tried to put the blame on an actual cartoon about the Prophet Muhammad in the last weeks of the 2012 election campaign of President Barack Obama.

Talk about 'comic book' versions of campaigns! The media is writing them!

So while CNBC perhaps had the worst week ever in terms of covering presidential politics, we thought we would try to help sort out the men and women from the boys and girls so you can actually try to make the right decision for who you want to be in the White House from 2017-2021 and possibly until 2025 to lead this great nation of ours.

  1. We strongly believe that the best person to serve as President of the United States of America should be determined not by performances, either good or bad, on contrived media appearances but rather based on their records, experience, intelligence and integrity.

    Charisma can only take a President, and therefore, the country only so far.  A solid understanding of basic economics, fiscal accounting and federal budgeting, monetary policy and foreign affairs and military strength are far better than just plain 'charisma'.

    Electing a President based solely on how they handle 'gotcha' questions from current American media moderators, who are asking such inane questions as 'What is your greatest weakness?' in the first place solely to drive up their rankings, not help pick our next President, is exactly the wrong way to go about perhaps the most important thing we do as a country every 4 years.
  2. Former Florida Governor Jeb! Bush put out a comprehensive plan to shore up Social Security and reform Medicare to more of a premium support plan last week, even though you may not have heard about it amidst the clutter of the other news of the week. Take a good look at it and see what some of the things are that need to be changed in our nation's largest retirement security plan and largest health care plan of any kind in the nation. We have been writing about such things as raising the retirement age gradually over the years and means-testing the entitlement programs for the past 7 years now so that billionaires such as Warren Buffett and yes, Donald Trump don't have full access to the same benefits a lower-income retiree would receive.

    It just doesn't make any sense.
  3. Ohio Governor John Kasich unveiled his plan to balance the US federal budget within 8 years of his presidency which we have every confidence he would put 1000% of his time and effort into achieving since we sat right next to him on the House Budget Committee in 1993-94 when the whole process to balance the federal budget since man walked on the moon started and then culminated in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act that did indeed balance the budget from 1998-2001.

    Heck! We have already pointed out that just keeping the US federal budget from growing over a 3% annual rate overall would balance the budget by 2022 without any tax hikes or budget cuts or any changes at all! Just having a President in the White House who would be willing to work and compromise with Congress and the Senate to produce pro-growth policies that would allow the US economy to start roaring ahead at a 4-5% annual rate instead of the anemic sub-2% per year growth we have had for the entire Obama presidency would balance the budget through increases in tax receipts alone during the same period of time.

    So we are all for the Kasich approach. Absent any other reason, that is one very good reason to consider voting for Governor Kasich in our humble opinion.
  4. Donald Trump's tax plan would certainly help the US economy rebound and explode but it would also increase the federal debt by another $10 trillion according to the Tax Foundation.

    President Franklin Roosevelt, when asked why he appointed a 'crook', Joseph Kennedy, to be the first head of the SEC after a career of manipulating stock trades before the Great Crash of 1929, said with a wry smile: 'It takes one to catch one'

    We don't think Donald Trump is a 'crook' in the Joe Kennedy mold. However, he does know how to manipulate the US tax code with the best of them which probably makes him as much of an expert on how to close loopholes as any of them which is probably a positive for him.

    But we know we don't need another $10 trillion of debt to be piled on our children or country on top of the $20 trillion we will have the day President Obama leaves office on January 20, 2017.
  5. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has put out numerous statements on entitlement reform as have a few other serious potential nominees.
  6. We don't have time to list every candidate's platform or proposals but urge you to bypass the news media as much as possible and go directly to the source of any candidate's plan and read the core documents themselves. Every candidate website has them and every plan has its advocates and detractors that you can read just by googling the plan.
These are the real issues we would rather hear candidates discuss in important forums rather than their 'weaknesses' or whether fantasy football should be legalized or not or whether they picked on some kid in kindergarten recess way back in their day:
  • How will our next President deal with Russian expansion under Vladimir Putin? 
  • How will our next Commander-in-Chief deal with the scourge of ISIS and Al Qaeda in the Middle East to protect and defend innocent people as well as strategic US interests in the region and protect the right of Israel to exist as a nation? 
  • How will our next President help lead the next true economic expansion where some of the close to 20 million people who are either unemployed, underemployed, part-time employed or who have dropped out of the workforce because they couldn't find a job over the past 7 years can actually find a job and re-enter the workforce?
Try to be the voice of reason and adulthood when you are discussing these very weighty decisions with your friends, families and colleagues over the coming months.

Don't get caught up in the trivialization of our nation's most important collective vote every 4 years by our nation's media and political commentators and talking heads. For goodness sakes, don't let the media make the decision for you as to whom they think you should vote for for President based on some non-consequential or trivial issue such as 'what their weakness is' or what their position on fantasy football is or whether or not they are worth $10 billion or $4 billion or $2 billion in net worth.

Try to be smarter than them all. Cause you are.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Is North Carolina Punching Above Its Weight When It Comes To Funding Higher Education?


There are always interesting things you discover when you start looking deep into statistics and facts of any public policy issue. 

In North Carolina, one such 'interesting' case is the whole issue of higher education. Particularly the issue of who should pay for it: should it be the taxpayer, or the student and his/her family? 

When talking about budget issues in general, a couple of things stand out when you look for serious budget analysis by political parties or unbiased special interests: 

  1. It usually isn't 'serious' or 'unbiased' analysis at all. 
  2. It is almost always slanted to support one angle or another for political advantage. 
  3. Democrats tend to look at 'marginal analysis,' that is, what is the effect of spending or not spending the next dollar without considering the bulk of past expenditures as the base; 
  4. Republicans tend to want to look at the totality of expenditures, except when it comes to defense budgets in which case they adopt the marginal analysis approach favored by the Democrats. 
  5. Or in their favorite special-interest program, be it agriculture in rural states and Congressional districts or tax breaks in the tax code. 
Speaking of higher education spending in particular, there has been much written about the demise and destruction of the college system in North Carolina since the 2008 recession, but especially since the Republicans gained control of the General Assembly in the 2010 election and the Governor's Mansion in 2012. 

With that in mind, we thought we would ask several people both in and out of state government the following question: 

Where does North Carolina rank in terms of overall absolute dollars appropriated to high education vis-a-vis every other state in the Union? 

(Remember, North Carolina is now the 9th largest state in the country.) 

Based on news reports and political commentary, many have guessed that North Carolina ranks 25th, 35th or even 40th in the country when it comes to spending total amounts of gross dollars on public education. 

The overall picture that gets painted by the news media is that not only is North Carolina doing a terrible job on public education, it is also short-changing and doing a terrible job on higher education as well. 

Is that true, based solely on the facts and the statistics put out by reputable independent review groups? 

The answer is 6th. North Carolina will spend just under $3.8B this last fiscal year on 16 campuses plus the NC School of the Arts and at 59 community colleges strategically located around the state. 

North Carolina is behind, as you would probably have guessed, California ($11.7B); Texas ($6.8B); New York ($5.4B); Illinois ($4.9B) and Florida ($4.2B) * 

Isn't that a little surprising? Based on relative population size alone, North Carolina should be in the 9th slot for overall spending (which would be New Jersey, at $2.07B this past year). 

Ok, but what does all this mean? 

It means two things: 

1) North Carolina is still 'punching above its weight,' as the old boxing adage goes when someone in a lower weight class moves up to fight against heavier, stronger opponents. 

2) In return for a higher allocation of state appropriated dollars (the taxes you paid), students who go to UNC universities across the state pay a far lower in-state tuition than, say, students in Illinois do. 

Students in UNC system universities could expect to pay an average of $6,677 last year in tuition and fees for the school year. 

Students in Illinois system universities could expect to pay $12,770 last year in tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year. Almost double what North Carolina public university students paid. Illinois has about 30% more people living in that state than we do in North Carolina. 

Compare the $6,677 average tuition and fees for N.C. in-state students versus our neighbors to the north and south, Virginia and South Carolina: $10,899 (VA) and $11.449 (SC). That’s 61% as much as Virginia in-state students; 58% as much as South Carolina in-state students.** 

Take a look at the chart below. Almost all of the top 10 states are just now reaching the level of expenditures they had in FY 2008, with Illinois and Florida being the two most notable exceptions because of large increases they have been able to appropriate to higher education. 

The Recession of 2008-? was a nasty one. Don't ever let anyone ever try to tell you it wasn't. The most pronounced effect it had was on state budgets and on public education across the nation. Medicaid budgets continued to grow unabated in many states which further crowded out increases for public education for the past 6 years. 

We can and will continue to have spirited debate on how much to appropriate for the public university system and community colleges forever in all likelihood. Questions about salaries, overhead, pensions, health care coverage will always be in the mix. 

One thing that would be helpful to have at your side as you consider all of these debates is some context and idea about what the level of spending is today in total for higher education at your state's public universities.

Otherwise, questions about the 'proper' level of in-state tuition versus out-of-state tuition and all of the other items named above get lost in the debate much like a picture loses its identity the closer to zoom in on it. Pretty soon all you see are the pixels on
 screen and you forget whether you are looking at a portrait or a landscape. 

* These are expected numbers for FY 2014-2015. Included are appropriations for community colleges and public universities (source: Grapevine, Illinois State University

** Source: College Board

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