Impromptus

Addiction vs. employment, &c.

In California, July 2017 (Mike Blake/Reuters)
On the health of America, brutality in India, Trump and apologies, McFaul and Obama, golden-egg layers in Seattle, and more

A fascinating article came from the Lexington Herald-Leader, in Kentucky. It speaks to a part of the American condition. Almost every line is interesting, but let me highlight a few of them.

The article begins,

Eddie Devine voted for President Donald Trump because he thought he would be good for American business. Now, he says, the Trump administration’s restrictions on seasonal foreign labor may put him out of business.

A little more:

Devine says it has been years since he could find enough dependable, drug-free American workers for his $12-an-hour jobs mowing and tending landscapes for cemeteries, shopping centers and apartment complexes across Central Kentucky.

Let me pause to give you a memory from about five years ago. I was visiting a community in my home state of Michigan. A friend told me something that startled me: The Walmart was having trouble finding employees, because so many people in town, and in the surrounding rural area, were drug-addicted.

I realize this is old news — but it still has the ability to startle me, somehow.

Anyway, that article from Kentucky is memorable, for many reasons.

Here is a related article, from Michigan (Crain’s Detroit). It is an interesting statement.

I am a business owner, a proud Republican, and a voter who supports President Donald Trump’s campaign to level U.S. trade imbalances.

I am also angry, frustrated and a little scared, because the unintended consequences of the president’s $50 billion tariffs on China would cripple my business in Auburn Hills and strip my 50 employees of their good-paying jobs.

This is crazy.

• I have a point to make — really, it is Thomas Sowell’s point. He has done a lot of work on India over the years. He calls it one of the world’s “fictitious countries.” What he means is, the popular image of the country is at odds with the reality of the country. India is known as peaceful, gentle, spiritual, etc. (There is certainly that side.) There is also a great deal of brutality.

When I discussed this with Sowell, he had recently noticed a rotten piece of news out of India: Some people had had acid thrown in their faces because they had fished in a pond reserved for people of a higher caste.

Well, I thought of Sowell when reading a horrible headline last week: “Teenage girl raped and burned alive in India after refusing her neighbor’s marriage offer.” I did not read the article — the headline was enough — but if you’d like to, it’s here.

• You might have followed this story about the White House communications aide, who said something nasty about John McCain. She will not be apologizing, at least publicly. Neither will anyone else at the White House.

There is a good side to not apologizing. You remember Barry Goldwater’s memoirs? He called them “With No Apologies.” And yet, it can be right to apologize.

It is President Trump’s general policy not to. During the campaign, Howie Carr, the Boston media personality, did an Indian war whoop, in mockery of Elizabeth Warren (who claims Indian heritage). According to Carr, Trump told him, “Whatever you do, don’t apologize. You never hear me apologize, do you? That’s what killed Jimmy the Greek, way back. Remember? He was doing okay till he said he was sorry.”

For the uninitiated, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder was a sports commentator who was fired by CBS after making a remark about black athletes. (He said that they were better than white athletes because they were “bred” that way during slavery.)

• Michael McFaul, our former ambassador to Russia, has written a book about his experiences. If you’d like to read an essay, derived from the book, go here.

The Kremlin was unrelenting in maligning McFaul. For instance, they accused him of pedophilia. This is an old trick, employed by the Kremlin in Soviet days.

Let me quote from a piece I wrote last year about Yuri Dmitriev, a persecuted anti-Communist researcher:

Probably the dirtiest card in the Kremlin’s hand is child pornography, or any other kind of child abuse. Everyone recoils from it, everyone is repulsed by it. The person accused of such a crime is stained forever. The Kremlin played this card in Soviet days, and it is playing it now. The longstanding word is kompromat, i.e., compromising material.

In a December 2016 article, the New York Times reported, “The idea that Europeans and Russian opponents of the Kremlin are sexual deviants with a taste for pedophilia is a strange but recurring theme in Russian propaganda.”

McFaul tells a story that made my eyes widen a bit — and remember, “Medvedev” is Dmitry Medvedev, nominally the president of Russia from 2008 to 2012 (still subordinate to Putin): “Obama himself jumped to my defense: During a one-on-one chat on the sidelines of a nuclear summit in South Korea . . ., he told Medvedev, ‘Stop f***ing around with McFaul.’”

• Big news out of Seattle — namely this: “Seattle’s largest businesses such as Amazon and Starbucks will have to pay a new tax to help fund homeless services and affordable housing under a measure approved by city leaders.” (Article here.)

Two quick points, please: If I were Seattle, I would not do anything to annoy or damage big businesses — those layers of golden eggs, those drivers of growth, those blessers of humanity. And second: If the problem of homelessness were solvable by money, it would be one of the easiest problems in the whole world.

• Reading about the new director of the CDC, I thought of entitlements — chiefly Social Security and Medicare — and burned. You’ll see what I mean. I’d better quote the article I’m alluding to first. Here are a few paragraphs:

The high salary set for the newly appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has come under criticism from Senate Democrats and watchdog groups who questioned the use of an exemption to pay him nearly twice as much as his predecessors.

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, who became the director in March, is receiving $375,000 a year, a substantially higher salary than the heads of many other government agencies. It was granted under a provision known as Title 42, which gives the department the authority to pay staff more than the approved government rate if the personnel provide a specific scientific need that cannot otherwise be filled. . . .

The Title 42 hiring authority was created by Congress to give federal agencies, particularly the Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency, the authority to attract world-class scientists and fill gaps in expertise by paying them salaries that are more competitive with the private sector.

Well, they succeeded in knocking down Dr. Redfield’s salary. Good for them, and whoop-dee-doo. They must be so pleased about saving those nickels and dimes. Meanwhile, the country refuses to reform entitlements, which threaten to engulf us. The nickel-and-diming is maddening, especially when paired with moral preening.

• Well, here was a headline: “Robert Jeffress, Pastor Who Said Jews Are Going to Hell, Led Prayer at Jerusalem Embassy.” (Article here.) The wife of a friend of mine said on Twitter, “If there is indeed life after death, it’s comforting to know that I as a Jew will not have to spend eternity with Pastor Jeffress.”

Brutal, Juice (as we used to say).

• In a news report about Hungary, I read something that chilled me. See whether you feel the same chill. “‘There’s a legally elected and sovereign government,’ said Zoltan Kovacs, Orban’s spokesman. When unelected people or organizations lobby or speak out ‘against the government, that is basically against the country.’”

Beware a ruling party that equates its government with the country.

• When I spotted a headline, I thought, “That’s a rare feat.” See whether you agree. “Oklahoma governor angers gun and gay rights groups same day.” (Explanation — article — here.)

• In light of this, can peace on the Korean Peninsula be far behind? “Katy Perry sends Taylor Swift an olive branch ahead of tour.”

• Speaking of music, try a little blogpost on a cello recital.

• In a bakery, a lady in line ahead of me was placing her order in the most beautiful English. It was sort of British, sort of not. Musical, lilting. When she said “raspberry,” she really said “raspberry” — rasp-berry. I say “razzberry.” She comes from the West Indies.

• Years ago, in Michigan, a lady said to me, “I’ll put on my best bib and tucker.” What she meant was, I’ll dress to the nines, I’ll be in my Sunday best. On Twitter recently, a proud father from Britain showed a photo of his young son, receiving a rugby award. The boy looked smart in a jacket and tie. His dad captioned him as being “in best bib and tucker.”

Loved hearing it.

According to the almighty Internet, “a tucker was a bit of lace worn around the neck and top of the bodice by 17th-18th century women, presumably something that was tucked in; the bib was closely related to our modern term — a shirt-front or covering for the breast.”

Got it.

• Should I end with a tale from Central Park? I loved this. A lady was sitting on a bench. Nearby, a father and son were playing catch. The boy piped up, “Mommy, I feel like you’re not watching me.” Instead of melting or sighing or reassuring, the woman responded rather sternly: “Stop looking at me and keep your eye on the ball.”

That’s all I got, for now — see you.

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