I’ve avoided writing about Covid-19 for quite awhile. Part of the reason is that I disagree with much of the reporting on this disease in the media, but who am I compared to all the “experts” pontificating almost daily?
The fact is, I spent several years of my professional life working in human subjects scientific reasearch. I’ve read hundreds of medical and epidemiological studies. I’ve gone head to head with the CDC in Congressional hearings. I’ve testified and sat on a committee at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. So yeah, I do know a little bit.
I’m going to talk mainly about numbers here. These are numbers taken from official sources such as the CDC and Johns Hopkins University. Links to these sites are at the bottom of this piece, if you want to “fact check” my numbers.
First of all, lets cut right to the bottom line. Every day we read “news” articles about the new “spread” of Covid, moving from place to place like a tidal wave. Are the numbers we read accurate? Sometimes, sometimes not. Among all the numbers, however, there is really only one number that counts.
The number of deaths.
Having Covid-19 and dying from Covid-19 are two entirely different things, no different than any other disease. Having the flu and dying from it is not the same thing. It may be bad to be sick, but if you recover (as most do) life goes on. If you’ve ever had the flu, or pneumonia, or the measles, and you’re reading this, you understand what I mean.
So what we really want to know is not how many people contract the illness, but how many do not recover – they die from it — and those numbers are low.
The numbers that follow are from June 21,2020:
The United States: Currently there have been 120,106 deaths attributed to Covid. The population of the United States is 332,639,102. If we divide the numbers of deaths by the population, we get the figure 0.0361%, which is about 4/100 of a percent. For undstanding, this is FAR LESS than ONE TENTH OF ONE PERCENT. In other words, your chances of NOT DYING from Covid are 99.964% ! Another way of looking at this is to break the death rate down to cases per one hundred thousand of the population. The US average is currently 35 deaths per one hundred thousand people in the population. This 35 figure is important to what follows.
The States: When it comes to Covid,
all states are not alike, not even close.
The Northeast: The states in the Northeast have by far, the worst records of deaths in the country. My state, New Jersey, has the unenviable record of having the highest number of deaths per 100,000 at 145! Over 4 times the national average! New York State is right behind at 127 deaths per 100,000, followed by Connecticut at 122, and Massachusetts at 114.
The reason for this high number is pretty easy to explain. At the beginning of the “pandemic” the governors in these states panicked. In order to clear out hospitals for potential Covid cases, they shipped huge numbers of people to nursing homes and long term care facitilies — facitilies that were in no way prepared to handle contagious disease. Infected patients spread the disease like wildfire in these facilities, infecting thousands of old and often already sick people. Thousands died. In fact, more than half of all Covid deaths in these states are a result of this debacle, which artifically increased the death rate.
Other states with similar policies also are above the national average for deaths per 100,000. These states include Michigan (62), Illinois (54), Maryland (51) and Pennsylvania (50) It also needs to be noted that these states are the most prominant in driving up the national average. Take them out of the equation, and the national average drops considerably.
The Rest of the Country
Things are vastly different in many other states. The media has (falsely) been trying to “pump up the volume” about the spread of Covid, but let’s look at the numbers:
Florida: Florida has been criticized for opening beaches too early, Spring Break, etc etc. But the fact is deaths per 100,000 in Florida are 15, ten times less than New Jersey, and about half the national average.
Georgia: This state is running higher than Florida, with a death rate of 25 per 100,000, still less than the national average, and six times less than the Northeast states.
North and South Carolina: 12 and 13 deaths per 100,000 repectively.
Texas: Lots of news about “upswings” in Texas, but the Lone Star State has the astonishing rate of just 8 deaths per 100.000.
And finally Arizona: I mention this state especially because it is making headlines as I write this with the ‘surge” of new cases. The death rate in Arizona? 2 per 100,000.
So what’s going on here? I don’t claim to have the answers, but something is wrong, very wrong. Are we being lied to? Yeah, I think so, but as mch by omission as commission. We are simply not being given all the facts. We are given selected numbers which do not show the true picture.
Think of it this way. With a population of over 322 million people, the United States would have to have over 320,000 deaths to equal one tenth of one percent of the population. We are not close to that number, and there is clear evidence everywhere that the death toll is going down.
People have been driven to near panic is some cases, and frankly without good reason. The “experts” have been wrong again and again in this mess. We’ve been locked down, our economy has been trashed. How long will it take to recover, I don’t know, but it won’t be pretty.
Do I believe the experts? Do I believe the media? Hell no, and I won’t again for a long time if ever.
No it’s not in Denmark. Please forgive the bad Shakespearian reference.
But something is wrong (or right) in India, and Russia, and Pakistan and other countries in Asia.
The worldwide Covid-19 epidemic is not effecting any of these three countries, and others in Asia even remotely like it has impacted the United States and Europe — not even close.
Just by way of introduction, let’s look at some of today’s (4/13/20) numbers from the Johns Hopkins website (link below)
United States — 553,526 cases, 23,146 deaths
Russia – 18,288 cases, 148 deaths
India – 9,240 cases, 331 deaths
Pakistan – 5,374 cases, 93 deaths
We can immediately see the differences. And let’s point out, these are not small countries. Russia has about 145 million people, Pakistan has 221 million, and India 1.35 billionpeople, almost tied with China for the most populated countries on the planet.
How is it then, that these vast and densely packed countries have far fewer cases of Covid-19 than the United States?
But wait, it gets worse. It is somewhat vague comparing countries, but what if I told you that thirteen US states have more cases than India or Pakistan, and nine of those states also have more cases than Russia? Those states are California, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington state.
So why? Why the difference? The United States reported it’s first Corona Virus Case on January 20th. India and Russia were not far behind, on January 30 and 31st respectively. Pakistan did not report until February 26th. From the beginning, cases in the US spread like wildfire, but not in these other countries.
What is different? Could it be diets, climate, type of health care? Is there something genetic about the virus, something in the Asian genome that makes Asians less suseptable to the virus? Or is it something else?
I don’t know what it is, but I do know that the numbers are vastly different and no one seems to be paying much attention to that. Maybe I’ve been quaranteened too long, maybe I’m just nuts. But the numbers are still the numbers.
Don’t take my word for it. Links to the relevant websites are below, check them out for yourself and feel free to tell me I’ve gone off the deep end —or not.
I was reading a discussion thread on Facebook about two weeks ago. The discussion was about the Covid-19 virus and how it was spreading.
Another commenter mentioned the town of Scottsbluff, Nebraska. He was pointing out that remote parts of the country were not experiencing the virus, and said there were no cases in Scottsbluff.
This caught my eye, because I’ve been to Scottsbluff.
Back in the early 1990’s we took a driving vacation in the Midwest. We visited Scott’s Bluff National Monument, and spent the night in the town of Scottsbluff. It’s a sleepy little town with a population of around 15,000, pretty much in the middle of no where. It’s about sixty miles off Interstate 80 in Western Nebraska. The closest “city”( population 65,000) is Chyenne, Wyoming, about 100 miles away.
So anyway, I was not surprised that the virus had not found it’s way to Scottsbluff, it’s not easy to get there.
I don’t know why, but a few days later, I looked at the Johns Hopkins website which tracks all the reported cases of Covid-19 worldwide.
There was one case of the virus in Scottsbluff.
Somehow, someway. this virus had made it’s way across the country, off the Interstate into the High Plains of Nebraska. One case, just one, but it was there.
A few days later I checked again — There were three cases in Scottsbluff.
I just checked the Johns Hopkines website. Scottsbluff Nebraska currently has ten cases of the Corona Virus.
Zero cases to three cases to ten cases in less than two weeks. No deaths so far, thank God, but the implications are there.
How did it get there? Who knows? A truck driver, a resident returning home from a trip? A traveler passing through? We’ll probably never know.
Scottsbluff isn’t alone. Look at the John’s Hopkins map, and it is covered with tiny little red dots; small towns everywhere with at least one case of Covid-19: Gove, Kansas; Henry, Missouri; Randolph, Arkansas, Crenshaw Alabama; Iron, Wisconsin; Aroonstook, Maine. Thousands, literally thousands of little red dots. The virus has penetrated every nook and cranny of the country.
As of today, (4/11) there are 503,594 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States. The death toll stands at 18,860. That’s a death rate of 3.7%, far higher than any flu we’ve ever seen.
Is it tapering off; is “social distancing” working? I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. It’s too soon to tell. I do know this — One case of the virus can go to three and to ten cases pretty damn quickly. Don’t think for a moment this virus is going away because we want it to. We still have a pretty long road to travel.
An ill-tempered (frequently old) person full of stubborn ideas or opinions.
While I don’t necessarily see myself as “ill-tempered”, I’m certainly old and filled with opinions. I do, however, own a flip phone. I talk on the phone; nothing more nothing less. I don’t text or message; I don’t take pictures, I have no apps. My phone wouldn’t even know what an app is. But I’m not the only one:
“Legendary investor Warren Buffett said the market for Apple‘s iPhones is not yet saturated, counting himself as a notable holdout.
“When I actually buy it, it’s all over, folks. The last person has bought it,” Buffett joked.
Buffett showed off his retro Samsung flip phone on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday and didn’t seem eager to trade it in for a smartphone, despite some weighty encouragement.
“Tim Cook sent me a Christmas card again this year saying he’s going to sell me an iPhone this year,” Buffett said. “He keeps sending me these reminders every Christmas.”
Buffett is far from the only Apple holdout.” (1)
There’s no doubt the “dumb” phone is a thing of the past — or so we’re told. All it does is make phone calls.
We’re told we need smart phones. We need to be connected to the world all the time. We need our texts, our social media, all our Internet connections. Do we – do we really?
Prior to mobile telecommunications, we had land lines. At home, at work, or from a pay phone, we reached out to whomerver as we needed to do so. I lived the first sixty-plus years of my life quite nicely without having any need for a portable telephone. I was forced into buying one.
I traveled all over the country without a phone. When I flew, I called my wife from a pay phone (remember those?) when I arrived at the airport and she came to pick me up, if she wasn’t there already. One flight changed that.
I flew into Philadephia one evening. By then, most people seemed to have phones. As soon as we landed, other passengers were breaking out their phones calling someone. I followed my normal routine, which was to get off the plane, find a phone, and call my wife to pick me up.
Except I could not find a public pay phone. They were gone. The airport always had loads of pay phones throughout the terminal, but not any longer. I gathered the phones were no longer being used very much, so they took them out. I walked all over the terminal trying to find a phone. Finally, after what seemed like endless searching, I found one in a corner of the baggage claim. It was near the luggage carousel and near a door, and it was noisy as hell. I could hardly hear my wife at all as I screamed into the phone to make myself heard over the din. The warrant had been served — I bought a phone.
Don’t get me wrong; it was convenient. I could call from the airport or anyplace else; I had moved into the 21st Century, or so I thought.
By the time I purchased my “dumb” phone, they were already disapearing, being rapidly replaced by “smart” phones that did everything under the sun. Almost everyone I know has one, and the younger the person, the more it seems those gadgets are as necessary as breathing.
And therein lies the problem.
I’m old, but I’m fairly savy about basic technology. I got my first computer all the way back in 1987. I used to know how to program Fortran (anyone even know what that is?). I learned DOS to work my first computers; Windows wasn’t even on the market yet. I taught myself how to write HTML from scratch. Computers and technology can be fun and useful — but I think they have decided drawbacks.
Everywhere I go today I see people staring at the screens of their smartphones. More often than not, they don’t seem to be talking on them, rather they are “fingering” them, flipping through something or other to do something or other. They often seem to be totally unaware of the world around them. And that is unfortunate.
Don’t get me wrong; I know they can be useful gadgets. Whether it is checking the weather, banking online, or using the GPS. No argument. To me, however, they are an “attractive nuisance”. Rather than simply using them to perform a task, many people seem unable to leave the damn things alone, even for a short time.
I taught college for a number of years, and always prohibited the use of cellphones in my classroom. I notified students on day one that if I caught them using a phone in class, I would dismiss them for the day. Every semester, especially during the first few weeks, I removed student after student from my class. They tried every trick in the book to hide what they were doing, but it was always their eyes — I saw they were staring at something, usually downward, at the phone they were trying to conceal on their lap or elsewhere. Most of them eventually got the message, but there were others I had to bounce completely from the class, such was their obsession.
It’s funny — But it’s not
I started writing this as a tongue-in-cheek piece about being old.
As I began reading online however, I realized that smartphone addiction is not a laughing matter. Millions of people seem to exhibit signs of addiction to their smartphones. CNN even coined a term for it “Nomophobia” (NO MObile PHOnephoBIA).(6)
“…The average American teenager who uses a smart phone receives her first phone at age 10 and spends over 4.5 hours a day on it (excluding texting and talking).” Three-quarters of teens admit to checking their phones every hour; half describe themselves as “addicted.”…(7)
“… adult iPhone users who were separated from their smartphones but could hear them ringing experienced spikes in blood pressure and heart rate, as well as increased feelings of anxiety and unpleasantness…”(7)
Have we really gone that far down the drain? Technology can be a wonderful thing, making or lives easier and more productive. The thing is, technology is meant to be used; but it seems with smartphones we are being used.
Watch this video:
A smartphone is a tool, a useful tool to be sure, but just a tool. Think of it like a dishwasher. It makes the task easier, but we could certainly live without it — or could we? Of course we could. People were hand washing dishes for eons before dishwashers; it is a convenience, nothing more and nothing less.
Technology makes life easier, and sometimes make us lazy. Think back before televisions had remote controls; you had to get up and manually change channels. No one does that anymore; it’s easier to use the remote, and we’ve become more lazy. But what happens if we lose the remote, or the batteries go dead and we don’t have replacements? Do we curl up on the couch and moan? No, we get up off our lazy ass and change the channels — although we definitely buy new batteries the next day. It’s a little annoyance.
This doesn’t seem to be the case with the smartphone.
“As with many forms of addiction, smartphone addiction is also something that often stems from other underlying emotional and psychological issues. It can be a side effect of depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Overuse of a handset can be a crutch that people with post-traumatic stress, attention deficit and social anxiety lean on too.” (8)
One problem I see, is that folks who are addicted to their phones won’t even acknowledge it. Does the alcoholic know he is an achoholic? Does the drug addict know he is an addict? I think deep inside, the answer is yes. The smartphone addict? Not so much. Try telling someone they are addicted to their phone and watch the response.
Smartphone addiction is socially acceptable where other addictions are not. The alcoholic or drug addict often tries to hide their behavior. Phone addiction doesn’t hide; it resides in plain sight.
So what’s the bottom line here, what’s the takeaway? I think it’s the acknowledgement that technology can be a wonderful thing, but there can also be a downside. When we use it as a tool, it can be very useful. When the technology uses us, it can become problematic.
Final footnote and confession: I’m on the verge of acquiring a smartphone. It turns out my old-style phone no longer functions in some environments, notably inside some buildings. Maybe this is a form of planned obsolesence. So if you see me with a smartphone, don’t call me a hypocrite. I held out as long as I could. Anyone interested in my collection of cassettes or VHS tapes ?
Yeah, so this one got to me. By now, you’ve all heard the stories about the kids from Covington, Kentucky and their run-in with a Native American. In case you’ve been vacationing on Mars, let me fill you in with the background story. I don’t like using a lot of videos, because I know it takes time to watch them. This story, however, necessitates it.
On January 18, 2019, a group of high school students from Covington Catholic High School attended the annual March For Life rally in Washington DC. While they were there, they encountered a Native American, Nathan Phillips and a group of his followers. What happened next is where the story all begins.
This photo is from a video on Twitter that went viral. We’ll talk more about that in a little bit, but in a nutshell , all hell broke loose.
Here’s the video. The video is part of a longer MSNBC piece. They keep replaying the short snippit over and over.
This video is instuctive, as it includes an interview with Nathan Phillips. He presents one of his versions of the encounter, which subsequent videos show to be false. Notice MSNBC made no effort to question anyone else involved, nor review any other videos which were already online.
CNN presented a similar video. Notice how they embellished the story.
Okay, so the initial story portrays Phillips as seeing a group of white kids harassing a group of religious Black men, who were simply being religious. Here are those Black men, part of a group calling themselves the Black Hebrew Israelites. Notice how they call the kids “future school shooters”. They also called them “fags” .
Near the end of this video, you will see Phillips and his entourage come into the scene. The Israelites see him coming and start saying something like “Here comes Gant, here comes Gant…” I have no idea what that means.
This set the stage. Three groups, the high school kids, the Israelites, and the Native Americans, all in the same area but reasonably well seperated. The Israelites, who got almost no attention by the media were harassing both of the other two groups.
As Phillips and his group walked between the Israelites and the high school students, the Israelites started yelling that some of the students were wearing Make American Great Again (MAGA) hats (1:17). They (the Israelites) said, “Look at the Make America Great Again hats — look at the hats”
Phillips and his group turned toward the students and walked directly up to them, in direct contradiction of what he said in his interviews. He immediately got within inches of the student in the video and began beating his drum and chanting.
There are many, many videos online now, some quite long, expanding on this incident. This short analysis, however, hits the nail on the head.
Okay, so enough with the videos. You can find all you want on YouTube. Let’s talk about the implications.
So was this fake? No, it actually happened. But what makes it Fake News is the way the media reported it.
How it all started — talia#2020fight:
This is how it all began, a tweet on Twitter. A tweet went out from this account, ostensibly owned by a California school teacher (later shown to be fake). The Tweet went viral, generating over 2.5 million views and was reTweeted at least 14,400 times.(1) Twitter has suspended the account, and is reportedly conducting an investigation. Stories indicate that some news media reached out to this account for information, but receiving no replies, went with this one minute video as the story. The history of the activity on the account is still online. To get some idea of the madness that errupted from it, follow the link below.(2)
So, relying on a single video from an unknown source on Twitter, the “reporting” of the story began. Did the media seek other videos, some of which were already up on YouTube? Nope. Did the media attempt to investigate what really happened? Nope. Did the media attempt to interview any of the students? Nope and nope again. The sole initial interview was with Nathan Phillips who presented his story. This was the narrative, and this was what all the major media ran with.
All of them, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, all the major broadcast media. And the print media as well, The New York Times, the Washington Post, all carried essentially the same story based on a one minute long video and an interview with a single participant.
By the next day, the editorials came out, blasting these wicked teenagers for harassing and threatening this Native American Vietnam Veteran (he is not a Vietnam Vet). The student’s own diocese threw them under the bus, implying expulsions and worse. The mayor of Covington was appalled. Celebrities and Congress members joined in the Twitter fray. Calls to “dox” them and essentially ruin their lives ran amok. There were even death threats against the students and their families. Their school was forced to close after online threats against the students.
The media groundswell became a tidal wave. Don’t believe me? Google a term like “MAGA kid” (the new perjorative for the student in the video). I just did and Google showed 116,000,000 results. Yup; One Hundred Sixteen Millionentries on Google and counting. The media went totally nuts; I mean stark raving beserk over this “story”.
Why? Indeed why?
The Red Hats
So what caused all this to begin with? Demonstrations often have counter-demonstrations, but usually those involved are debating two sides of an issue. This was not the case here.
The students were in Washington to particpate in the annual March For Life rally, a pro-life/anti-abortion rally that has been taking place every year since 1975. Phillips and his people were there for the Indigenous Peoples March, a new event, which had no connection whatsoever to the pro-life event. By any logic, the two groups should not likely have even crossed paths, much less conflicted. What brought on the collision?
Some of the students were wearing Make American Great Hats. The Hebrew Israelites pointed this out to Phillips as he moved toward the students. Was that his reason for getting up in their faces? Maybe, maybe not, but it was clearly the reason the media jumped on this and made a non-story into a national issue.
The optics were perfect for the media. A young, white, MAGA hat wearing male, “smirking” at an authentic Native American “elder” (He’s 64, by the way), indigenous peoples activist, and “keeper of a sacred pipe”, whatever the hell that means. The optics were perfect, the video vague; a perfect chance — Get Donald Trump!
Yeah, that’s what it comes down to, those red hats. Absent the hats, the story still would have run, but without “legs”. Add the hats, and it was the anti-Trump media Trifecta: Pro-life white toxic racist boys wearing facist Trump hats harassing a poor Native American. Bingo!
This was the perfect target for the Social Justice Warriors, and the media became their quite willing accomplices.
Madness. Mindless madness
The story is still playing out as I write this, although it has waned. The media suffers from chronic ADHD, and has to move on to another “story”. One of the results of this is the families of the students may file a few lawsuits for libel and defamation of character against minors. I hope they do, and I hope they win.
It would have been hard to believe such insanity could exist only a few short years ago. Journalists once enjoyed respect, and were believed. It was expected that they sourced their stories and checked their facts.
I’ve been a newspaper reporter ( before they became “journalists”). Back in the 70’s and early 80’s I had editors who would castrate a reporter who got his facts wrong. Hell, we even doubled fact-checked obituaries. It was important to get the story right. It meant something; your reputation and your newspaper’s depended on it.
Something changed. Now getting it “first” is more important than getting it “right”. Knee-jerk reporting is the name of the game. This incident is only the most recent of other giant missteps by the news reporters. Similarly, too many news organizations seem to have a political agenda. They have pre-decided who is right and who is wrong. They have taken sides, especially in the political arena. The notion that any given news operation is objective seems less true today.
Many people now believe that they cannot trust the media any longer. They think the news has become filled with propaganda, trying to advance a viewpoint rather than seeking the truth.
Incidents like this suggest those people are right.
Immigation and immigration law are controversial and often confusing subjects. In this piece we will take a look at how the law addresses people from different countries, and in particular those currently coming to the US from Honduras.
Hurricane Mitch formed on October 22, 1998 in the Caribean Sea. Over the next ten days, it became one of the deadliest hurricanes to ever hit Central America, causing over 11,000 fatalities, 7000 in Honduras alone. Most of the other deaths were in Nicaragua.
Honduras suffered massive damage. As much as 80 percent of it’s transportation network, including roads and bridges was destroyed. Agriculure was destroyed, and fresh water became nearly unavailable. Twenty percent of the population was left homeless.
Countries from around the world donated over $6.3 billion dollars to the Central America recovery effort.
In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Immigration Act of 1990. The bill was first introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy in 1989. The Act increased levels for overall immigration, and included several controversial portions, including a new “Diversity Immigrant Visa”. The law also included the new “Temporary Protected Status” Visa.
Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
The bill established a procedure whereby the Attorney General (now Secretary of Homeland Security as of 2003) could provide temporary protected status to immigrants who are temporarily unable to return to their home country due to armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary conditions: (7)
there is “ongoing armed conflict” that creates unsafe conditions for returning nationals;
there has been an earthquake, flood, drought, epidemic, or other environmental disaster that makes the state temporarily unable to accept the return of its nationals, and the state has requested TPS designation; or
“extraordinary and temporary” conditions in a state prevent its nationals from returning safely. (5)
On January 6, 1999, then Attorney General Janet Reno designated Honduras as the first recipient of TPS status due to Hurricane Mitch.
Since the origination of the Act, twenty-two (22) countries have been given this status. As of this writing, ten still remain: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. As of 2017, there are approximately 300,000 immigrants residing in the United States with Temporary Protected Status, some since 1999.
Unlike illegal immigrants, individuals receiving a TPS Visa may not be deported unless they break the law. They are permitted to work in the US, although they do not receive a “Green Card”. In addition, TPS holders are eligible for a range of Federal benefits:
“Refugees and asylees are eligible for food stamps/SNAP*. Refugees and asylees are eligible for SSI benefits and Medicaid for seven years after arrival and are eligible for TANF** for five years. After this term, they generally are ineligible for SSI, but may be eligible, at state option, for Medicaid and TANF.”(* SNAP is Suplemental Nuitrition Assistance Program,** TANF is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).(8)
In the past (prior to 1998), the temporary aspects of this status usually meant just that. Twelve countries were granted TPS status, and that status generally expired in less than five years, even with extentions. (7) The ten countries granted TPS since 1998 however, have had their temporary status extended again and again.
Enter President Trump
When President Trump entered office, he determined that existing long-lasting TPS orders were not to be extended. In January of 2018 the government announced that temporary protections for asylees from Nicargua (2500 immigrants) will expire in January 2019. Haiti (59,000 immigrants), July 2019. El Salvador (263,260 immigrants) will expire in September 2019. Honduras (86,000 immigrants) January 2020.
On May 4, 2018, the United States Department of Homeland Security declined to renew temporary protected status for Hondurans, stating, “Twenty years is enough time for any country to return to some semblance of normalcy after a natural disaster. Normal does not mean ideal. Honduras, like many other nations that have received TPS designation, was gripped by poverty and turmoil before it was struck by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. There is no reason to believe that these longstanding problems would be solved by another extension of TPS.” Honduran individuals with temporary protected status were given 18 months to depart the United States.(7)
People from these countries have few choices. They can apply for citizenship, a long and costly process, or they can attempt to stay illegally. Since they are registered in the system however, the government knows where they work and live and would likely be easily deported. Obviously, this is being met with protest:
Asylum is the seeking of protection in another country when one may be persecuted in their own. According to the United Nations since 1948, everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution based on race, religion, nationality, or political opinions. The right to request asylum however, does not mean that asylum must be granted.
There are normally about 320,000 asylum cases pending adjudication . On average, cases have been taking over 1000 days, almost three years for final decisions. In some locations, such as New Jersey and California, the wait time has averaged 1300 days. As of May, 2018, there was a back-up of 697,777 total immigration cases pending before 334 immigration judges nationwide.
Typically, if an immigrant makes it into the United States and requests asylum, they are detained for a short period of time, assigned a hearing date, released into the US, and told to return for their hearing. This is what is meant by the term “catch and release”. Frequently however, partially because of the long wait for a hearing, the person does not return, and remains illegally in the US.
The Adminstration sets an annual ceiling for resettlement of refugees. President Trump reduced that number to 45,000 for FY2018. President Obama had raised the ceiling to 110,000 during the last year of his administration.
Applicants can apply for asylum at any US embassy or consultate in the world.
This brings us to the “Caravan”
There is, at the time of this writing, a large migration of people from Honduras, heading toward the US border. Dubbed the “Caravan”, this group seems to vary in size as it moves along, but numbers in the thousands of people.
The caravan began around October 12, with about 160 people. It rapidly grew in size, with numbers estimated between 5000 – 7000 near the end of October. Precise numbers are non-existent, and the count seems to vary as the size of the group expands and contracts along the way.
The reasons given for the migration are multiple; poverty, lack of job opportunites, crime, violence , climate change, etc. Regardless of the reason, the migrants are hoping to plea for asylum once they reach the US border, which likely will be in late November, if the group does not disperse. There have been “caravans” like this before, but some have disbanded before reaching the US.
Regardless of the results of this “caravan”, one thing is clear; there is an uptick in migration toward the US border, and how it will be handled is not clear, largely because the government, especially Congress has failed to address the issue or update current law.
First, it needs to be stated that the current migration from Honduras seems to be planned and orchestrated. Large groups of people from countries do not simply migrate spontaneously without a reason. It would appear there are those trying to take advantage of the special status of Hondurans.
Secondly, these migrants do not have to come to the United States to apply for asylum. They can do so at any American embassy or consulate. There are ten (10) such American consulates scattered across Mexico, but there seems to be little interest in applying there. This “surge” is orchestrated to reach the US border.
Back in the days when masses of immigrants came to our shores from around the world, the United States had few immigation laws and virtually no limitations on numbers; but now we do. Congress has seen fit to put limits and qualifiers on who gets into the country and who does not. This is the law.
Laws are only useful if they are obeyed and enforced. Deliberate disobedience to the law is a criminal offense. Willful non-enforcement of the law is neglect and malfeasance.
Lawful immigration is acceptable and welcome, illegal immigration is not. A person who comes into this country illegally has broken the law, and is guilty of only a misdemeanor. If that person is caught, deported, and comes in again, it is a felony, and they are a criminal. That may not seem right, but that is the law.
Congress writes the law. They can change it. Congress has repeatedly failed to revise our immigration laws, creating an untenable situation. We cannot blame someone from a poor country trying to come to the United States. We can blame our own government for failing to address this issue, and failing to enforce or change the law.
Okay, buckle up folks. This one is going to be a little boring. I originally thought this would be one essay, but as I got into it, I realized the topic is too complex. I decided to break it into pieces. And there is the operative word” “complex”. Contrary to the nonsense being bandied about today in the media and all over the Internet, impeachment is a very complex process. Because it is so serious, it is important that people understand not only how the process works, but what are the actual grounds to impeach an elected official, in this particular case, the President.
“Impeachment is the process by which a legislative body formally levels charges against a high official of government. Impeachment does not necessarily mean removal from office; it is only a formal statement of charges, akin to an indictment in criminal law, and is thus only the first step towards removal. Once an individual is impeached, he or she must then face the possibility of conviction via legislative vote, which then entails the removal of the individual from office.” (1)
Impeachment is a serious matter. Even more serious when concerning a President of the United States. Impeachment has been used by the U.S. government nineteen times, but only twice for a President (Andrew Johnson, 1868, Bill Clinton 1998). One US Senator was impeached (William Blount 1797). The remaining sixteen impeachments were of judges or cabinet officials.
So, what exactly is the authority for impeaching a President? It’s found in the Constitution, Article 2, Section 4, and reads like this:
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
This very small passage gives rise to great discussion which we will attempt to cover, point by point.
First of all, what are “high crimes and misdemeanors”? The Constitution names two of the “high crimes”; they are treason and bribery.
The Constitution is very specific about the definition of treason (Article 3, Section 3, Clause 1): “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”
The Constitution does not define bribery. It is generally accepted as an official taking money or gifts that influence the official’s behaviors.
The “Misdemeanors” part gets a little trickier. Originally the framers chose the word “corruption”, followed by “maladministration”. Ultimately they settled on “misdemeanors”, a term used in British law that could run the gamut from misappropiating funds, appointing unfit subordinates, not spending allocated money, or even threatening a grand jury. In other words, the very vagueness of the term allowed it to be used by prosecutors to charge almost anything they deemed as an abuse of power as a “misdemeanor”.
Of the nineteen actual impeachment processes since 1797, (mostly judges), the misdemeanors that have been charged included being habitually drunk, showing favoritism on the bench, submitting false expense accounts, making false statements under oath, and other similar charges. Of the eighteen impeachments, only nine resulted in removal of the official. In the remaining cases, the official either resigned or was acquitted.
Andrew Johnson was Abraham Lincoln’s Vice President, and assumed the Presidency when Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. Johnson, a Democrat, had immediate problems with the Republican-dominated Congress during reconstruction. Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act, which required Johnson to receive Congressional approval to fire any member of the executive branch who had been approved by Congress. Johnson believed the Act was unconstitutional, and responded by firing the Secretary of War, a Republican. Congress responded by passing eleven articles of impeachment, including sending orders through improper channels and conspiring against Congress. In the Senate, only three charges were brought, and he was not convicted.
The case against Andrew Johnson seems clearly a partisan political attack, with little substance, giving some insight into just how nonsensical articles of impeachment can be.
Bill Clinton’s problems began when a special counsel was appointed to investigate Whitewater, an Arkansas land deal that Clinton had participated in twenty years earlier. In a good example of the “reach” of an appointed special counsel, the investigation expanded to include the firing of White House travel office staff, the misuse of FBI funds, and Clinton’s affair with Monica LewInsky. The House Judiciary Committee presented eleven impeachable items, all related to the LewInsky affair. The Committee voted four articles of impeachment, including perjury before a grand jury, obstruction of justice, and misusing and abusing his office. Clinton was impeached, but not convicted by the Senate.
Some people believe that Richard Nixon was impeached. He was not, and avoided impreachment by resigning from office.
The Process of Impeachment
Impeachment proceedings begin in the House Judiciary Committee. Any bills of impreachment are referred to this committee. As part of the Judiciary Committee inquiry, the Committee may collect evidence, hold hearings and hear testimony of relevent witnesses. Typically the committee has both a majoriy and minority counsel, one for each party. If grounds for impreachment are found, the Committee formulates the Articles of Impeachment. The committee then votes on the articles, and if passed, they are referred to the entire House of Representatives, which then debates the issues.
If Articles of Impeachment are approved, the House appoints managers, who act as procescutors for each article. A hearing on the matter is held in the Senate, with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as the presiding official. The hearings are conducted as a trial, with witnesses and testimony. The defendant is entitled to legal counsel, and may cross-examine witnesses. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Senate debates the issues in private. A two-thirds majority is needed for a conviction and removal from office.
The entire process can be quite lengthy. What follows is the timeline of the Clinton impeachment:
January – August 1994: Attorney General Janet Reno appoints Robert Fiske Jr. as special prosecutor in the Whitewater Investigation. He is replaced by Kenneth Starr in August.
January 1998: Starr receives permission to expand his probe to include the Clinton/Lewinsky relationship.
September 1998: House of Representatives receives report from Ken Starr (3183 pages of testimony and evidence).
October 5, 1998: the House Judiciary Committee recommends a full impeachment inquiry.
November 19, 1998: Starr presents his case to House Judiciary Committee
December 11, 1998: House Judiciary Committee approves three articles of impeachment.
December 19, 1998: House of Representatives approve two articles on impeachment.
January 14, 1999: Trial begins in Senate
February 9, 1999: Senate begins closed-door deliberations.
February 12, 1999: Clinton acquitted.
So this is the basic process. In future articles, we will discuss more current issues, especially how they may relate to President Trump. Inasmuch as the media seems to have caught impeachment fever these days, it is likely there will be much to discuss.
I love Nebraska. I’ve had the occasion to go there over a dozen times, mostly for an annual Vietnam veterans reunion. I’ve crisscrossed the state and met hundreds of wonderful people. They were friendly, kind, and most welcoming, which is something a person from New Jersey never expected.
But I’m not writing about the whole state, I’m writing about one town in particular, one very special town; North Platte.
I’ve been to North Platte at least a half dozen times, and I love the town. But a recent article in The Wall Street Journal reminded me about the specialness of North Platte, something I’d like to share with you.
To tell this story, I have to go back in time, all the way back to World War II; but stay with me, because I’ll be bringing you right back to today at the end.
First of all, a little geography. North Platte was a stopping/ watering lcation for the Union Pacific railroad, which ran smack through the town. Back in those days, steam locomotives had to stop periodically to take on water for their steam engines. North Platte was always a stop. The Union Pacific, founded in 1862, was the first transcontinental railroad, running from Council Bluffs Iowa, to the Pacific Ocean.
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and the United States was at war. Just ten days later, on December 17th, a train loaded with soldiers from the National Guard was on it’s way west. Thinking these were fellow Nebraskans, over 500 local people showed up to greet the train, bringing homemade cakes and pies and sandwiches for the troops.
It turned out that the troops were not from Nebraska, but were National Guard troops from Kansas. The townspeople fed them anyway, and the whole story starts there.
One woman from the town, Rae Wilson, thought it would be a good idea to meet all the trains. The next day she started working on the canteen. Volunteers poured in. Local merchants donated goods. By the day after Christmas, when the next train arrived, they were up and running. The North Platte Canteen was born.
Before long, train after train filled with troops were passing through and the locals were greeting 1000 troops a day; but that was only the beginning.
The word spread about the canteen, and donations and volunteers began to pour in. A coffee importer sent cans of coffee, churches sent turkeys and other food. Benefit dances and socials were held to raise money for the canteen. Volunteers from as far as two hundred miles away came in to serve food to the troops. Boy scout troops and other youth groups raised money. In all, people from over one hundred twenty five communities donated time and money to the canteen.
It was a time of rationing. Items like coffee, sugar and gasoline were rationed. People gave up their spare ration stamps to send to the canteen. Farmers sent produce to the canteen rather than selling it. The women showed kindness in many different ways. They helped soldiers write letters home, they passed out fruit, and magazines, and decks of cards. Every day they baked birthday cakes. Any soldier having a birthday that day got a birthday cake.
And the numbers kept growing as the war progressed. More and more trains arrived in North Platte, sometimes as many as 32 trains a day, from early morning until after midnight. Every train was met, every single train. In all over six million troopsstopped at the North Platte Canteen and were met with Nebraskan hospitality. Over 55,000 volunteers from across Nebraska volunteered their time at the canteen.
Watch this before reading on. We’re not done yet.
The war ended in August 1945. The canteen remained open, however, serving the trainloads of soldiers, sailor, and Marines who were now coming home. It finally closed it’s doors in April 1946. The building was demolished in 1973, so the North Platte Canteen is gone….
But not yet.
Now we come to today.
This past June, less than two months ago. A National Guard unit from Arkansas completed it’s annual training in Wyoming. Over 700 National Guardsmen would be returning home, this time by bus; 21 buses in all. The bus company noted that North Platte was along the route, and contacted the local visitors bureau to see if they could handle that many troops, in and out, for a quick snack.
They had no idea the response they would get.
The word went out and literally hundreds of North Platte citizens showed up to volunteer. This time it was at the North Platte Events Center. The Canteen building was gone, but it was revived in spirit. The Arkansas troops were met with sandwiches, salads, and fruit, cakes, brownies and cookies. The mayor stood at the door and shook the hand of every soldier.
The world may have changed, but North Platte had not. When service members pass through their town, it’s something they will never forget.
That’s who these people are. This is the Heartland. This is America.
While you were enjoying (or not) the exceptionally warm weekend of June 30 — July 1, you likely did not know that Saturday, June 30th was International Asteroid Day. It’s a commemorative date of sorts, marking the day of June 30, 1908, when the “Tunguska event” took place in Siberia.
On that day, 110 years ago, an extra-terrestial object flattened over 770 square miles of Siberian forest. No one knows exactly what caused it. It is largely thought to be an air-burst of a meteorite, perhaps exploding around five miles up in the air. This is considered an impact event, even though it left no impact crater, just scortched earth. Estimates of the object’s size suggest it was about the size of one or two football fields.
It may have been a comet, it may have been an asteroid, no one really knows, but early estimates of the size of the explosion (since disputed), put the force at about 15 megatons of TNT, about 1000 times greater than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The blast flattened some 80 million trees. Due to the remote location, there were no human casualities, but it would have easily destroyed a large city.
So is this interesting or relevant? Maybe or maybe not, but it is a fact that we recently had a visit from our first inter-stellar (not from our solar system) flying object, called ʻOumuamua. It passed by us a few months ago, and buzzed on out , back in to deep space. It was a bit smaller than the object in 1908, about the size of a football field. It may have been a comet, but it was so small and moved so fast, scientists are not sure. The interesting part is that it originated from somewhere out in space, and we don’t know where. It did not come close to earth in our terms, about 124 million miles away, about the distance between Mars and Jupiter. In space distances, however, it was pretty damn close. Here’s an artist conception, click on the image for a larger view:
So here’s what got me started on this piece: Many years ago, way back in 1977, I read a book called Lucifer’s Hammer. It was a sci-fi novel, the first apocalyptic novel I recall reading. By coincidence, I stumbled on a copy of the book as I was packing up some old books to donate to the library. All the other books went, but Lucifer fell out, and hid under the driver seat of my car. I just found it, so I thought I should write about it, and here we are.
The book was dramatic to say the least. Lucifer, which turns out to be a comet, breaks up upon entering the earth’s atmosphere, and creates havoc around the world. Chaos ensues, and the rest of the story follows the survivors in the post-apolcalypic world.
There have been countless end-of-the-world scenarios; they are one of the mainstays of Hollywood. With out an apocalypse of some sort, countless movies from Mad Max to Independence Day to the World War Z zombie apocalypse would never have been made. All this doesn’t even include TV series like The Walking Dead.
Most of the movies and TV shows do quite well, at the box office and in TV ratings. We seem to enjoy the notion of the world ending in some sort of dramatic and spectacular fashion. Perhaps we imagine ourselves as one who survives, or hope we would be one of the ones who doesn’t.
It seems from what I’ve read, that people, especially Christians have been having notions of the Apocalypse for centuries. Generation after generation, some folks think they are living in the end of times; that it’s going to be all over during their lifetime. Early thoughts of an apocalypse were often Bible-related, God ending mankind in some catastrophic way, perhaps an asteroid.
Modern society (and Hollywood) has of course expanded on the theme. We (society) can meet our demise in an endless variety of permutations, from space invaders, to viruses, to zombies, not to mention prehistoric dinosauers if we visit the wrong theme park.
So, why? What is the fascination with mega-disaster? Why do we fill movie theaters, almost gleefully watch people die by the thousands while we chomp on popcorn and candy?
I can’t say I had any real ideas about this, but looking around online, I found a few interesting pieces.
One suggested than an apocalypse must have two parts. The first is that real life always seem on the brink; poor leaders, broken economy, global warming, you name it; disaster is right around the corner. The second part, and the most interesting is it never actually happens. Millions may die, the world may be in shambles, but there are always survivors. Someone is left to start over, to re-boot the human race, better than before. So the essence of the apocalypse becomes hope.
To be sure, some films break this tradition. On the Beach, and These Final Hours, both nuclear disaster movies, come to mind. But they are generally the exception to the rule. Most often, there are survivors, embattled, desheveled, and barely holding on sometimes, but by golly, the human race will survive!
There are a couple of other theories out there which merit some discussion. The first one is that we just love to watch destruction. Sound lame? Then why do people rubber-neck at auto accidents, or why does a fire draw a crowd? Is there something in our nature that likes watching things destroyed? Another is that we have a fascination with death, and that death on a large scale lets us watch from the comfort of our movie seat.
Another theory is that the apocalypse lets mankind start over. We screwed up, but we won’t the next time. It also lets indivduals theorize how they would fit in in a new world. Would they be a leader? A follower? A taker? A giver? Mankind gets another chance.
Another thing — apocalyptic movies often open in the summer. The summer “blockbuster” is often about mayhem or one kind or another.
Sooooo…. We’ve come a long way from Asteroid Day, but that sometimes happens when I just shoot off in a direction. Going back to original topic, just remember there are millions of asteroids out there — maybe one of them has our name on it.
One of the things which comes up frequently in the immigation controversy is asylum — immigrants seeking special protection from dangers and/or risks in their own country.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), asylum protection can be offered to people who have suffered persecution or fear they will suffer persection because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
Notice the fairly narrow definition. Essentially it says that a particular person must be able to identify one of these specific reasons, and that they have been or are at danger of suffering persecution because of it. This is important, because we will be coming back this this definition.
Refugee and Special Situations
The USCIS notes special situations which could allow entrance into the United States of humanatarian concern, such as natual disasters. Generally speaking refugees and are not expected to stay in the United States, and are “sheltered” only until the situation which caused their flight from their country is resolved. As we shall see, this definition has been allowed to expand to cover several areas beyond its original intent.
The USCIS also designates “Temporary Protected Status” (TPS) for refugees from countries considered to be in turmoil. There are currently ten countries on this list, but for the purposes of this article, we will only be looking at some countries in Central America: El Salvador (9/9/19), and Honduras (1/5/20). The dates in parenthesis are the dates when this temporary status are schedule to end, but these dates can be changed.
Ostensibly, the TPS for the above countries was issued due to natural disasters: El Salvador: Earthquakes (2001), Nicaragua: Hurricane Mitch (1998), Honduras: Hurricane Mitch (1998). Notice these “temporary” protections are now twenty years old.
Immigrants from countries with TPS cannot be deported as long as the TPS is in effect. TPS holders reside all over the U.S. Most TPS holders from El Salvador live in the Washington, DC (32,359), Los Angeles (30,415) and New York (23,168) metropolitan areas. Honduran TPS holders live mostly in the New York (8,818), Miami (7,467) and Houston (6,060) metropolitan areas. (11)
The only thing stable about some of the countries that make up Central America is their instablity. Plagued by poverty, crime, and disease, this region suffers from continous instability.
Three countries form the “Northern Triangle” of Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. They have a combined population of about thirty million people. The average per capita income in these three countries is $6793. Per capita income in the United States is $58030.
The smallest and most densely populated country in Central America (6.4 million), with a per capita income of $8900/year. It has the highest murder rate in the world, 60/100,000. (4) (7) (8)
From Wikipedia: “From the late 19th to the mid-20th century, El Salvador endured chronic political and economic instability characterized by coups, revolts, and a succession ofauthoritarianrulers… …devastating Salvadoran Civil War (1979–1992), which was fought between the military-led government and a coalition of left-wing guerrillagroups… …the country continues to struggle with high rates of poverty, inequality, and crime.”
According to CBS News some 60,000 to 100,000 members of the infamous MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs terrorize the population throughout the country, causing many to flee for the United States (2)
In an interesting , if ironic footnote, the second largest gang in El Salvador, M-18 (also known as the 18th Street Gang), also actually originated in Los Angeles, and expanded south to El Salvador, sort of a north-south cultural exchange.
Sky News presents an interesting video of the realities of El Salvador today. It’s a little long (23 minutes), but interesting:
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for some 195,000 Salvadorans currently in the United States ends in September 2019. President Trump has indicated he will not extend this date, making these TPS participants liable for deportation.
Guatemala has a population of 15.5 million and an annual per capita income of $8200. It has a murder rate of 26/100,000, and ranks as the 15th highest murder rate in the world (4) (7) (8)
Between 1954 and 1996, Guatemala suffered a series of coups and a civil war, destablizing the country. US involvement during this time period was not insignificant. Since then, Guatemalan politics have been rife with scandal. In 2016 a UN prosecutor described the government as a crime syndicate. Crime is high in Guatemala, largely as a result of continuing conflicts between the government and the people left over from the civil war. Guatemala is also a major drug trafficking route for drugs coming north from South America and headed to the United States. Guatemala is also known for human trafficking, including sex trafficking. Both MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang operate in Guatemala. There are an estimated 32,000 gang members in the country.
Since 2016 Guatemala has four times requested Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Gualamalans illegally in the United States, based on volcanos and other natural disasters. TPS has not been approved.
The third of our “Northern Triangle” countries of Central America is Honduras. Honduras has a population of about 9.1 million people, an annual per capita income of $5500, and a murder rate of 54/100,000 people, making it the 2nd highest murder rate in the world. (7)(8)
Like other countries in Central America, Honduras has suffered a variety of internal conflicts and governments, and interventions by the United States over the years. The term “Banana Republic” was first used to describe the country by author O. Henry in 1904.
In addition to dealing with hurricanes and other natural disasters, Honduras suffered a coup d’etat in 2009, that was condemned by both the Organization of American States and the United Nations, who called the new government illegal.
Temporary protected Status (TPS) granted to Hondurans after the 1998 Hurrican Mitch, is due to expire in January 2020. President Trump has indicated he will not renew this status, making 57,000 Hundurans currently in the United States liable to deportation.
The Failed States
At this point we get subjective. The fundamental definition of a failed state is “a state whose political or economic system has become so weak that the government is no longer in control” (Google Definitions).
The three countries in this article are technically not “failed”, but are considered “fragile” states by the non-profit Fund for Peace(12). The factors considered in evaluating countries are social, economic, and political. Each of these three countries fall within the “Warning” bracket of potentially failing states. The states are scored every year, and these countries exhibit a continually downward trend. In other words, it’s not getting better, it’s getting worse.
It should be noted that the United States provides foreign aid to these countries, mostly for education and agriculture, a total of about $50 million per year for all three combined, about the same provided to Bosnia ($49 million), less than to the Congo ($60 million), and far less than to Afghanistan ($126 million).
Which unfortunately brings us, once again back to the major problem faced in each of these countries: crime.
That’s the MS-13 motto above. We’ve written about these bad boys before, but their impact on these countries, and the resultant flow of immigrants seeking asylum from them appears to be the single largest factor in the migration north.
“Mara Salvatrucha” is the name. “Mara” is slang for “gang”, and “Salvatruchas” are supposedly peasants trained to become guerilla fighters. The “13” denotes their affiliation with the “Surenos”, a group of gangs that pay tribute to the Mexican Mafia while in prison. Other variants of this explanation exist.
Ironically, this gang was home grown in the USA. The gang was formed by Salvadoran immigrants in the 1980’s in Los Angeles. The gang was created to protect Salvadorans from other gangs of Mexican and Afro-Americans. When gang members were caught committing crimes, they typically were deported back to El Salvador. This allowed them to recruit in Central America, and expand rapidly. Another similar gang, the Barrio 18, or 18th Street Gang, also formed in Los Angeles, and has a similar history. These two gangs account for the 60,000 to 100,000 gang members in El Salvador alone, along with another 32,000 in Guatemala, and thousands more in Honduras. There are an estimated 10,000 MS-13 members currently in the United States.
It needs to be noted that MS-13 is not a drug trafficking cartel. Though they have had some minor affiliations with Mexican Cartels, especially the Sinaloa Cartel, the gang’s participation in the drug trade is minor, perhaps due to a distrust between the primarily El Salvadoran members and the Mexicans. Murder, rape, extortion, prostitution and human trafficking are the calling cards of MS-13. In essense they are thugs, not nearly sophisticated enough to operate as a drug cartel.
Which brings us to the actual problem as it relates to the United States.
These gangs are essentally terrorists, and strongest in Central America. Their tactics, combined with ineffectual and/or corrupt governments in these countries have created a growing migration of people fleeing these countries and headed for the United States.
They head for the United States seeking asylum. Asylum from the criminal gangs terrorizing their countries. But they are also economic migrants, trying to escape poverty and failing government.
Coming back to our original definition of asylum, seeking protection from persecution: How does their claim match the policies of the United States? How liberal or how strict should the granting of asylum be? Remember, there are over thirty million people in these three countries. How many should the US allow, and for how long? A few years, until things possibly get better in their countries? Twenty years? Forever?
Most of these immigrants are low-skill, poorly educated people. Who supports them, and how will they fit in to the US economy? There are no easy answers to these questions. These problems will likely continue and increase in the coming years. It is the responsbility of the Congress of the United States to confront these problems and create suitable immigration laws, something they have failed to do for decades. Time is running out for decisions. Left alone, we will find ourselves with thousands or even millions of immigrants clamoring to get into the United States, and a government of our own who is failing both them and us.