In the 20 years since I have been writing this monthly letter, I have never found it so difficult to cut through the maze of current events to find threads that enforce my theme that “ideas have consequences”. I have refused to become beholden to the zeitgeist, the overnight news cycle, and the “who’s up, who’s down” nature of electoral politics, the impeachment circus, etc., but frankly, it is difficult to rise above the social media flood that has engulfed all of our lives to find nuggets with any sense of profundity. So this month, I will merely toss out some thoughts on a range of current issues to see which ones resonate with you, then I’m off to the Snake and Columbia Rivers for a little cruising for a couple of weeks, hopefully without a TV. Here goes:
Trump at the UN
Donald Trump’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly this week was about as close as we’re likely to get to a Trump Doctrine. He covered most of the key bases, from border control to globalization to Venezuela to Iran to Hong Kong to trade with China to social media power in a wide-ranging survey of his views. Lots of tough talk that will require a lot of follow up, but, except for some elements of his trade policies with which I have expressed my disagreement, I think he is on the right track, and I particularly like his best quote of the day, “The future does not belong to globalists; the future belongs to patriots……to sovereign and independent nations who protect their citizens, respect their neighbors, and honor the differences that make each country special and unique.”
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has written an outstanding letter on the homelessness problem in California to that state’s governor and other leaders that could and should be shared widely across the country. It lays out in direct fashion the misguided policies that have greatly contributed to the problem–including the overregulated housing market, the undermining of police officers in enforcing quality of life laws, the reduction in acute mental health care facilities, the liberal immigration policies–and common sense steps that must be taken to begin to correct this shameful condition in many of our urban areas. I don’t have a link, but the letter was sent by e-mail, is dated September 18, 2019, and references Homelessness in California. I highly recommend it.
“Do Something” About Mass Shootings
Here we go again. Another outbreak of mass shootings followed by cries to “do something”. And reasonable people are making what I consider a good faith attempt at this, including Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who actually has shown considerable courage in taking on the NRA on aspects of gun sale registration. I won’t take the various debatable reform points one by one; there is plenty of that available from multiple sources. But I am reminded of a quote from C. G. Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, who said, “All psychological problems are really spiritual problems”. He’s right, of course, and it seems that no where is this more applicable than with the problems that lead primarily young men to such evils as mass murder. We won’t begin to truly tackle this problem until we begin to repair the holes in the souls of these young men that have been filled with the toxicity of ideas in the dark reaches of the online world.
What to do in the current standoff with Iran? And for that matter, what do we do with the troops still in Afghanistan after 18 years? Neither question is easy and they overlap in a number of ways. As for Iran, we have been in a state of war with this regime for 40 years, it continues to be the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism, and there is no reason to believe now that their objectives have changed one iota over this time period, nor is there any reason to think that they will all of a sudden begin to honor a commitment. So I say keep the pressure on with sanctions and make sure they know that military options are certainly on the table. As for Afghanistan, I believe it would be a big mistake to withdraw U. S. troops and that if we did so we would be back in that country inside of five years to contend with ISIS and the Taliban once again. We’ve been in South Korea for 66 years and Germany for 74, so a police force of 8-10,000 is not unreasonable for Afghanistan to watch over what remains a very unstable polity. One more thought about what Donald Trump would likely choose in either case when it comes to the legacy he might leave–does he really want to be the President who vacated leadership in the Middle East to Russia/Iran and ISIS? I don’t think so.
All the celebrations in July commemorating Apollo 11 and our moon walk brought back a lot of memories and I couldn’t help but wonder if we have the spirit to take on a similar project today. I certainly would like to think so, but I don’t know, and I wonder if we will ever again have a “Sputnik moment”. I know it’s a tough sell, but I believe we should re-dedicate America to leadership in space. Yes, to go to Mars, but on a manned basis only after 10-15 years of unmanned exploration. The important factor is to renew the leadership of JFK in challenging us to to the difficult things. The Apollo program spawned the tech revolution that gravitated in the 1970s to form the intellectual nucleus of the high tech explosion. We need to revive that spirit of “moonwalk 1969”. This is a version of government-driven “industrial policy” that I can support.
Should We Pay College Athletes?
The California legislature has passed a bill that will allow the compensation of college athletes for the use of their names, likenesses, and images. It awaits the governor’s signature. Is this first step to compensation beyond a scholarship a good idea? I don’t think so because it will be impossible to regulate the policy and it will lead to unintended consequences that we can’t begin to fathom (or maybe some can, but that’s the point!). What I have suggested we should do is to go in the other direction. We should require the NBA and NFL to develop and rely on their own “farm” system to supply their teams, like baseball does. In college baseball, once a recruit accepts an offer to play from a school, he is not eligible for the professional draft until he has completed his eligibility or reaches age 21. These kids need to decide if they want to go to college or begin to pursue a professional sports career and the college athletic systems should not be in the business of serving as the minor professional leagues in football and basketball.