Wednesday, September 6, 2017

My grandmother, the "dreamer"

It was the late Spring of 1892 and my paternal grandmother celebrated her first birthday on a ship crossing the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Her parents left their native Poland to seek a new life in America.  My grandmother was a "dreamer."

One hundred and twenty-five years later, President Donald Trump has told "dreamers" that they are no longer welcome in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  (Dreamers are individuals in the U.S. who were brought to the country at an early age without documentation but have assimilated to U.S. culture and have been educated by U.S. school systems.)


President Barack Obama created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in June of 2012 after Congress failed to act,  but President Trump has decided to end DACA, ..... maybe.   DACA provided for administrative relief from deportation. It protects eligible immigrant youths who came to the United States when they were children from deportation. DACA gives young undocumented immigrants: 1) protection from deportation and 2) a work permit.

As of the1930 census, thirty-eight years after my grandmother's ocean journey, she was still not a citizen of the United States, but she became a productive member of US society until her death at the age of 92.  I have yet to find any documentation that she ever became a US citizen, although I believe she did sometime after 1930.

From the day the first settlers sailed up the James River and founded Jamestown in 1607, we have been a country of immigrants. Over the past 400 years, we have seen waves of immigrants seek the dreams of a new life in this great country.

Waves of immigration

The first wave was in the late 18th Century and early 19th.  These immigrants came primarily from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Germany.  The second wave of immigrants came from the 1820s to the 1860s.  These immigrants also came from European countries, primarily Germany, England, and Ireland.  The third wave from 1880 to 1914 were primarily from Eastern European countries, although the Western states saw a flood of immigrants from Asian countries.  The fourth wave, beginning in 1965 and continuing to present day is primarily from Hispanic countries and Asian countries.

The vast majority of these new immigrants became productive members of our melting pot of a society.  There are those who can only point to the bad acts of a very small minority of immigrants as one of their rationales on severely restricting immigration.  To the contrary of the sometimes hyperbolic rhetoric of the anti-immigration folks,  most major studies have shown a negative correlation between the percentage of non-documented immigrant population and crime rates.

Perhaps the wisdom of songwriter George Jackson provides some simple wisdom to the flawed argument of anti-immigrant enthusiasts.  "One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch."

Huddled masses

The United States, at least a majority,  have lived up to the words of the Emma Lazarus poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"  

Unfortunately, a sometimes vocal majority have believed and still believe that those immortal words only applied to them and not to those who came after.  They believe and believed the "golden door" should be slammed shut to prevent the "huddled masses" from over running "their" country.  Few beliefs fly more directly into the face of the beliefs that make our country the last refuge of those "yearning to breathe free."

DACA exemplifies the beliefs that make our country what it is.  It is consistent with the beliefs that allowed our nation to flourish and become one of the greatest nations the world has ever seen.  It helped create a country that is the freest society in the world.  It has not been an easy road, because some vocal minorities have thrown roadblocks in the way.

The Know Nothings

Our history is rife with anti-immigrant sentiment, but a particular example from the 19th Century may help us with the way forward.  In the late 1840s and early1850s, a political movement started known as the "Native American" party or just the "American" party, but most commonly know as the "Know Nothing" party.  (The nickname "Know Nothing" party came about because members of the "American Party" would claim to "know nothing" when asked about their political activities.

The Know Nothings were alarmed by an influx of immigration from Europe.  Many of the new immigrants were Roman Catholics, and this did not sit well with the predominant Protestant population.  The party reached its peak in the 1856 election when former President Millard Fillmore garnered 21.5 percent of the national Presidential vote as the standard bearer of the Know Nothing Party.  He ran on a nativist/anti-immigrant platform.

In 1855, a little known Illinois politician and future President Abraham Lincoln wrote to a friend:

"I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it 'all men are created equal, except negroes.' When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.' When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty-to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

Fortunately for us all, the thoughts of Lincoln won the day, and have won the day for most of the 162 years that have passed since Lincoln wrote to his friend Joshua Speed.  Those same thoughts won the day when my grandmother, the dreamer, came to this country, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

We can only hope that the modern day Know Nothings join their 19th Century Know Nothings on the ash heap of history.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Mayor Jim Haggerty announces for Magistrate

Kingston Mayor Jim Haggerty

Kingston Mayor Jim Haggerty today announced that he is a candidate for election to the office of District Judge in court 11-1-05, which serves Kingston and Edwardsville. This seat became vacant upon the retirement earlier this year of District Judge Paul Roberts, who served with distinction for twenty-nine years.
“I look forward to bringing my two decades of community involvement as mayor to the office of District Judge, along with my nearly twenty-seven years of legal experience,” said Haggerty. “I believe that my experience, qualifications, education, and background make me the best-qualified candidate to serve the citizens of Kingston and Edwardsville in this important position.”
Haggerty has served as Mayor of Kingston since 1998, having been elected to five consecutive terms. At a time when local municipalities have struggled with failing budgets and massive tax increases, Haggerty has guided Kingston to financial success with an investment grade double A level Standard and Poor’s credit rating, a lower earned income tax, obtaining over $11.5 million in grants, and fully funding all municipal pension plans. He has also successfully led important community investments and improvements including a $2.5 million reconstruction of the Hoyt Library, design and construction of the $3.4 million central fire station, a $1.5 million upgrade to the Kingston Pool, and over $7.5 million in street improvements. Kingston has also been designated a Tree City USA for twenty consecutive years.
“I have done my best to serve with integrity, a steady hand, and a respect for all of our citizens,” said Haggerty. “I will bring these same important qualities to the position of District Judge.”
Haggerty is a 1983 graduate of Wyoming Valley West, ranking first in his class of 435 students. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) on a U.S. Army ROTC scholarship, graduating with a B.S. in Management Science in 1987. He was awarded his law degree, with distinction, from Georgetown Law School in 1990.
Haggerty has been in the private practice of law for nearly twenty-seven years, the last twenty-two years with his office in Kingston. His practice focuses on helping hard-working families in Luzerne County navigate the legal system. “Although I am a hometown attorney, I have appeared before over fifty magistrates and over forty Common Pleas judges. I have appeared in state and federal courts in over twenty-five counties in four states, and I have handled almost every sort of matter a lawyer can handle. I know how an effective judge runs an effective courtroom, and I will use that knowledge for the benefit of the citizens of Kingston and Edwardsville.”
Haggerty grew up in Kingston, the son of the late James and Judy Haggerty. He later served as a Lieutenant and tank platoon leader in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. He was a First Honor Graduate of the Armor Officer Basic Course at Fort Knox, KY. He is also a graduate of the Airborne Course at Fort Bragg, NC.

“My military experience taught me the importance of preparation, determination, and teamwork. And after getting pushed out of a moving airplane five times by a Green Beret jumpmaster, I am definitely prepared for any challenge.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Alternative Facts

Brooklyn Bridge courtesy of Wikipedia
President Trump says three to five million people voted illegally in the 2016 Presidential election.  This explains his 2.8 million vote loss of the popular vote, and now he's launching a "major investigation" into voter fraud.  For those of you who believe this "major investigation" will bear fruit, Buzz is getting out his deed to the Brooklyn Bridge.  He picked it up cheap a few years ago, and he says he's willing to sell it at a loss.

After raising this issue in a tweet late last year, the President, on his own accord, repeated this allegation when meeting with Congressional leaders on Monday.  Perhaps the President misspoke on Monday, so we all waited for the Baghdad Bob of the administration to set us straight at his Tuesday Press Briefing.

Here's what White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.

“The president does believe that. He has stated that before. I think he’s stated his concerns of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign,” Spicer said. “He continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence that people have presented to him.”

When pressed further, Spicer cited some studies which have been thoroughly debunked.  According to, one of the studies cited (Old Dominion University) has even been debunked by its authors, who said their "extrapolation to specific state-level or district-level election outcomes is fraught with substantial uncertainty." 

Now, this morning, the President has announced he will continue "tilting at windmills" with a "major investigation" into voter fraud.

Perhaps the President bases his conclusion on those "alternative facts" to which Kellyanne Conway referred to on Sunday's "Meet the Press."  

This is a major problem.  The late New York Senator Patrick Moynihan famously said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."  If we cannot agree on the facts, we cannot engage in any useful discussion.

Many supporters of the President will believe almost anything he says, and this is unfortunate.  The tall tales of his campaign are proof of this.  The problem arises when everyone else, including some members of his own party, question the President's veracity.

Senator Lyndsey Graham (R-SC)  said.  "To continue to suggest that the 2016 election was conducted in a fashion that millions of people voted illegally undermines faith in our democracy,  It's not coming from a candidate for the office, it's coming from the man who holds the office. So I am begging the president, share with us the information you have about this or please stop saying it."

Some will dismiss Senator Graham as not a true believer in the Trump Revolution, but you cannot dismiss everyone who criticizes you because eventually you will alienate many people you need.  The Republicans only have a 52-48 majority in the Senate, so Trump can't afford to lose but a few Republican Senators.

Facts DO matter.  They are not debatable.  White is white.  Black is black.  Up is up and down is down.  It is the duty and obligation of a free press to call "bullshit" when the President or any elected figure plays fast and loose with the facts.  It is also the duty and obligation of Republicans to call the President out when he uses "alternative facts," even if those alternative facts further the party line.

Let's hope that the next four years is not a 24/7 "Bullshit" call.