Thursday, February 21, 2019

Island Time

I’ve been to the American outpost of Guam before, in 2012 and 2016. Always by ship, never by airplane. Closer to Japan than the mainland USA, it’s where America’s day begins, on the oriental side of the International Date Line. To note, it’s 17-18 hours ahead of Los Angeles, and about a full day ahead of Hawaii. Those were brief visits in the past, but my current work assignment carries the distinction of being homeported in Guam. While I feel pressured by East Coast influences, to get back to mainland USA as soon as possible; the expat population couldn’t ask for a better paradise in Guam. There is enough tropical sunset for everyone, rich or poor. It’s endless summer; full length pants are only worn to church. So I’m digesting these opinions the same way I’ve analyzed expat life elsewhere, from Subic Bay in the Philippines, to Dubai and the Francophone nation of Djibouti. Hafa Asia, greetings.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Governor Northam: Wolf in Doctor's Clothes

On the heels of Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation, another 1980's yearbook claims its prey. Ralph Northam, one week ago the quiet Virginia Governor, made an embarrassing, shameful splash onto the national stage. We wonder why Ed Gillespie, the Republican who lost to Ralph Northam in 2017, didn't find that yearbook. Simply put by another campaign manager:"opposition research 101". To further this point, Mr. Gillespie spent part of his working career as a political operative. I also wonder why no Eastern Virginia Medical School alumnus broke the Code of Silence, and independently brought forth the revelation during the 2017 campaign.

Gauging the public outrage over the EVMS Blackface-Klansman photo, Black Virginians were the most outraged. Institutional racism died slowly, with Dixiecrats holding control of the Virginia legislature into the 1990's. That nightmare, fueled by the current President's "good people on both sides" comment, flared up recently in Charlottesville. In 2017, Northam claimed moral high ground in a brutal, race-baiting campaign season: a law-and-order Gillespie ad focused on real crimes committed in the Washington, DC area by the MS-13 gang, but was taken by some as a loud dog whistle on immigration. A Latino Victory Fund ad in response, run on behalf of Northam, portrayed a Gillespie supporter in a pickup truck, waiving the Confederate flag. He proceeded to mow down minority children. The Washington Post condemned this ad, which was pulled after an ISIS-inspired Uzbek man plowed through, and killed eight New Yorkers with a rented truck on Halloween.

In 2006, former Senator George Allen narrowly lost reelection after using a questionable term, "macaca", to describe an Indian-American. It was caught on camera, and soon there were allegations from high school classmates of "N-words and nooses". As this concerned merely the "coalition of the ascendant", the total shift in support amounted to a few critical percentage points. Black-White relations, however, have permeated Virginia politics for 400 years. Many white moderates, the target audience for expensive, televised campaign ads, now felt duped by Northam's hypocritical (self projecting?) campaign on racial issues. A photo shouts a thousand words.  In this context, despite his perceived dog-whistle on immigration, Gillespie was the better man. This was buttressed by his commitment to criminal justice reform, an aspect of Virginia policy which has roots dating to the Dixiecrat era.

White liberals (the latte set) were more likely to consider the pros-and-cons of keeping Ralph Northam in office, as a so-called "progressive leader". That is the art of marketing at work, if you can virtue-signal your way into office, with pink hats and appearances with minority community leaders. In contrast to previous liberal governor Terry McAuliffe's frequent impasse with the GOP-controlled legislature, Ralph Northam is one of the "good old boys" who works with Republicans. 

Ralph Northam's views on social issues is within line of the mainstream medical community. Here is my take. On guns: Did you hear the recent story about the four-year-old who got hold of, and shot a loaded handgun?  On the prosecution of abortion doctors as a slippery slope: Read Miller's 'King of Hearts' and see how allegations of murder followed high-risk heart surgery, including future Governor Doug Wilder's civil suit following a 1968 heart transplant in Virginia. On capital punishment: Even I felt bad that Tojo was hung for his war crimes in WWII, after American doctors worked hard to save him after a suicide attempt. On expansion of healthcare access: Why are politicians interfering with my ability to provide better care?

While conservatives joined the cries to unseat Governor Northam, the reality is nuanced for Virginia Republicans. With racial provocateur Corey Stewart retiring from politics this year, the local GOP now has the ability to regain status in minority communities. Behind closed doors, Ralph Northam is a "good old boy", a Virginia Military Institute alumnus connected to bipartisan power-brokering in Virginia. His would-be replacement, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, is an African-American progressive who would put the brakes on Republican plans for new pipelines; and expose the tight, bipartisan connections between state-regulated utility Dominion Energy and the legislature. This year, all seats are up for election in the evenly-divided legislature (51/49 and 21/19, GOP in narrow control). There are many competitive districts, where minority turnout counts. A damaged governor who can't make appearances with the Black community will only help Republicans hold the legislature.