Political Fix (6 April, 2017)

The Missing Jersey, Russia and Congressman Devin Nunes

Unless you live with a New England Patriots fan, most readers may not be aware that quarterback Tom Brady’s jersey was stolen after the Super Bowl in January.

Someone posing as a member of the international media went into the Patriots’ locker room and stole the jersey right out of Mr. Brady’s sports bag after the game. Mr. Brady led the Patriots to the biggest comeback victory in super bowl history against the Atlanta Falcons and it was also the first Super Bowl to go into overtime. That made the jersey’s value estimated at $500,000.

This is actually the second time Mr. Brady’s jersey has been stolen, which I guess is a job hazard when you win the super bowl a record five times.

Because the suspect was believed to have transported the jersey to Mexico the FBI got involved. In no time flat the bureau not only found Mr. Brady’s jersey, but his old jerseys and another player’s helmet worn during a previous super bowl.

“We know how much this means to Patriots and football fans everywhere and we are honored to be able to bring these jerseys back to Foxboro,” said Harold Shaw, special agent of the FBI.

Now, can we get Mr. Shaw to work on FBI’s investigation on Russia’s involvement in our elections? If he can do this kind of work when football paraphernalia is at stake, what might he do for our Democracy?

Our own Congressman Devin Nunes, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has been in charge of one arm of the government’s investigation into Russia. Rep. Nunes has expressed his skepticism about the link between President Donald Trump and Russia’s involvement in our election and has been hounded by critics and the press. But he also told the Fresno Bee that if the FBI finds out otherwise it would be a “game changer” in terms of the investigation.

Rep. Nunes hasn’t generated this much press since he called the Freedom Caucus “lemmings with suicide vests” when the group threatened to shut down the federal government in 2013. His critics felt the comment was a little harsh, but it was accurate and pretty funny to boot. His critics may be off base this time too.

For one, Rep. Nunes was not an early supporter of Mr. Trump. Second, maybe Rep. Nunes feels like he is just doing his job. When he saw evidence that the president, or his team, was being illegally surveilled he felt an obligation to warn the president. His critics say he compromised the investigation.

Now Rep. Nunes is being called on to step down as Chair of the House Intelligence Committee and his response was, “Why would I?”

And why would he? Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is the one in charge of appointing or removing the chair. Rep. Ryan and Rep. Nunes have worked together on legislation for years and Mr. Ryan is not going to remove him. Maybe the president has a say in the matter also, but Mr. Trump isn’t going to remove him either. So the Senate, Congress and media can howl away.

Nor is Rep. Nunes’ performance as chairman going to jeopardize his 2018 election chances. Case in point sits around my dinner table. No one but Joseph and I even knew that Rep. Nunes was the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, or even knew that the committee existed.

On the other hand, if the Republican healthcare bill had passed, a bill he enthusiastically supported, that would have been a game changer for Rep. Nunes. 52,000 Tulare County residents were projected to lose their healthcare, and possibly double that number in Fresno County, if the American Health Care Act became law. That’s a lot of angry voters.

But the health care bill did not pass and Rep. Nunes’ handling of the investigation does not directly affect his constituents. The volume of discontent from the protesters does not correspond with the number of discontented voters.

Challengers are nevertheless sharpening their swords. The 2018 election might be the first time since 2002 that Rep. Nunes faces a serious opponent.

Super Bowl LI was not Tom Brady’s first rodeo. He was suspended in the beginning of the season for four games because of Deflategate, threw a costly interception that turned into a touchdown in the second quarter, but then threw a super bowl record 466 yards to lead his team to victory.

This isn’t Rep. Nunes first rodeo either. He has made some mistakes also. But Mr. Brady is coming back for another season and so is Rep. Nunes. Veterans of the game know political storms pass.

I do suspect that the FBI will produce more than two jerseys and a helmet when their investigation into our elections is over. Because of the president’s sheer hubris I wouldn’t be surprised if he colluded with the Russians and thought he would just plain get away with it. I also predict that Vice President Mike Pence has so closely hitched his wagon to the president’s they will fall together.

Then who will be the last two standing?

Who Are the Terrorists Now?

According to Betty Yee, California State Controller, undocumented labor contributed $180 billion to the gross national product in California in 2015. Labor from undocumented immigrants is fundamental to agriculture, child care, restaurants, hotels and construction.

“This is a workforce, a supply of labor from our undocumented workforce, that actually does provide just the basic foundations of these sectors and industries of being able to succeed and thrive,” she told the Los Angeles Times.

California is an economic power house precisely because we have a huge pool of hard working, under paid, undocumented laborers. Arizona’s economy faltered when they passed anti-immigration laws and Alabama’s Donald Trump experiment failed the state.

During the Obama administration Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were forced to concentrate on deporting gang members and other violent criminals and leave everyone else alone. Under President Trump’s new executive order he says he just wants to get the “bad hombres.” But immigration agents have been given a free hand to do raids and mass deportations.

If the undocumented are deemed such a danger to society why would anyone give them a job? And why aren’t we jailing the employers who are the root of the problem?

Local law enforcement in the valley has tried to convince us that the focus of ICE is only on criminals. But just last week the Visalia Times-Delta reported that a father was pulled over in an unmarked car while picking his son up at Houston Elementary School. Though this father was not one of the “Bad Hombres,” he sits in a Bakersfield jail.

Just a few weeks ago Tulare County settled to pay $2.2 million to five undocumented women because they were sexually assaulted by Tulare County Sheriff’s Deputy William Nulick. He targeted them precisely because they were undocumented and vulnerable. He figured he could force them into sex acts and they wouldn’t come forward because they would get deported, which sadly could still happen.

According to two sources inside the sheriff’s department, sexual assault complaints against Deputy Nulick languished for months in a desk drawer at the Cutler –Orosi substation. The sergeant in charge of the substation even went on vacation, leaving the complaints to sit until sometime after he returned.

A lawyer working on the case said about the five victims, “they were only the tip of the iceberg.” The lawyer was so cheesed off about the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department that I couldn’t discern whether his anger was in reference to the alleged corruption inside the sheriff’s department or the many undocumented women who were too afraid to press charges.

After press time the Tulare City Council will have already voted on becoming a sanctuary city or not. If there were those in Tulare who do not agree with the concept of giving sanctuary, the timing could not be worse.

If the people who make up the foundation of California’s booming economy live in constant fear of losing their job, having their family torn apart, or having to do sexual favors to stay out of jail, then we need to ask ourselves – who are the real terrorists?

Who knew?

Senior year in high school I had to read L’Etranger by Albert Camus in French. There were only three of us dumb enough to take French 4 and fortunately one of my classmates was able to explain the book to me.

I learned two things from L’Etranger. First, I learned the word existentialism. I didn’t know exactly what it meant, but I knew where to drop it in a conversation to make me sound really smart. Second, I learned not to eat in close proximity to a dead body. The main character, whose name, like everyone else’s, eludes me, ate a sandwich while sitting next to his mother’s body during her wake. A lawyer subsequently used that information to convict the main character of murder. I believe he was even given the death penalty.

Note to self: don’t eat next to a body.

Fast forward 37 years. Family and friends held vigil around my son, Alex’s, hospital bed for hours until he passed away in the late afternoon. As distraught as I was, I was also famished. When most everyone left the hospital and the room became a quiet sanctuary with only me, Alex, Amanda, his fiancé, and Mercedes, my daughter, it dawned on me that I missed breakfast and lunch. That made me even hungrier.

After waiting for three and a half hours for Salser and Dillard Funeral Home to arrive, one of the girls ran downstairs to a vending machine to get me a sandwich. I stared at the clock that told my stomach I was now missing dinner, then at my food, and decided to take my chances and wolf it down before anyone came into the room. I literally had the egg salad sandwich between my teeth standing inches from Alex’s head when the attendant pushed the gurney into the room. We locked eyes as a piece of bread hung slightly over my bottom lip. I retrieved the bread as I apologized to the attendant for my very bad timing. Fortunately no charges were filed against me.

I realized late that night, while wondering why I thought that scene was so funny, that if I was going to feel guilty every time I smiled, or had a good laugh, I was never going make it through the week, or year. Even as the three of us girls waited in the hospital for Alex’ body to be taken to the funeral home his friends were congregating at our house exchanging stories, having dinner, and living life.

Back track to earlier in the day with all of us arriving at the ICU.

After the doctor gave us the bad news, a group of family and friends all stood around Alex’s bed in a kind of stupor. Alex looked comfortable but was intubated with a main line through his neck and only a few hours from passing away from sepsis, MRSA, pneumonia and liver failure.

It was then that I got a text from Mercedes’ boyfriend that he had to be rushed to Urgent Care for an ingrown thumb nail. Under the circumstances it struck me as kind of humorous and I shared the text with the group. When I added that Brendon had to be sedated the room irrupted with laughter.

You could say it was an existential experience.

During the time between Alex’s death and his reception at Barmageddon, his millennial friends told stories, cried, got drunk, got sober, got mad, got happy again, and many of them even got laid. But most of all we shared a lot of laughter. While it might seem we had a few too many laughs that week, and maybe not at all the appropriate times, Alex was an iconoclast and did not follow convention and that’s how he rolled.

Also, nobody owns the playbook on grief. You can miss someone until it hurts but still smile while reminiscing about all the good times. You can wish they were here but still enjoy your day. And a mother can grieve the loss of her son and still find the humor in life.

Who knew?

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