Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Sick of Sin

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
 
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
 
In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
 
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
 
—Wilfred Owen, Dulce et Decorum Est

 Giving It Up (Kind Of)

A couple of announcements here at the top. The blog’s going to be on hiatus for a few weeks, because I’m traveling around Mexico for Semana Santa and a little reporting. After I get back, though, I’m going to put a pin in the regular Monday roundups. They’re draining, especially in terms of the unremunerated time that I’d otherwise be putting towards the podcast, and I’m not really seeing the numbers that would support keeping them up. So I’m going to keep this one brief, and I’ll only get back into it if something really strikes me as both important and not being covered elsewhere.

And in the unlikely event that you were relying on SFD for a roundup, then Doug Muder at the Weekly Sift and the guys at Crooked Media are your best options. Pod Save America will give you as much as you can handle twice a week, and I think Lovett or Leave It might be the best audio anything anywhere.

Aside from these Monday things, I’m going to really drill down on the next Iran shows, and that usually results in a blog or two. And I’m going to be trying some other, shorter-format podcast things, so the site’ll be active going forward.

Continue reading Sick of Sin

If You’re Gonna Care About Anything

I have a good friend named Maya Gebeily who works for Agence France Press out of Beirut and who’s been working out there for almost four years now. She’s been to bombings, she’s reported from Mosul, and now she and her colleagues and doing what they can to cover the most recent set of attacks in Syria. She’s got a newsletter, and it’s worth reading and every link in it’s worth clicking.

If you’re gonna care about anything, care about this:

It might also behoove you to know this:

 

War on Islam

Wittingly, or, as seems increasingly likely, unwittingly, Trump is gearing up to start a war that his advisor Steve Bannon hopes will decide the fate of the world in a conflagration between Christian Capitalism and Islam.

Some of the preparation has been big in the news. They’re cutting the budget of the State Department, whose operations have already been crippled by the so-far incompetent Rex Tillerson and the refusal to fill key positions. Likewise, Trump’s proposed budget looks for an almost ten percent increase in the Defense Department’s year-over-year spending, giving it a larger proportion of the government’s discretionary cash than it had even during the Reagan administration.

Some preparations have been a little less-well publicized, like the way that almost a thousand American marines moved into Syria and may be coordinating with Russian forces there. And while Trump’s now saying that he might not torpedo the nuclear deal with Iran, he’s been pretty good so far about coming through on campaign promises, and that was one of them.

Now it might seem absurd, imagining that Trump, Bannon, and Co could conjure a war out of nowhere, but our last two major wars were made exactly that way, sui generis. We experienced a terror attack on 9/11, yes, but we didn’t invade Saudi Arabia, where the attackers were from and from where they received much of their funding. Instead, we attacked first Afghanistan and then Iraq, neither of which had launched 9/11. The Taliban had hosted al-Qaeda, sure, but so had, to a greater extent, Pakistan, and a goodly number of other countries. Iraq, meanwhile, had no connection, and we’ve still got troops there 14 years later. I don’t want to re-litigate the Bush wars, but just to point out that even on September 12th, 2001, a foreign war, let alone two, and against those particular countries, would have sounded just as nuts as it does now.

Continue reading War on Islam

Their Vast Carelessness

“…they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

—Nick, from the Great Gatsby, on Daisy and Tom Buchanan


Every week is a slog and every Monday morning feels like deja vu as the crowd in the White House commits one more blunder, hires one more incompetent, sends one more tweet, and takes one more irrevocable step towards the downfall of democracy.

It’s easy to become fatigued, to think that other people will keep calling, that other people will march and protest, and that you can retreat for a while, rest, and let the world take care of itself. That’s what the left did during the Obama years, during the Clinton years, and more than anybody’s like to admit, during the Bush years, too.

Donald Trump and his ilk, when all is said and done and destroyed, will have no trouble returning to their money and their vast carelessness and by then it will be too late. If you’re ever going to care, you’ve got to care now.


Shenan-agains

So on Monday of last week, head of the FBI James Comey testified before Congress that the FBI had been running an investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia since last July. He would not specify who exactly or what exactly they were investigating, and he left aside why he had to announce a non-investigation of Hillary Clinton right before the election while remaining totally silent about an actual investigation of Donald Trump. He also confirmed what everybody already knew:

Continue reading Their Vast Carelessness

Goethe’s Oak

I’m running a day late this week, mostly due to hangover, but I’ve got an excuse. This was a three day weekend in Mexico, commemorating the birthday of what wasn’t their first president, or even their first republican president, but what was, because of a messy political century from 1820 to 1920 or so, their first real republican, democratic president, and the first indigenous president elected anywhere in Latin America.

Viva Juarez.


Another EO

We only got one real new executive order last week. The new travel ban was actually written two weeks ago, and since it was stopped by a federal court as soon as it was supposed to go into effect, until the next wrinkle on that shakes out, the one worth paying attention to is EO 13781, the “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch.”

The EO, on its face, appears to be pretty tame, and definitely to appeal to the folks who got POTUS elected. It directs the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, who puts together the budget for the executive branch, to:

…submit to the President a proposed plan to reorganize the executive branch in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of agencies. The proposed plan shall include, as appropriate, recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions. The proposed plan shall include recommendations for any legislation or administrative measures necessary to achieve the proposed reorganization.

 

Continue reading Goethe’s Oak

What A Mess

This administration is generating news faster than anybody can get a handle on it, and whether intentional or not, the blizzard of bullshit serves as a kind of shield, splitting our attention. So let’s see what happened last week and what’s worth keeping an eye on.


Jeff Sessions

I want to be clear that there were a lot of reasons to want Jeff Sessions far away from any position of power long before last week. To remind you, Jeff Sessions is a racist who has, for his entire political life, used his position to disenfranchise non-white voters. From the text of a letter submitted by widow of Martin Luther and activist hero in her own right Coretta Scott King submitted to the congress opposing Sessions’ nomination as a federal court judge in the 1980s:

Civil rights leaders, including my husband and Albert Turner, have fought long and hard to achieve free and unfettered access to the ballot box. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge…Mr. Sessions’ conduct as a U.S. Attorney, from his politically-motivated voting fraud prosecutions to his indifference towards criminal violations of civil rights laws, indicates that the lacks the temperament, fairness, and judgement to be a federal judge.

The conduct as a U.S. Attorney Mrs. King’s referring to? The Guardian just did a long piece on it. Apparently Sessions saw his federal prosecutor job as the best way to use the FBI to destroy the Democratic opposition in Alabama.  Mr. Sessions was the second guy to fail to be appointed as a federal judge in fifty years because the Congress thought he wasn’t up to the job.

A few years ago, the Supreme Court got rid of a provision of the Voting Rights Act that submitted all changes to election law in several southern states for review, since they were all almost unerringly racist. Now the responsibility for looking at that stuff falls to Jeff Sessions. Where do you think he’s going to land?

Added to all his baggage this week is that Sessions is apparently the latest member of the Trump administration to be embroiled in the ongoing Russia coverup.

Quick recap:

Jeff Sessions testified before Congress that he “did not have communications with the Russians.”

It has, unsurprisingly, come out that Sessions, of course, did have contact with the Russians. Specifically, he met with Russian Ambassador Kislyak twice, in Kislyak’s office and at the GOP convention in Cleveland, as the Trump team was softening the GOP’s platform on Russia for the first time ever. Sessions has claimed that he just didn’t remember having met with the ambassador.

First, lying under oath in front of Congress, just like Mike Flynn lying to the FBI, is a crime. Second, as has been pointed out everywhere, when the administration you’re about to be a part of is part of an ongoing scandal with Russia and when you’re before Congress testifying in order to be let into that administration, what are the chances you’re just going to happen to forget about having met with the chief Russian representative in the US? Low, I think.

Now, Sessions has said he’ll recuse himself from any investigations into the 2016 presidential campaign. Great, sure. But he pointedly did not say he’d recuse himself from any other investigation into what’s going on. Given that Flynn’s and Jared Kushner’s also-illegal contact with Kislyak took place post-election and that the White House seems pretty interested in covering up whatever else is going on, that recusal would not be enough from Sessions. Which is par for the course with this guy. Empty Wheel’s got a more complete analysis.


Russia, Generally

Let’s run this down.

Trump has had decades’ worth of business connections to Russian plutocrats and mobsters. After his several bankruptcies, they were the only kind of people who would lend to him.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s first campaign manager, stepped down last August when it came out that he’d received over $12 million for working with and lobbying for Ukraine’s pro-Russian ex-President. Manafort’s also got longstanding ties to Russia.

Then we’ve got Roger Stone, a GOP operative and Trump advisor during the campaign. Trump made his now-famous appeal to Russia to hack the Clinton emails. Stone says in August that he’s in touch with Wikileaks. On 1 October, he sends this tweet:

And on 7 October, Wikileaks lets loose the first set of emails hacked from John Podesta, meaning Stone had prior knowledge.

According to Vox:

After the campaign was over, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov publicly admitted that members of Trump’s “entourage” were in touch with Russia. “I cannot say that all of them, but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives,” he told the Russian news service Interfax.

In December, new National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, along with Trump’s son-in-law and now senior advisor and ‘shadow secretary of state’ make contact with Russian ambassador Kislyak, apparently to do a little pre-emptive—and illegal—diplomacy. They lie about it to the press and to VP Mike Pence and Flynn has to step down when his position becomes untenable.

From the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza:

There is nothing inherently wrong with the fact that Flynn, Sessions, and other Trump advisers talked to the Russian Ambassador. With the Kislyak affair, in which multiple conversations between Trump officials and the Ambassador have been concealed, so far, we have a coverup without a crime.

It’s become a kind of weird truism that “it’s the coverup, not the crime.” But, from Watergate through Iran Contra, it’s absolutely the crime that’s the worse thing. And what we have now is a widespread coverup operation. Maybe this is nothing, but you don’t lie in front of Congress to hide from nothing. And once the full story breaks, the lies in front of Congress are always just the tip of the iceberg.


The Joint Address

In case anybody’s not in the know, the joint address to Congress is the State of the Union. New presidents don’t call it that because they haven’t been POTUS long enough.

Trump made a speech.

It was a bad speech.

Pundits far and wide called it “presidential,” which is was by default, since he’s president, and some right-wingers fell all over themselves calling it a Reagan moment. I’m not linking to anything because they’ve got enough clicks and that’s garbage.

Trump’s big moment was when he called on a dead soldier’s widow. Trump got that soldier killed. He blamed the death on his generals. What’s more important is the raid that Trump ordered got many innocent civilians also killed, but nobody’s mourning for them or calling their families into the Capitol.

Celebrating that raid, “successful” in terms of intelligence or not, is poison. Putting somebody’s widow in front of the world so you can brag about her dead husband is poison.

That’s all you need to know.


What is great, though, is that the FUBAR situation with Jeff Sessions apparently has Trump hopping mad that attention got stolen away from what Sean Spicer described as a speech that “will go down in history as one of the best.”

Before we move on, think about that Spicer quote. In the same way that Trump’s assertion that he’s “the least antisemitic person” in the world puts him ahead of, say, every rabbi in the world, babies, and the yarmukle wearing reporter who asked him the question, Spicer is saying that Trump’s address ranks with Gettysburg, with Eisenhower or Washington’s farewell speeches, with Lincoln’s second inaugural, with Kennedy’s inaugural, with, literally speaking, Cicero and Pericles.

It’s dumb in the way a “my dad could beat up your dad” assertion is dumb.


The Taps

Maybe trying to steal the limelight back again, Trump sent this tweet late in the week:

Trump apparently “found out” about the wiretaps from a Breitbart article summarizing a paranoiac rant from a talk-radio host. The White House has provided no evidence to back the tweets up because, of course, there is no evidence. If there was, Trump would be all over the news with it.

Despite that there’s nothing to back this up, the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes of California, has said that he’ll be investigating. From CNN:

“One of the focus points of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation is the U.S. government’s response to actions taken by Russian intelligence agents during the presidential campaign,” Nunes said in a statement Sunday. “As such, the Committee will make inquiries into whether the government was conducting surveillance activities on any political party’s campaign officials or surrogates, and we will continue to investigate this issue if the evidence warrants it.”

This is the same Rep. Nunes who refused to investigate the Michael Flynn thing, a case in which there was actual evidence of wrongdoing.

Democrats have, thankfully, taken a stand. Again from CNN:

“You make up something and then you have the press write about it, and then you say, ‘everybody’s writing about this charge,'” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s a tool of an authoritarian, to just have you always be talking about what you want to be talking about.”

The pretty-much definitive analysis comes from Jon Favreau, an Obama speechwriter and current head of Crooked Media, which produces Pod Save America, which is a podcast you should listen to right after you click on mine five extra times.


Spying

For all Trump’s posturing on how unfair it was to [not in reality] wiretap him [in a Watergate-like fashion, for campaign purposes], this White House is pushing ahead with spying on you.[1]

We’ve got a thing called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. It’s the thing that lets the government spy on you, and the thing that authorized the programs that Snowden leaked about. FISA has come under much criticism, and keeping it going was one of the huge failures (‘failures’ is the generous term; ‘totally intentional actions’ would be the more realistic one) that liberals can point to under the Obama administration.

Rather than using the wiretap “revelations” as an opportunity to revise our thinking on dragnetting the communications of millions of Americans, Trump’s pushing to get FISA re-authorized with zero changes.

Like I said last week, authoritarian government is a question of will (in the persons of Trump and Bannon) and a question of opportunity. FISA and other laws which expand the ability of the security state to spy on, detain, intern, or murder American citizens, are the opportunity.


The States

GOP lawmakers continue to prove…

Jesus, guys, I can’t even be glib. It’s one thing for us to sort-of-unwittingly elect a wannabe strongman. It’s another to realize that the GOP across the fifty states literally wants to do away with democracy as we know it.

In Georgia, the GOP’s stranglehold has been slipping despite it being one of the most heavily gerrymandered states in the Union. The GOP’s response has been to build a bigger tent, soften its policies, and really make an appeal across the aisle.

Oh wait no it was to further gerrymander the seats that were looking shaky.

GOP lawmakers in North Carolina, which is, remember, no longer a democracy, are trying to label protestors “economic terrorists,” with jailtime and fines commensurate with the name.


What Is War Good For?

Trump’s already been floating balloons about further foreign wars, namely with Iran.

Now, it’s becoming clear that with the help of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, he’s trying to dismantle the State Department and run our foreign policy out of the White House with his son-in-law Jared Kushner. 

Immediately after taking office, Donald Trump forced resignations by a number of top level State Department management officials. When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson came on board, he engaged in an abrupt reorganization of remaining management without explanation. And as of yet, the Trump team has put forth nominees for only 7 of the 118 positions within the State Department that require Senate confirmation. The majority of leadership positions remain unfilled, including almost every Ambassadorship.

From a Department officer quoted in the Atlantic:

They really want to blow this place up. I don’t think this administration thinks the State Department needs to exist. They think Jared [Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law] can do everything. It’s reminiscent of the developing countries where I’ve served. The family rules everything, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows nothing.

Trump said on the campaign trail that as far as foreign policy, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

The administration’s representatives don’t seem eager to explain how further cuts to State’s budget will improve our foreign policy.

There are, to understate, a lot of countries in the world. The US maintains contact with almost all of them. That means an ambassador for each, along with embassy staff and the consular, political, economic, public diplomacy, and management-track foreign service officers who work our embassies and consulates abroad. In DC at the State Department in Foggy Bottom, we’ve got country desks, analysts, clerks, on and on up to the deputy secretaries of state and the SOS himself. That infrastructure processes a huge amount of information and maintains an unfathomable number of personal and professional contacts with diplomats, businessmen, journalists, politicians, and activists in every country in the world.

The State Department has been underfunded since WWII, but its breadth and depth of knowledge and relationships gives us a huge number of options to use when dealing with any given foreign state.

Eliminating that apparatus leaves us with with many fewer options and makes the military, which is the only federal department getting an expansion under Trump, a much more attractive tool. Nails and hammers.


Obama Cares

The GOP is pushing ahead with its repeal-and-replace plan with regard to the Affordable Care Act.

Except that the draft of the replacement bill has been repeatedly hidden, in third-grade antics, from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

Until the text comes out, we don’t have much to go on, but any bill that has to be hidden from the public and even from the Congress is, count on it, not a good bill.


The EPA

The Trump White House wants to cut 25% of the EPA’s budget. EPA facts:

For those who have forgotten the value of EPA’s mission, here are ten facts to remember and share:

230,000: Lives saved each year by EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act in 2020.

2.4 million: Asthma attacks prevented each year by EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act in 2020.

22.4 million: Avoided lost school or work days each year due to EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act in 2020.

30-1: Ratio of benefits to costs– the Clean Air Act provides $30 in health benefits for every $1 invested in compliance.

1,308: Number of enforcement actions concluded in fiscal year 2016 under the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act.

62 billion: Pounds of hazardous waste EPA enforcement actions required companies to commit to treat, minimize, or properly dispose of in fiscal year 2016.

190 million: Cubic yards of contaminated soil and groundwater cleanup commitments secured in fiscal year 2016 alone (enough to fill the Empire State Building over 138 times).

40,000: Pounds of toxic mercury cut from coal plants by the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule.

67: Percent of Americans across the country who think EPA should stay the same or be strengthened.

1: EPA Administrator who laughed about dismantling the EPA: 1 in over 40 years.


Just, Honestly, Horrible Shit

A man in Kent, Washington, walked up to a Sikh in his driveway, told him to “Go back to your own country,” and then shot him.

Four mosques have burned down as the result of arson since Trump’s inauguration.

Dozens of bomb threats at Jewish community centers continue to come in.

As we saw last week, the immigration plan under Trump is to deport the people who least need to be deported:

UNDOCUMENTED DAD TAKEN BY ICE WHILE DROPPING KIDS OFF AT SCHOOL—Los Angeles

ICE DEPORTS SALVADORAN FATHER WITH NO CRIMINAL HISTORY—Houston

DEPORTATION OF GRANDMOTHER LEAVES A MILITARY FAMILY REELING—San Diego


But At Least There’s This

Not everything is terrible. If you don’t know Chuck Tingle, the enigmatic, prolific, incredible-title creating erotica author, now’s the time:

Domald Tromp hasn’t been listening to his Timeline Briefings, and now he’s in trouble. To the frustration of his staff, Domald’s incompetence has allowed several unethical timelines to get dangerously close to this one, and facts regarding his administration’s deep connections to the Russian government are leaking left and right.

Domald decides to solve this problem old-fashioned way, with a tweet brazenly declaring that the previous President was wiretapping him. Domald hopes his bizarre fabrication will now dominate the news cycle while he heads out to golf with his Russian T-Rex buddies. Unfortunately, he has simply opened an even bigger can of worms.


Facebook’s about a year late on this, but they’ve finally rolled out their answer to fake news:


Der Spiegel‘s new cover is something we can start hanging on dorm walls:


And Marco Rubio, who has been too afraid of being “heckled” and “screamed at” to show up to his town halls, has now been kicked out of his Florida office, since the protestors he ignored turned out in force at the building. From Politico:

Citing protesting tips published by the new Indivisible movement, Rubio told the station that activists are instructed to go to town halls early and “take up all the front seats. They spread themselves out. They ask questions. They all cheer when the questions are asked. They are instructed to boo no matter what answer I give. They are instructed to interrupt me if I go too long and start chanting things. Then, at the end, they are also told not to give up their microphone when they ask questions. It’s all in writing in this Indivisible document.”

The only boo when you’re worth booing, Marco, which is all the time.

Also quoted in Politico, Gabby Giffords had some words:

“I was shot on a Saturday morning. By Monday morning my offices were open to the public,” Giffords said on Twitter. “To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this: Have some courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls.”

Everything looks bad, but at least Gabby’s still around.


[1] To be 100% fair, it’s possible that some part of the intelligence community, probably the NSA, picked up some of the communications coming out of Trump Tower, given that the NSA tracks potential threats to the US, many of whom are in Russia, and some of whom Trump and associates might have been in contact with. Now, since a President can’t actually order anybody to wiretap anybody, if Trump’s wires were specifically tapped, it means one of two things: a FISA court found that there was sufficient evidence that Trump was colluding with a foreign power to damage the interests of the US to justify a wiretap; or a judge, on behalf of a law-enforcement agency, like the FBI, decided there was sufficient evidence that Trump and associates were breaking the law (with, for example, the Russian mobsters that Trump used to hang out with) to warrant a wiretap.

A Peculiar Institution

Today’s post is, to put it lightly, a long one. We’re cresting 4,000 words, and to make it easier for you, if you’ve got a real good handle on the DHS immigration memos already, go ahead and skip down to Part Two.

If not, keep reading, and you’ll get the whole story, from the deeper implications of the memos straight through to how they might, or maybe definitely probably will, create a new system of prison-based forced migrant labor in the USA.


Part One: Let’s Take a Longer Look at Those Memos

Like I said on Monday, the two memos from John Kelly—our new head of the Department of Homeland Security—were the most important thing to come out of last week. They spell out how DHS will go about implementing Trump’s immigration policy as outlined in his executive orders and elsewhere.

I gave a detailed run-through of the two documents on Monday, but the unifying theme was that DHS wants to massively expand the numbers and categories of migrants targeted for apprehension. It’s pretty well-known that President Obama deported more immigrants than any previous occupant of the Oval Office, but after the record-high for deportations in 2013, his administration shifted focus. They began deporting undocumented immigrants who had committed crimes after arriving in the US, almost but not entirely to the exclusion of migrants who had just crossed over and then quietly worked away at building a life here. Obama went further with DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allowed undocumented migrants who arrived as children to obtain work permits and to obtain protection against deportation.

Continue reading A Peculiar Institution

Memos, Missing Congresspeople, and a Misfiring Press Policy

This past week, like every week since the Inauguration, was a bad week.

The Immigration Memos

This is bar none the most important thing that went on in the last seven days, and I’m going to break them out into their own post tomorrow. For now though, here’s what you need to know.

John Kelly, an ex-four star marine general and current Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, promulgated two memos which outlined DHS’s plan for implementing Trump’s varying statements on and executive orders with regard to immigration.

Those memos addressed a slew of different aspects of current and (apparently) future immigration policy, but here are the highlights:

  • Under Obama, we changed our focus for deportation from other-wise law-abiding undocumented immigrants towards those who committed crimes after coming to the US. The new memos outline a new category for priority deportation which includes anyone convicted, charged, or who has “committed acts that constitute a chargeable offense.” That sounds pretty reasonable until you think about it. When it says “charged” and “committed acts that constitute,” what it means is that immigrants under suspicion of crimes will now be treated as criminals. As in guilty before proven innocent. Likewise, the memos make clear that residing without documents in the US is one of the offenses that DHS will not consider, which means that all 12 million undocumented immigrants are now priorities for deportation.
  • The memos call for the expedited hiring of 10,000 new ICE agents and officers and another 5,000 Border Patrol officers. Not only would that reportedly cost over $2 billion, ICE and the BP have already had trouble recruiting. Trump is currently seeking to relax the standards used to screen candidates, which would serve to further compromise two agencies already penetrated by the far right wing and, in some cases, the same gangs they’re trying to keep out.
  • The memos outline a directive to “assure the assessment and collection of all fines” against migrants “and from those who facilitate their unlawful presence.” Besides mirroring the way that some police departments use their black communities like a piggy-bank, this could potentially target everybody around a given migrant with the idea of making the current upswell of sanctuary movements much harder to sustain. Fine the migrant, the church that hosted him, the members that took him in, on down the line.
  • Both memos outline the “establishment of appropriate processing and detention facilities” and the expansion of “detention capabilities and capacities at or near the border with Mexico to the greatest extent practicable.” Right now, migrants are in general released after they’re assigned a court date, since those dates are usually years in the future. Trump’s administration now plans to hold them in detention for that period, paying around $100 a day per migrant. There are some dark, dark implications here that I’ll get to in the post about this.
  • The memos both mention expanding programs which allow local and state police to act as immigration officers. Which means that men and women with no training in immigration law will now be empowered to stop (brown) people on suspicion of being (brown) migrants and demand papers across the US.
  • And then there are several points which basically call for CBP and ICE officers to do their jobs.
    • Right now, migrants reaching the US can claim asylum, and if they can establish in an interview with an asylum officer that they have a “credible fear” that they’ll be subject to violence if they return to their own country, they get released into the US pending a hearing. One memo calls for an “enhancement…of the credible fear determination” process. Which read straight just means “do the job” and read between the lines in the way that every asylum officer and his/her boss must be reading it means “we want to see fewer asylum releases.” Which would put some of the most vulnerable immigrants in the world back into some of the most dangerous places in the world.
    • Same kind of language with regard to CBP and ICE’s ability to ‘parole’ immigrants into the US pending trial. And same obvious alternative reading, which is, “parole fewer people.”
    • Ditto the second memo in point O calls for public reporting of border apprehension data. Of course, CBP and ICE already do public reporting, so the memo asks specifically for “the number of convicted criminals and the nature of their offenses; the prevalence of gang members and prior immigration violators,” etc. Those are all stats they already collect. The memo is saying that now we’ll be emphasizing them.
    • Finally the memos address the wave of unaccompanied minors coming out of Central America. They acknowledge the plight of these kids and then call for prosecution of the parents of those minors who have family living without documentation in the US. That is, of that portion of the kids who actually make it up here, the ones that the memos themselves say are subject to the most inhuman depredations on the way, Trump’s administration wants to use those kids as a way to track and deport their families in the US, turning them, again, into effective orphans.
      • This is an example of an application of law meant to punish rather than to shape any kind of desirable outcome. Who wins in this scenario? The kids without parents? The deported parents whose kids are now in the US and who will now be trying to enter illegally again? The US citizens who paid to create an orphan who will have to go into the system? I’m pretty sure the only winners are the coyotes getting paid to move people over the border.

Continue reading Memos, Missing Congresspeople, and a Misfiring Press Policy

Alternate Realities

“Well, now that we have seen each other,” said the Unicorn, “if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you.”

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

I want to talk about alternate realities. Not the multiverse kind or the virtual kind, but the kind that exist all around us. I watched Spotlight recently and none of us have been able to look away from that train-wreck of an election or this early administration, so hopefully enough of us have seen enough of all three of them to tie this post together.

We’re All in this Alone

Everybody, and I mean everybody, lives in their own reality. From the time you pop out of the womb, you begin aggregating a set of facts, or what seem to you to be facts, about the world around you. And that set of facts makes up your reality. The differences in our realities range from the sacred to the very mundane. Maybe I believe in God and you don’t, maybe you thought that dress was yellow and I thought it was blue. There may be some ultimate arbiter of what’s real—Plato’s realm of the forms or an Abrahamic God or a grand unifying theory of physics—but until one of those things speaks up, we’re each left with our own discrete perceptions of the world. When our differences are small, like that dress, they don’t impede our getting along. When they get bigger, they trip us up in proportion to the magnitude of the difference.

Almost nobody in the 15th century really thought the world was flat (and it may be a very long time since anybody’s actually thought that), but if we imagine, for the sake of argument, that Ferdinand and Isabella, the King and Queen of Spain in 1492, did think the Earth was flat, we can see how they and Christopher Columbus would have a difficult time plotting a new route to India.

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The Center Cannot Hold

So let’s talk about Michael Flynn. It’s hard to keep up with all this, so a quick recap: Flynn is a lifer in the the Army, makes Lieutenant General, and serves for two years as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency under Obama. The DIA coordinates military intelligence and acts, kind of, as the Department of Defense’s version of the CIA. Military spooks.

Flynn gets forced out of the DIA in 2014. Inside sources, including Colin Powell, say that it’s because of a chaotic leadership style in which he was “abusive with staff, didn’t listen, worked against policy, bad management, etc.” Flynn alleged he’d been made to leave because of his controversial views on security, namely that the Us was less safe from terrorism now than before 9/11 and that the President wasn’t saying the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ enough.

Flynn starts an intelligence consulting firm along with his son, which, along with whatever else it does, seems to have been lobbying for the government of Turkish president Erdogan, a religious authoritarian, in Washington. Through 2014 and 2015, Flynn makes multiple appearances as an analyst on the Russian state-owned English-language propaganda arm, RT. RT masquerades as a news agency in the US.

In the same way that any scientist who regularly appears on Fox News is pretty reliably morally compromised, any member of the Us military establishment who’s flexible enough to appear on RT is probably too flexible to be trusted. RT is a big cheerleader for Donald Trump and is now one of the few outlets, like Fox and Breitbart, that qualify as ‘real’ news among the Republican base.

In 2015, Flynn flies to Russia to attend an RT gala and give a talk, for which he is paid by the Russian government.

That’s Mike Flynn dead center and Putin just to his right. Yeah.

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