Saturday Reads: Surreality Is Our New Normal

Henri Matisse, The three sisters, 1916-17

Good Afternoon!!

First a bunch of Republicans spend the Fourth of July in Russia sucking up to Russian government leaders in order to “smooth the way” for the upcoming July 16 Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki; now Glenn Greenwald is over there defending Trump on RT. A couple of lowlights of the interview:

RT: Glenn, you are now in Russia. Going to Russia is seen in the West as almost treason now, even worse than during the times of the Soviet Union. Why do you think that is?

G.G: There is an obsession in the United States with viewing Russia not just as an adversary, but as an actual enemy. It’s permeated by both political parties. There is actual talk a lot now about how what they regards as the interference in the 2016 election is similar to Pearl Harbor, when the Japanese attacked the United States during World War II, or Al Qaeda and 9/11. And there is the sense that Russia is now an enemy on par with Al Qaeda or the Japanese during WWII.

Of course Glenn doesn’t believe Trump is involved in a conspiracy with Russia.

RT: Have the last two years of inquiries and reports convinced you that Trump colluded with Russia?

G.G: No, if anything, it’s convinced me that it’s more unlikely than ever. There are factions within the intelligence community of the United States, the NSA, the CIA, the FBI that hate Donald Trump and will do anything to destroy him, including leaking classified information against him. I believe that if there were evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russian government, when it comes to the hacking of the DNC or the John Podesta emails, we would have seen in by now. We have not seen it by now.

Monika Seidenbusch

Even people, who hate Donald Trump in the CIA, have tried to warn the Democrats: don’t expect there to be evidence of it; we don’t have evidence of it. But it’s like a religious belief to other people in the United States. And of course as we know religion doesn’t require evidence.

I don’t say it didn’t happen, because it could have happened. All I say is until there is evidence of it I don’t think we should believe it happened. And so far there is no evidence.

Glenn also sees little difference between Obama and Trump. You’d think as a gay man, he might be concerned about Trump’s hateful policies, but then Glenn doesn’t live in the U.S., so he probably doesn’t care what happens to our LGBT community. Read the rest at RT.

Just how much time has Trump spent talking to Putin? According to The Washington Post, he has given out his personal cell phone number to “a handful” of foreign leaders. Is Putin one of them? Are Trump and Putin talking during Trump’s “executive time” or when he snuggled under the covers in his private bedroom?

Some White House officials worry that Putin, who has held several calls with Trump, plays on the president’s inexperience and lack of detailed knowledge about issues while stoking Trump’s grievances.

The Russian president complains to Trump about “fake news” and laments that the U.S. foreign policy establishment — the “deep state,” in Putin’s words — is conspiring against them, the first senior U.S. official said.

“It’s not us,” Putin has told Trump, the official summarized. “It’s the subordinates fighting against our friendship.”

In conversations with Trudeau, May and Merkel, Trump is sometimes assertive, brash and even bullying on issues he feels strongly about, such as trade, according to senior U.S. officials. He drives the conversation and isn’t shy about cutting off the allies mid-sentence to make his point, the officials said.

David Hettinger

With Putin, Trump takes a more conciliatory approach, often treating the Russian leader as a confidant.

“So what do you think I should do about North Korea?” he asked Putin in their November 2017 telephone call, according to U.S. officials. Some of those officials saw the request for advice as naive — a sign that Trump believes the two countries are partners in the effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. Other officials described Trump’s query as a savvy effort to flatter and win over the Russian leader, whose country borders North Korea and has long been involved in diplomacy over its nuclear program.

Click on the link above to read the whole scary article.

Secretary of State Mike Pomeo has been over in North Korea trying to clean up the mess Trump made at his summit with Kim Jong Un.

The Washington Post: North Korea calls U.S. attitude toward talks ‘regrettable,’ rejecting Pompeo’s claim meetings were ‘productive.’

Just hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo departed North Korea after two days of nuclear negotiations, North Korea sharply criticized the U.S. team’s attitude as “regrettable,” and accused the U.S. of making unilateral demands of denuclearization.

The remarks from North Korea’s foreign ministry directly contradicted statements made by Pompeo that the visit made “progress on almost all of the central issues” and involved “good-faith negotiations.”

The Foreign Ministry statement, issued by an unnamed spokesman, said the U.S. violated the spirit of the June 12 Singapore summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Daniel Gerhartz

The mixed messages followed a visit in which Pompeo did not meet with the North Korean leader while in the country and did not secure a breakthrough in forging a shared understanding of denuclearization.

Pompeo has come under increasing pressure to produce tangible results from the summit that President Trump quickly touted as a game-changing moment that eliminated North Korea’s nuclear threat.

But analysts said the reality is now sinking in that any final accord between the two nations to eliminate Pyongyang’s sophisticated nuclear and missile arsenal will be a long slog with no guarantee of success.

Gee, no kidding. Who could have predicted that?

The horror stories of immigrant children separated from their parents are coming thick and fast now. Dakinikat posted this PBS link yesterday, but I’m posting it again for anyone who missed it. It consists of

“powerful personal testimonies from parents, children and other family members who were directly impacted by the Trump policy. It also included declarations from the state attorneys general offices, elected representatives, advocates and child and immigration experts who have dealt with families separated at the border.”

Two new stories:

Reveal: Defense contractor detained migrant kids in vacant Phoenix office building.

A major U.S. defense contractor quietly detained dozens of immigrant children inside a vacant Phoenix office building with dark windows, no kitchen and only a few toilets during three weeks of the Trump administration’s family separation effort, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has learned.

Videos shot by an alarmed neighbor show children dressed in sweatsuits being led – one so young she was carried – into the 3,200-square-foot building in early June. The building is not licensed by Arizona to hold children, and the contractor, MVM Inc., has claimed publicly that it does not operate “shelters or any other type of housing” for children.

Defending the administration’s policy to separate families at the border in a May interview with NPR, White House chief of staff John Kelly promised: “The children will be taken care of – put into foster care or whatever.”

Carol Marine

Whether or not these children were taken from their parents, that “whatever” for them was the vacant building tucked away in a midtown Phoenix neighborhood. It is not listed among shelters operating through the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement or on the state child care licensing website.

There are new cameras on the building, extra locks on the doors and a paper shredder bin directly outside the building’s side door. Neighbor Lianna Dunlap’s videos show workers pulling up in white vans and leading dazed children into the building. When she asked questions, she said the workers responded with silence or terse answers.

“There’s been times where I drive by and I just start crying because, you know, it’s right behind my house,” said Dunlap, her voice wavering. “I don’t know and I think that’s the worst part – not knowing what’s actually going on in there and just hoping that they’re OK.”

It’s horrifying, but please read the whole thing.

The Texas Tribune: The Trump administration is not keeping its promises to asylum seekers who come to ports of entry.

In the weeks since President Donald Trump’s now-rescinded family separation policy created chaos and confusion across the country, the messages from his administration and prominent Republican members of Congress have been clear: Seek asylum legally at official ports of entry and you won’t lose your kids. There may be armed Customs and Border Protection agents standing at the halfway points of bridges — but simply wait a few days, declare to them that you are seeking asylum, and you’ll get a fair shake.

A recent Department of Homeland Security news release says it’s a “myth” that the agency “separates families who entered at the ports of entry and who are seeking asylum – even though they have not broken the law.” The release also says the agency “is [not] turning away asylum seekers at ports of entry.”

Reading by the Oven (1961). Oksana Dmitrievna..

But there’s ample evidence to suggest otherwise. Court records and individual cases discovered by The Texas Tribune indicate that a number of asylum seekers who came to international bridges in Texas and California were separated from their children anyway — or were not able to cross the bridge at all after encountering armed Customs and Border Protection agents on the bridge. And experts argue there’s no basis to the government’s claim that there aren’t enough resources to process asylum seekers.

On top of that, experts say a quirk of U.S. immigration law might actually put people who try to seek asylum at the official ports of entry at a disadvantage to those who cross the border in other ways — such as wading across the Rio Grande. That’s because unlike people who cross the border illegally, asylum seekers who come to ports of entry are not eligible to be bonded out of immigration detention by a judge; instead, officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have total discretion over whether they can be released.

Read the rest at the Texas Tribune.

One more from Huffington Post: Friday’s Hearing Gave Us a Glimpse of How Many Kids Might Be Orphaned by Family Separation. The article calls attention to the possibility that a number of separated kids may never be reunited with their parents.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the hearing on Friday was the number of parents who the government has been unable to find after taking their very young children.

The Department of Justice attorney, Sarah Fabian, said the government had identified 101 children younger than 5 who might fall within the judge’s order. Two parents of those children, the government argues, have criminal records that render them unfit to be reunited with their children. Fabian said 19 parents had been released from custody into the United States and 19 had been deported. The government does not know where at least some of these parents are.

The Courthouse News Service reported that there are “86 parents who have been in contact with 83 children under 5 who are in federal custody.” These numbers indicate that roughly 16 children have not had contact with their parents, who may be missing following deportations or release into the United States.

This raises the terrifying possibility that 16 children younger than 5 may never see their parents again because of Trump’s unconstitutional child separation practices. The ACLU has promised to do everything it can to ensure that doesn’t happen, but that outcome will depend greatly on how adept the administration is at undoing some of the damage it has already done.

On that awful note, I need to wind this up. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.

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12 Comments on “Saturday Reads: Surreality Is Our New Normal”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a nice weekend Sky Dancers!

    It has cooled down a bit here after violent thunderstorms yesterday.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    • NW Luna says:

      Who could have foreseen this? Everyone but Trump. There’s a good reason why every previous POTUS did not meet with N Korea’s supreme leader.

  3. NW Luna says:

    Cruelty every day from this administration, flat-out denial of reality, and blatant collusion with Russia — these are surreal and dystopic times.

  4. NW Luna says:

    Begs the question of why the US should be subservient to Russia. (I can hardly believe I just wrote that.)

    Trump is hinting at concessions to Putin. So what do we get back?

  5. bostonboomer says:

  6. NW Luna says:

    I think we’re all feeling numb and overwhelmed by the continuing outrages.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I know I am. I’ve been escaping into reading this weekend. Keeping the TV off.