Thursday Reads

Cliff Walk at Pourville, Claude Monet

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I’m running late again, because I’ve been trying to find any good news in this nightmare dystopia we are living in. But there simply isn’t much to be optimistic about. Here’s the latest.

The New York Times: Comey Is Criticized in Watchdog Report Over Handling of Memos About Trump.

The Justice Department inspector general released on Thursday a report that was highly critical of the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey’s handling of memos detailing his interactions with the president, accusing him of setting “a dangerous example” for officials with access to government secrets.

The findings were the result of a lengthy investigation by Michael E. Horowitz, the inspector general, who examined whether Mr. Comey had acted inappropriately when he gave one of the memos to a confidant who later provided its contents to The New York Times. Mr. Comey has said he helped make the information public in part to bring about the appointment of a special counsel.

“Comey violated F.B.I. policy and the requirements of his F.B.I. employment agreement when he chose this path,” the report said.

Oh really? Why should we trust anything that comes out of the Trump/Barr injustice department? And the report also found that Comey didn’t reveal any classified information.

Boaters on the Seine at Bougival, Pierre Auguste Renoir

Mr. Comey responded by noting that the report found he had violated no laws and criticized those who had accused him of lying or leaking information.

“I don’t need a public apology from those who defamed me, but a quick message with a ‘sorry we lied about you’ would be nice,” he wrote on Twitterchallenging his critics to stop trusting “people who gave you bad info for so long, including the president.”

He’s right about that. Now when will Comey apologize to Hillary Clinton and the millions of Americans who voted for her?

But DOJ doesn’t care about laws anymore, just what’s best for Trump. Otherwise they’d be revealing what happened to that investigation of the leaks from the NY office of the FBI to Rudy Giuliani in 2016.

Yesterday, former defense secretary James Mattis gave an interview to Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic. Mattis has a book coming out, but will he speak out and inform the public about Trump’s behind the scenes behavior? Of course not. Politico: Mattis says he owes Trump silence, but won’t keep quiet ‘forever.’

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis said in a new interview he feels duty-bound to keep quiet his personal opinions of President Donald Trump’s leadership, but revealed his obligation to refrain from criticism of the current commander-in-chief is “not eternal.”

“The duty of silence,” Mattis explained. “If you leave an administration, you owe some silence.”

Edward Henry Potthast, Children Playing at the Beach

“When you leave an administration over clear policy differences, you need to give the people who are still there as much opportunity as possible to defend the country,” he continued, arguing that “we have to give the people who are protecting us some time to carry out their duties without me adding my criticism to the cacophony that is right now so poisonous.”

Pressed on whether he bears a responsibility to warn Americans about a potentially unfit president, Mattis insisted it was inappropriate to “endanger the country by attacking the elected commander in chief.”

But Mattis also indicated he may soon more vocally challenge the president and speak out about his time leading Trump’s Defense Department. “There is a period in which I owe my silence. It’s not eternal. It’s not going to be forever,” he said.

Asshole.

I have to agree with Sharlet on this one.

Awhile back, I was feeling somewhat hopeful that House Democrats would fight back against Trump, but they seems to have been stymied by his obstructionism. Is anything even happening on the impeachment front?

Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair: An “Imperfect Strategy”: Even Democrats Sound Confused about Whether They’re Impeaching Trump.

Last week, Congressman Ben Ray Luján, a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, made waves when he became the 127th Democrat in the House to endorse an impeachment investigation into Donald Trump.“I support moving forward with an impeachment inquiry, which will continue to uncover the facts for the American people and hold this president accountable,” Luján said. There was just one problem: Hasn’t the impeachment inquiry already begun?

It’s hard to get a straight answer out of Democrats. During a press conference on July 26, days after Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony, Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said for the first time that his panel was “in effect” conducting an impeachment inquiry. In court documents filed that day, the committee wrote that articles of impeachment “are under consideration.” About two weeks later, Nadler seemed to break news again when he declared in a CNN interview that “formal impeachment proceedings” were under way. But his exact rhetoric was cagey. No formal vote has been taken by the House. Nadler said he hoped to “vote to vote articles of impeachment to the House floor” by the end of the year. “Or we won’t,” he added. “That’s a decision that we’ll have to make. But that’s exactly the process we’re in right now.”

Two Women Running on the Beach, Pablo Picasso

The key to deciphering Nadler’s rhetorical mumbo jumbo is to understand the political quandary facing Democrats. For Speaker Pelosi, the top priority in 2020 is maintaining her Democratic majority—and that means doing whatever it takes to protect so-called majority makers or frontline Democrats who either flipped Republican seats or won districts that swung for Trump in 2016. “The public isn’t there on impeachment,” she argued during a conference call with her caucus last Friday, according to a congressional source. The numbers back her up: A recent Monmouth University pollfound that 72% of Democrats support impeaching Trump, but only 35% of respondents feel the same.

This leaves Pelosi somewhat torn between the wings of her party. But the polling also explains why the Speaker is leaving the decision to support an inquiry up to her members.

I don’t understand how the public is going to get there if Democrats don’t hold hearings that will shock them into demanding action.

At the New Yorker, Adam Gopnick also tries to explain Pelosi’s strategy: Another Look at Impeachment, at the End of a Long Summer.

Pelosi is focussed on the welfare of the Democratic representatives who were elected in purple districts, or even in red ones, who are telling her, directly and indirectly, that an impeachment inquiry and proceedings will alienate their constituents, and possibly convince them that it is all just playing politics or intended for partisan gain, especially since no conviction is likely to result in the Senate. Nor, given Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s contempt for settled constitutional procedure, is there even likely to be the trial that an impeachment constitutionally demands….

Children playing on the beach, Mary Cassatt

The principled case, now and then, is summed up in three words: Trump’s a crook. If the phrase deliberately left open by the Founders to be defined as “high crimes and misdemeanors” does not apply to the evidence of Trump’s conduct over the past three years, then it would seem to have no meaning at all. Any one of half a dozen scandals that would have been the immediate cause of an impeachment inquiry into—and, before that happened, of universal cries for the resignation of—any previous President are still open. His former personal lawyer is serving a three-year prison sentence for crimes including campaign-finance violations that involved paying off two women, reportedly with Trump’s knowledge, to remain silent about their relationships with him; Trump himself continues to profit while and through holding public office. Above all stands his record of open engagement with foreign autocrats against American interests and against democracy itself, and, with it, a record of attempting to obstruct justice to obscure inquiry into any such engagement. Looking at this record, and remembering Bill Clinton’s impeachment for lying about a consensual sexual encounter, or the attacks on Jimmy Carter for supposedly not keeping his peanut warehouse sufficiently sealed off from the Presidency, and one can almost despair for the country.

Trump is getting away with his criminal behavior because of his blatant, public criminality.

The protection that Trump has is the level and the energy and the somewhat awe-inspiring completeness of his corruption. Not only has there never been anything like it in American history; there has never been anything like it in the modern history of democracies. He makes Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi look like Alexander Hamilton, Richard Nixon like a statesman who set a few feet wrong. Nixon could have promised, explicitly or not, to pardon the Watergate figures whose sentencing by Judge John Sirica opened the dam releasing floods of information about his Administration. He didn’t, because, in that quaint day, it was apparent that a President offering a pardon to his subordinates, even sotto voce, was unimaginable….

T Harbor at Lorient, Berthe Morisot

The task of holding Trump accountable becomes more urgent for a simple reason: he’s getting worse. Apparently emboldened by what he sees as his acquittal in the Mueller report, he feels free to execute his own vision of the Presidency. His behavior during the past few weeks—from insulting the Prime Minister of Denmark for her dismissal of his desire to buy Greenland, to cravenly defending Vladimir Putin at the G-7 meeting in Biarritz, and touting one of his own resorts as the site of the next—mark a man out of control, now supported only by dutiful and amoral loyalists.

I hope you’ll go read the whole thing.

And what about our hopes of beating Trump next year? Well, if Biden is the nominee, I think we’ll lose. So much troubling stuff has come out about him and I’m sure there will be more to come. We’re still more than a year away from the election. Here’s the latest from The Daily Beast: A Racist Narrative’: Biden Warned of Welfare Moms Driving Luxury Cars.

In the fall of 1988, shortly after Congress had passed the first piece of welfare reform legislation in 50 years, Joe Biden, then a senator from Delaware, wrote a column in his local newspaper that leaned heavily on racial stereotypes in praise of the effort.

“We are all too familiar with the stories of welfare mothers driving luxury cars and leading lifestyles that mirror the rich and famous,” the column read. “Whether they are exaggerated or not, these stories underlie a broad social concern that the welfare system has broken down—that it only parcels out welfare checks and does nothing to help the poor find productive jobs.”

Biden’s argument, delivered in the pages of the Newark Post, was not a full embrace of the rhetoric of conservatives at the time, who warned that the indigent (in their estimation, mainly African-Americans) were using government assistance to supplement lavish lifestyles. But it certainly echoed it, adding to the perception that the problem wasn’t poverty itself but poor people abusing poverty-fighting programs.

“The thing that strikes me about the Biden quote is him acknowledging that it might not be true but then saying that doesn’t matter because perception becomes reality… that people’s attitudes need to be listened to and respected rather than corrected,” said Josh Levin, who wrote a book titled The Queen that traced the roots of the stereotype. Levin added that Biden’s line struck him as atypical of Democrats at the time.

Even if Biden were to win, we’d be stuck with a guy with this history. I don’t trust him.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread. I wish you all a peaceful Thursday.

 


Tuesday Reads: Too Many Emergencies

Good Afternoon!!

Is it just me, or are we really approaching the point at which U.S. democracy cannot be saved? Trump wants to hold next year’s G7 at his private Doral resort in Florida, which would mean that foreign countries would literally have to pay his family business for the privilege of attending. And Trump will likely try to invite Putin next year after he “went to the mat for Putin” over the weekend.

As we approach next year’s presidential election, the Federal Election Commission, the agency that enforces campaign finance laws, is going out of business. Trump and McConnell have stymied legislative efforts to secure our elections.

House Democrats aren’t doing much to control the lawless madman president, much less take steps toward impeaching him. They are making efforts to get his tax returns through the courts, but Rep. Richard Neal refuses to ask New York to provide Trump’s state tax returns.

It’s beginning to look like the race for the Democratic presidential nomination will be between three deeply flawed septuagenarian candidates: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

I hope you’ll check out the links above; there simply isn’t time or space for me to provide excerpts here. And there are so many emergencies that I didn’t mention, such as Trump’s war on immigrants, the problem of easily available guns and the rising threat of white supremacist violence.

Today’s top emergency is the burning of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil.

The Washington Post: What you need to know about the Amazon rainforest fires.

The Amazon — nearly four times the size of Alaska — is a vast sink for storing carbon dioxide and a key element of any plan to restrain climate change. Any increase in deforestation there would speed up global warming as well as damage an important refuge for biodiversity.

Studies show the 2.2 million-square mile forest is nearing a tipping point, at which large fragmented portions of the rainforest could transform into an entirely different, drier ecosystem, leading to the acceleration of climate change, the loss of countless species and disaster for the indigenous populations that call the tropical rainforest home….

The trees and plants of the Amazon forest pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as part of photosynthesis. Destruction of the forest releases carbon stored in the trees and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide used by them.

People are the cause of the Amazon fires.

…most fires in the Amazon are caused by humans, set either accidentally or intentionally.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research found the country has lost more than 1,330 square miles of forest cover to development since January, when President Jair Bolsonaro took office. That’s a 39 percent increase over the same period in 2018. July in particular featured a huge spike in forest loss, with an area larger than the city of Los Angeles lost in a single month.

Why would anyone want to hard the Amazon rain forest?

The biggest economic interest groups eating away at the Amazon are cattle grazers and soybean growers. “Directly after deforestation, mostly what we see is pasture,” said Mikaela Weisse, a fellow at the World Resources Institute. Later, soybean growers expand by taking over pasture lands.

Mining, timber and development firms are also eyeing the region for expansion, encouraged by Bolsonaro’s election.

There’s much more helpful (and horrifying) information at the WaPo link.

The New York Times: Brazil Says It Will Reject Millions in Amazon Aid Pledged at G7.

Hours after leaders of some of the world’s wealthiest countries pledged more than $22 million to help combat fires in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil’s government angrily rejected the offer, in effect telling the other nations to mind their own business — only to later lay out potential terms for the aid’s acceptance.

President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil expressed his ire in a series of Twitter posts on Monday, and specifically criticized and taunted President Emmanuel Macron of France, who had announced the aid package at the Group of 7 summit meeting. Their comments extended a verbal feud between the two leaders.

But early the next day, Mr. Bolsonaro offered possible terms for the acceptance of the aid package when he spoke to reporters in the capital, Brasília.

He said that if Mr. Macron withdrew “insults made to my person,” and what Mr. Bolsonaro interpreted as insinuations that Brazil does not have sovereignty over the Amazon, he would reconsider.

“To talk or accept anything from France, even with their very best intentions, he will have to withdraw his words, and then we can talk,” Mr. Bolsonaro said. “First he withdraws them, then he makes the offer, and then I’ll answer.”

Mr. Bolsonaro, who has suggested earlier that Mr. Macon’s real motive is to shield France’s agriculture from Brazilian competition, had tweeted on Monday that the president “disguises his intentions behind the idea of an ‘alliance’ of the G7 countries to ‘save’ the Amazon, as if we were a colony or a no-man’s land.”

He sounds a lot like like Trump.

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board: Editorial: The Amazon is burning and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro doesn’t care.

The fires raging at the edges of the Amazon rainforest are, at the moment, largely consuming lands that had already been converted from their natural state into tracts waiting to be farmed or developed. Nevertheless, some of the blazes are eating away at the rainforest itself, reducing its size by a football field a minute. And one of the most disturbing things about them is that they aren’t part of the cycle of nature, like a California wildfire might be, but are intentionally set in many cases to get rid of brush and felled trees to make way for soy fields and beef grazing grounds. That reflects Brazil’s troubling return to a policy of deforestation that, if unabated, could have grave consequences for efforts to counter the worst effects of global warming.

The reason the Amazon is burning is because Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who followed Donald Trump’s populist, anti-establishment playbook to win election last year, wants it to. He thinks the Amazon should not be protected, and that lands reserved for indigenous peoples should not be recognized — all in the name of economic growth. That see-no-evil approach is another point Bolsonaro has in common with Trump, who has sought to make an alarming amount of public lands available for oil and gas drilling and other extractive industries, such as uranium mining — the health of the planet be damned.

At the just-concluded G-7 meeting in France, international leaders criticized Bolsonaro for his land-use and environmental policies, which include telling those who would cut the rainforest that his government would no longer stop them. So the rate of deforestation, while still far below what it had been a dozen years ago, has been increasing. The G-7 also announced more than $20 million in aid to Brazil and Bolivia for firefighting equipment — a drop in the bucket considering the need, advocates say — and French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to put together an alliance to push for reforestation.

Bolsonaro was not receptive; he accused the leaders of embracing colonialism by telling Brazil what to do. But there’s nothing colonial in asking a neighbor to stop lighting fires that affect the rest of us….

We are all joined by the hard reality that our continued release of carbon into the atmosphere — whether it be from the cars we commute in or the forest Brazilians burn to grow food — is endangering us all. It’s a reality not recognized by Bolsonaro. Nor by Trump, who neither joined the criticism of Bolsonaro’s policies nor showed up for the G-7 climate talks that led to the fire aid package. Both presidents’ disregard for the well-being of the world is, literally, playing with fire. That won’t end well.

The Washington Post: How beef demand is accelerating the Amazon’s deforestation and climate peril.

There are approximately 1.5 billion cows in the world, a population second only to humans among large mammals. They can be raised anywhere: from the Arctic to the equator, on prairies, in deserts and on mountains.

Cattle ranchers in the Brazilian Amazon — the storied rainforest that produces oxygen for the world and modulates climate — are aggressively expanding their herds and willing to clear-cut the forest and burn what’s left to make way for pastures. As a result, they’ve become the single biggest driver of the Amazon’s deforestation, causing about 80 percent of it, according to the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

The ecological devastation is done in the service of the surging demand for beef. About 80 percent of Brazil’s beef is consumed domestically, said Nathalie Walker, the director of the tropical forest and agriculture program at the National Wildlife Federation.

Read more at the WaPo.

I admit, I’m feeling extremely pessimistic today. If anyone has more positive news, I’d love to read about it. I love you guys.


Frenzied Friday Reads: He’s really really losing it (part deux)

Image

Boats on the Beach of Les-Saintes-Maries, 1888 By Vincent van Gogh

Yes, it’s Friday!  And you thought it was going to be a nice peaceful end of summer weekend?  Well, we still have old movies and good books and then there’s music and some nice refreshing iced summer drinks.  Maybe some of you will get some time some place nice and secluded like a beach house or mountain cabin with  no TV or internet Connection.

Okay, Sky Dancers!  Reality Break! I just want you to think on this one for awhile.  The occupier of the White House thinks that his appointment to be Fed Chair is a bigger enemy than the head of the Chinese State who just slammed us with the mother of all trade war moves.

So, let’s let some of this just sort’ve wash all over us …

and restate what BB said yesterday.  He’s losing it big time AND he’s on his way to France for the G-7 where he’s missing his buddy Putin mightily.

And this …,

Canada Unveils 'Dinosaur Mummy' Found With Skin And Gut Contents IntactMeanwhile, I’ve committed to finding things to read that aren’t so disturbing.

Here’s my first offering: CANADA UNVEILS ‘DINOSAUR MUMMY’ FOUND WITH SKIN AND GUT CONTENTS INTACT.  No really, it’s not a prop from Game of Thrones.  It’s a dinosaur!  Skin and all!!!

Scientists hail it as perhaps the best-preserved dinosaur specimen ever uncovered. You can’t even see its bones.

That’s because, 110 million years later, those bones remain covered by the creature’s intact skin and armor.

Indeed, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta, Canada recently unveiled a dinosaur so well-preserved that many have taken to calling it not a fossil, but an honest-to-goodness “dinosaur mummy.”

With the creature’s skin, armor, and even some of its guts intact, researchers are astounded at its nearly unprecedented level of preservation.

“We don’t just have a skeleton,” Caleb Brown, a researcher at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, told National Geographic. “We have a dinosaur as it would have been.”

So, has this sunk in yet?

Okay, back to something a little less dictatorial. Rachel is going to get to ‘poof’ another one off the campaign trail as the NYT’s reports:Seth Moulton Ends 2020 Presidential Campaign With a Warning”.  Ooooo, a warning even!!!

Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts is dropping out of the presidential race, ending a candidacy that emphasized Mr. Moulton’s centrist politics and military service but gained no traction with Democratic primary voters.

Mr. Moulton, 40, said in an interview that he had no immediate plans to endorse another candidate, but he warmly praised former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Mr. Moulton planned to announce the end of his campaign in a formal speech before the Democratic National Committee on Friday.

Mr. Moulton suggested that most of the other Democratic candidates were also laboring in vain at this point, with only a tiny few — Mr. Biden and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — remaining as real competitors for the nomination. He warned in the interview that if Democrats were to embrace an overly liberal platform, it could make it harder for the party to defeat President Trump.

“I think it’s evident that this is now a three-way race between Biden, Warren and Sanders, and really it’s a debate about how far left the party should go,” Mr. Moulton said.

Why is Elizabeth Warren considered a leftie?  Is that sort’ve in the thread of Kamala Harris is a cop and not an “American Black” person?  I don’t know.  Why do they always sort’ve slap general labels on the women in the race even if they’re on the same side.

Alright, let me talk about what China just did to us.  Sigh.  This is from CNBC: “China will retaliate with tariffs on $75 billion more of US goods and resume auto tariffs”.

China said Friday it will impose new tariffs on $75 billion worth of U.S. goods and resume duties on American autos.

The Chinese State Council said it decided to slap tariffs ranging from 5% to 10% on $75 billion U.S. goods in two batches effective on Sept. 1 and Dec. 15. Those dates happens to be when President Donald Trump’s latest tariffs on Chinese goods are to take effect.

It also said a 25% tariff will be imposed on U.S. cars and a 5% on auto parts and components, which will go into effect on Dec.15. China had paused these tariffs in April.

Stocks tumbled and bond yields fell following the announcement.

The retaliatory tariffs came after Trump earlier this month surprisingly ended a trade war cease-fire by threatening to impose 10% tariffs on another $300 billion of Chinese goods. Some of those tariffs have been delayed to December to avoid any impact on holiday shopping season and some items were removed from the list.

This sort’ve reminds me of the good ol’ pre Great Depression Days and in not a very good way.   This strikes straight at Trumperz support as reported in Bloomberg.  Enter the dragon … no, I mean really …

An extra 5% tariff will be put on American soybeans and crude-oil imports starting next month. The resumption of a suspended extra 25% duty on U.S. cars will resume Dec. 15, with another 10% on top for some vehicles. With existing general duties on autos taken into account, the total tariff charged on U.S. made cars would be as high as 50%.

China’s tariff threats take aim at the heart of Trump’s political support — factories and farms across the Midwest and South at a time when the U.S. economy is showing signs of slowing down. Soybean prices sank to a two-week low.

The move drew a sharp reaction from Trump that sent stocks tumbling further on concern the talks are falling apart. “We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far better off without them,” he tweeted. “Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA.”

“Hereby ordered?”  That’s his response?  Who the fuck does he thinks he is and where the fuck does he thinks he lives?  Do you suppose there is any chance he just won’t go to France and further embarrass and wreck things at the G-7?  (Via Greg Sargent at WAPO)

With President Trump set to attend the Group of Seven this weekend, it’s already emerging that he has “shaken up” the schedule. Trump has called for a special meeting focused on the global economy, where he’ll tout his message about jobs and trade, while contrasting the stupendous Trump economy with Europe’s economic struggles.

In other words, Trump will proclaim his “America First” agenda a smashing success, and throw that in the faces of our European allies.

Yet behind the scenes, such bravado is a lot harder to find. The Post brings us this striking report:

Top White House advisers notified President Trump earlier this month that some internal forecasts showed that the economy could slow markedly over the next year, stopping short of a recession but complicating his path to reelection in 2020.

The private forecast, one of several delivered to Trump and described by three people familiar with the briefing, contrasts sharply with the triumphant rhetoric the president and his surrogates have repeatedly used to describe the economy.

This juxtaposition, between Trump’s planned public display at the G-7 and his advisers’ private economic terrors, is striking. It shows that Trump’s appearance will in reality demonstrate that the very nationalist agenda he will be touting is, thus far, a record of deep fraudulence and failure, covered up with lies.

This could be where we finally see the European members of the G7 just walk away from him and possibly Japan..  Jennifer Rubin offers some stylized facts that are worth discussing.

President Trump’s manic outbursts on everything from Greenland to American Jews and his frenzied reversals on the need for payroll tax cuts were alarming, to be sure. However, that might just be a warm-up act. Once he gets hold of the most recent news, he might start claiming he’s the Messiah. Oh, wait. Anyway, there is more disconcerting news.

CNBC reports: “Federal Reserve members worried over future growth are highly concerned about the U.S.-China tariff battle, citing the issue multiple times during discussions at the central bank’s July meeting. Members spoke about trade on multiple occasions, saying it was one of the chief headwinds for the economy, according to meeting minutes released Wednesday.” Trump might want to blame the Fed for his own counterproductive policies, but Fed members are not shy about assigning blame and documenting their concerns. The Fed warns that despite Trump’s happy talk, all is not well going forward. (“Tariffs and generally slower economic conditions combined ‘could have significant negative effects on the U.S. economy’ while a softness in business investment was ‘pointing to the possibility of a more substantial slowing in economic growth than the staff projected.’”) Yikes.

Meanwhile, Trump’s quest to outperform President Barack Obama on the economy took another hit. The New York Times reports: “Employers added a half-million fewer jobs in 2018 and early 2019 than previously reported, the Labor Department said Wednesday. … After the revision, hiring probably averaged under 200,000 jobs per month last year, down from the 223,000 initially reported and only modestly better than the 179,000 monthly jobs added in 2017.” In the last three years of the Obama administration, the average monthly job growth was251,000 in 2014; 227,000 in 2015; and 193,000 in 2016. Trump’s average was 179,000 in 2017; 223,000 in 2018; and 165,000 so far this year.

Moreover, with the reduced job-growth numbers, Trump’s tax cuts look even less productive. “Wednesday’s update is also the latest evidence that the economy got less of a jolt from President Trump’s tax cuts than it initially appeared,” the Times report notes. “Last month, the Commerce Department lowered its estimate of economic growth in 2018 [to 2.5 percent].” We sure got more debt than we bargained for, however.

As usual, Republican Deficit Hawks only care about deficits when it’s not from one of their own.

Oh, right … back to GOOD NEWS … way too buried I might add … good news and some nice music.

Please be kind to yourself and your love ones! We all need a safe space right now.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Lazy Caturday Reads: Black Cats and Other News

Good Afternoon!!

Today is National Black Cat Appreciation Day!

On Black Cat Appreciation Day, August 17, black cats could use a good spin doctor. They’re so sleek and seductive with their all-knowing yellow eyes, that black cats seldom get positive publicity even though they’re just as adorable as other cats. So, who’s to blame for this negative black cat spin? Superstition! During the Middle Ages, people (mainly the Catholic Church) saw witches as shape-shifting black cats and the damage was done.

Today, pop culture loves black cats.  There’s the sarcastic Thackery Binx in  “Hocus Pocus”,  Salem, in “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and Pyewacket in the classic ”Bell, Book and Candle.” It’s National Black Cat Appreciation Day with big ups to America’s sultry, mysterious and mostly, sweet black cats!

In Other News . . .

By Irina Kalentieva, 1965

Former Trump supporter Anthony Scaramucci is now predicting that Trump won’t be on the ballot in November 2020.

William D. Cohan interviewed Scaramucci for Vanity Fair: “Oh My God, This Jackass”: The Mooch Explains Why He Thinks Trump is “Crazy,” “Narcissistic,” and a “Paper Tiger” Who Will Drop Out By March 2020. Some highlights:

Cohan: But what was the moment the scales actually fell from your eyes?

Scaramucci: The red line was the racism—full-blown racism. He can say that he’s not a racist, and I agree with him, okay? And let me explain to you why he’s not a racist, ’cause this is very important. He’s actually worse than a racist. He is so narcissistic, he doesn’t see people as people. He sees them as objects in his field of vision. And so therefore, that’s why he has no empathy. That’s why he’s got his thumb up in the air when he’s taking a picture with an orphan. That’s why when someone’s leaning over the desk and asks [Nobel Prize–winning human rights activist Nadia Murad], “Well, what happened to your family members?”—they were murdered—he just looks at her and says, “Okay, when are we getting coffee here?”

You know, he doesn’t look at people—and by the way, if you and I were in his field of vision and he had a cold and the two of us had to die for him to get a Kleenex, you’re fucking dead. I mean, there’s no chance. You understand that, right?

Cohan: And then there’s the mental element, right?

The Black Cat, by Christian Schloe

Scaramucci: I think the guy is losing it, mentally. He has declining mental faculties; he’s becoming more petulant; he’s becoming more impetuous. Okay, you see just by the way he’s sweating, his body’s not doing well. It’s obviously not a guy that takes care of himself, right? And he doesn’t listen to anybody. And just think about this, okay? There’s no one—there’s no Jim Mattis; there’s no Gary Cohn; there’s no one to check him anymore. Whatever my differences were with General John Kelly, after he left, this thing has completely unspooled….

He’s gonna drop out of the race because it’s gonna become very clear. Okay, it’ll be March of 2020. He’ll likely drop out by March of 2020. It’s gonna become very clear that it’s impossible for him to win. And is this the kind of guy that’s gonna want to be that humiliated and lose as a sitting president? He’s got the self-worth in terms of his self-esteem of a small pigeon. It’s a very small pigeon. Okay. And so you think this guy’s gonna look at those poll numbers and say—he’s not gonna be able to handle that humiliation. And by the way, he is smart enough to know that that entire Congress hates his guts.

Of course Scaramucci isn’t the first to predict that Trump will have to drop out. Tom Joseph has been documenting Trump’s rapidly advancing dementia symptoms on Twitter for a long time now. Here’s his latest thread on the subject:

Check out his Twitter feed to read more.

Last Tuesday Trump gave a speech to union workers in Pittsburgh. It wasn’t supposed to be a campaign event, but he turned it into one. The Washington Post:

 President Trump criticized the media, mocked his Democratic challengers, critiqued the Academy Awards, lamented losing money while president and boasted of his poll numbers while visiting a construction site here to give remarks about U.S. energy production.

The president spoke for more than an hour, meandering between his prepared remarks and a campaign-style speech listing grievances and currying votes. He touched on his 2016 victory in Pennsylvania, his love of trucks, “fake news,” China, trade, immigration, the Green New Deal, windmills, the Paris climate accord, former president Barack Obama’s $60 million book deal, Iran, veterans and New York energy policies.

Pierrot et le Chat, Theophile Alexandre Steinlen

Standing in a room full of construction workers in the middle of the day, many wearing their fluorescent work vests, Trump urged them to support his reelection and to convince their union leaders to do the same…..

Trump’s visit to Royal Dutch Shell’s Pennsylvania Petrochemical Complex here, about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, was an official White House trip intended to promote the administration’s energy policies.

Yesterday the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the workers were told they would have to attend the speech or lose a day’s pay. They were also ordered not to protest.

The choice for thousands of union workers at Royal Dutch Shell’s petrochemical plant in Beaver County was clear Tuesday: Either stand in a giant hall waiting for President Donald Trump to speak or take the day off with no pay.

“Your attendance is not mandatory,” said the rules that one contractor relayed to employees, summarizing points from a memo that Shell sent to union leaders a day ahead of the visit to the $6 billion construction site. But only those who showed up at 7 a.m., scanned their ID cards, and prepared to stand for hours — through lunch but without lunch — would be paid.

That company and scores of other contractors on site and their labor employees all have their own contracts with Shell. Several said the contracts stipulate that to get paid, workers must be onsite.

Portrait of Mo von Haugk, 1932 – Conrad Felixmüller, (German 1897-1977)

Those who decided not to come to the site for the event would have an excused but non-paid absence, the company said, and would not qualify for overtime pay on Friday.

Shell spokesman Ray Fisher explained that the workers onsite have a 56-hour workweek, with 16 hours of overtime built in. That means those workers who attended Mr. Trump’s speech and showed up for work Friday, meeting the overtime threshold, were being paid at a rate of time and a half, while those who didn’t go to hear the president were being paid the regular rate, despite the fact that both groups did not do work on the site Tuesday.

Show up to cheer for Trump or lose a day’s pay and overtime to boot.

Yesterday, The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush reported that President Obama tried to caution Joe Biden about running for president in 2020 and has been warning Biden that he needs younger advisers.

The two men spoke at least a half dozen times before Mr. Biden decided to run, and Mr. Obama took pains to cast his doubts about the campaign in personal terms.

“You don’t have to do this, Joe, you really don’t,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Biden earlier this year, according to a person familiar with the exchange.

Mr. Biden — who thinks he could have defeated Donald Trump four years ago — responded by telling Mr. Obama he could never forgive himself if he turned down a second shot at Mr. Trump.

In the boudoir, 1869, Lucius Rossi

Mr. Obama has said he will not make an endorsement in the primary, and has offered every candidate his counsel. But he has taken an active interest in the inner workings of his friend’s campaign, to an extent beyond anything offered to other candidates.

In his interactions with Mr. Biden — the pair had a quiet lunch in Washington last month — Mr. Obama has hammered away at the need for his campaign to expand his aging inner circle.

He has communicated his frustration that Mr. Biden’s closest advisers are too old and out of touch with the current political climate — urging him to include more younger aides, according to three Democrats with direct knowledge of the discussion.

Biden also met with Biden’s advisers and issued a warning:

In March, Mr. Obama took the unusual step of summoning Mr. Biden’s top campaign advisers, including the former White House communications director Anita Dunn and Mr. Biden’s longtime spokeswoman, Kate Bedingfield, to his Washington office for a briefing on the campaign’s digital and communications strategy with members of his own staff, including his senior adviser, Eric Schultz.

When they were done, Mr. Obama offered a pointed reminder, according to two people with knowledge of his comments:

Win or lose, they needed to make sure Mr. Biden did not “embarrass himself” or “damage his legacy” during the campaign.

Well Biden has already put his foot in his mouth numerous times, but he’s still leading in the polls. I can only hope voters will wake up before the primaries begin.

Katherina Goncharova – Midday Dream

Yesterday, Benjamin Netanyahu banned Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from traveling to Israel, after he was egged on by Trump. Later in the day, Netanyau told Tlaib she could come to visit her grandmother who lives in the occupied West Bank, with certain restrictions on her freedom of speech. Tlaib declined to accept the conditions. Now Democrats in the House are considering an official response.

The Miami Herald: House Democrats weigh action against U.S. and Israel ambassadors over banned visit.

Senior Democratic members of Congress are considering action against top emissaries of the Israeli government and the Trump administration for their roles in Israel’s decision to bar two House members from entering the country.

About a dozen lawmakers, including senior Jewish members, began discussions on Friday morning over ways to communicate a “deep lack of confidence and trust” in Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

The group is weighing issuing a statement of no confidence in Dermer and opening an inspector general investigation into Friedman’s conduct, the sources said.

Israel banned Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from a planned visit to Israel and the West Bank this weekend, provoking outrage among Democrats and several Republicans, including some who have harshly criticized the two lawmakers on policy grounds.

So . . . that’s it for me. what stories are you following today?


Fresh Hell Friday Reads: What in the name of Humanity and All Living things?

Hi Sky Dancers!

I’m a little slow getting started this morning because I was waylaid reading something at ProPublica that was truly shocking and long.  Again, I have to say that in this day and age I am no longer surprised by these kinds of things but I can still be shocked by the level of cruelty rampant in our country these days.

This is the story of a Border Agent who used a 4000 pound truck to assault a fleeing migrant. It took awhile to get justice but justice finally has been done.  Justice is something I feel like we wait for with baited breath continually because there is so little to be had these days and as it is said “No Justice. No Peace”.

Read this with eyes wide open.  It’s gruesome.

Here’s the narrative as written by ProPublica’s A.C. Thompson.

It was late November 2017, and Matthew Bowen, a veteran Border Patrol agent, was seething. A fellow Border Patrol agent in Texas had just been found dead in the field, and Bowen was certain someone who’d been crossing the border illegally was responsible for murdering him.

“Snuffed out by some dirtbag,” Bowen, stationed in Nogales, Arizona, said in a text later obtained by federal authorities.

Bowen, if lacking in evidence, wasn’t alone in his anger and suspicion. President Donald Trump, nearing the end of his first year in office and already frustrated in his bid to construct a wall on the southern border, had promised to “seek out and bring to justice those responsible” for the Texas agent’s death. Brandon Judd, the head of the union that represents Border Patrol agents, declared to Fox News and other media outlets that the Texas agent had been “ambushed.”

Bowen’s work record suggested his distaste for the mix of migrants and drug traffickers crossing the border illegally could be dangerous. He’d been the subject of multiple internal investigations over excessive force during his 10-year career, court records show. In one, he’d been accused of giving a handcuffed suspect what agents called a “rough ride,” slamming the brakes on his all-terrain vehicle in a way that flung the suspect into the ground.

Bowen, though, had stayed on the job. And with the news of the Texas agent’s death, his disgust for illegal border-crossers seemed only to have deepened.

“Mindless murdering savages,” he texted to another agent that November.

Two weeks later, Bowen climbed behind the wheel of a Border Patrol pickup truck and used it to strike a Guatemalan migrant in a dusty parking lot in southern Arizona. Bowen eventually was arrested by federal authorities in May 2018 and charged with using his Ford F-150 pickup, a 4,000-pound vehicle, to menace the man as he tried to flee Bowen and other agents on foot. The truck, according to an affidavit filed by prosecutors in court, hit the man twice and came within inches of running him over. Prosecutors accused Bowen of using “deadly force against a person who was running away from him and posed no threat.”

This doesn’t appear to be a stand alone thing:

28137456646_fb3ae6231d_bFrom the AP we get this headline today: Claim: Migrant children molested in US-funded foster care”. This is Trumpist America and it’s one big bag of crimes against humanity.

After local Guatemalan officials burned down an environmental activist’s home, he decided to leave his village behind and flee to the United States, hoping he’d be granted asylum and his little boy, whose heart was failing, would receive lifesaving medical care.

But after crossing the border into Arizona in May of last year, Border Patrol agents tore the man’s 7-year-old son from his arms and sent the father nearly 2,000 miles (3,220 kilometers) away to a detention center in Georgia. The boy, now 8, went into a U.S.-funded foster home for migrant children in New York.

The foster care programs are aimed at providing migrant children with care while authorities work to connect them with parents, relatives or other sponsors. But instead the boy told a counselor he was repeatedly sexually molested by other boys in the foster home.

A review of 38 legal claims obtained by The Associated Press — some of which have never been made public — shows taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $200 million in damages from parents who said their children were harmed while in government custody.

The father and son are among dozens of families — separated at the border as part of the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy — who are now preparing to sue the federal government, including several who say their young children were sexually, physically or emotionally abused in federally funded foster care.

With more than 3,000 migrant children taken from their parents at the border in recent years, many lawsuits are expected, potentially totaling in the billions. Families who spoke to the AP and FRONTLINE did so on the condition of anonymity over fears about their families’ safety.

“How is it possible that my son was suffering these things?” the father said. “My son is little and couldn’t defend himself.”

The families — some in the U.S., others already deported to Central America — are represented by grassroots immigration clinics and nonprofit groups, along with some of the country’s most powerful law firms. They’re making claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act as a precursor to filing lawsuits. The FTCA allows individuals who suffer harm as a direct result of federal employees to sue the government.

“It’s the tip of the iceberg,” said Erik Walsh, an attorney at Arnold & Porter, which has one of the world’s leading pro bono programs.

The firm has so far filed 18 claims on behalf of nine families, totaling $54 million, and Walsh says dozens more are likely coming.

The government has six months to settle FTCA claims from the time they’re filed. After that, the claimants are free to file federal lawsuits.

 


NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE
M. LaFarga, Interior Mural for the Law Offices of Tamor and Tamor, 2014.

What kind of country do we live in that a Judge has to order the Justice Department to do this?  From NYT: “Migrant Children Are Entitled to Toothbrushes and Soap, Federal Court Rules.”

A federal appeals court panel ruled on Thursday that the government must provide detained migrant children with basic hygiene supplies such as toothbrushes and sleeping mats, ending a debate that incited national outrage after a Justice Department lawyer argued against the need to do so.

The exchange in June between the lawyer and a panel of openly aghast federal judges spread rapidly in the national media. The case grew in significance days later, when a group of lawyers told reporters they had observed distressed migrant children held in cramped, dirty conditions and without sufficient food or clean water at a Border Patrol station in Clint, Tex.

The lawyers said they saw infants being cared for by other detainees, some as young as 7 years old.

Lawmakers sprang into action, decrying the conditions. Hundreds of children were transferred out of the station, which was cleaned up, and the top Border Patrol agentwho oversaw the facility was reassigned before resigning from his job.

“It’s a major victory for children in federal immigration custody,” Elora Mukherjee, one of the lawyers who visited the Clint facility and who has served as an official monitor on the ongoing court case for several years, said of the court’s decision.

Yet, in another court finding we have this via ABC: “Court allows Trump admin asylum restrictions to take place along most of border”.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rolled back a prior nationwide injunction that blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to deny most asylum claims at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Reversing the move everywhere outside the 9th Circuit means those who cross the border into California or Arizona will be able to seek asylum, while those entering into New Mexico and Texas will be barred unless they’re from Mexico, according to Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a former immigration lawyer and policy analyst at the American Immigration Council.

“If this situation continues, smugglers may encourage more people to cross in California or Arizona instead of New Mexico or Texas,” Reichlin-Melnick said Friday. “This could have very dangerous consequences — Arizona has long been one of the deadliest places to cross the border, and temperatures are extreme now.”

The court said in its decision that “the district court failed to discuss whether a nationwide injunction is necessary to remedy Plaintiff’s alleged harm.”

From Think Progress yesterday, I read about the horrors that are now occurring in my backyard “Immigrants detained during mass ICE raids could be held in abusive Louisiana facility. Over 100 immigrants were pepper-sprayed at Louisiana ICE facilities earlier in August.”

Of the over 600 undocumented immigrants who were arrested in mass workplace raids across Mississippi this week, approximately 400 could be detained at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities in Louisiana, BuzzFeed News reported.

One of the facilities where a number of the immigrants reportedly will be detained is the ICE Processing Center in Pine Prairie where the outlet reported earlier this month that 100 immigrants were pepper-sprayed following a peaceful demonstration in the facility’s courtyard.

ICE officials did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation of the plans.

In a statement to BuzzFeed News this week, Bryan Cox, an ICE spokesman, described the pepper spray incident as “brief” and “calculated.” The incident occurred just one day after 30 immigrants were pepper-sprayed at an ICE facility in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, to “deescalate” a “small disturbance around lunchtime.”

According to lawyers for several migrants at the facilities, however, the conditions in the detention centers are far worse than has been reported: The total number of immigrants pepper-sprayed at the Pine Prairie facility was in fact over 100, a legal representative with the Southern Poverty Law Center told The Independent. And a prior NBC Newsreport revealed officers had allegedly detained at least one transgender migrant in isolation for four months, “because of the way [she] looked.”

Others have suffered equally dire fates.

The SPLC reported in April that, in addition to arbitrary solitary confinement, migrants at Pine Prairie were allegedly being held in “deplorable” conditions. Among other things, detainees were forced to consume “barely edible food,” and were kept in “foul” smelling, moldy rooms. Some have been held in the barbed-wire-encircled processing facility for months.

At the Bossier Parish facility, things are no better, migrants say. “There are lots of cops who came from another prison, they beat up the Cubans, they pepper spray them and handcuff them,” one man told attorney Lara Nochomovitz — who represents detained immigrants at the facility — in a text message obtained by Mother Jones earlier this month.

Four States are now taking the Trump administration to court over its new immigration policies severely cutting into aid to immigrants.  This piece details California’s efforts via KCRA3. Why do all the worst of his policies impact children the most cruelly?

alifornia and three other states on Friday filed the latest court challenge to new Trump administration rules blocking green cards for many immigrants who use public assistance including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers.

Nearly half of Americans would be considered a burden if the same standards were applied to U.S. citizens, said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

The lawsuit he filed in federal court in San Francisco follows others this week including those by Washington and 12 other states and by two California counties. Joining California are Maine, Oregon and Pennsylvania, as well as the District of Columbia.

The multiple lawsuits all contest one of the Republican administration’s most aggressive moves to restrict legal immigration. Spokesmen for the White House and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The new rules set to take effect in October would broaden a range of programs that can disqualify immigrants from legal status if they are deemed to be a burden to the United States – what’s known as a “public charge.”

Becerra said working families across the nation rely on similar safety net programs. The impact is particularly great in California, which has more than 10 million immigrants. Half of the state’s children have an immigrant parent, he said.

His lawsuit argues that the rule creates unnecessary new obstacles for immigrants who want to legally live in the United States. It also discourages them from using health, nutrition, housing and other programs for fear it will erode their chances of being granted lawful status.

Today, I could write about the recession that is almost certainly in process due to Trump’s ignorant trade policies.  I could write about what’s going on in Hong Kong or Russia.  World chaos is pretty much the course these days. These countries are experiencing pro-democracy protests which are worthy of coverage.  We still have the issue of denial of Congress members entrance into Israel because of a tweet by the deranged occupant of the White House.  Or, there’s always the horror of another Trumpist Hatefest where he even fat shamed a supporter.  Yeah, that guy with that body, fat shamed some one.  Unbelievable hmm?

 

Instead, day in and day out I worry about the health and well being of the most vulnerable to his policies. Immigrant and asylum seeking children deserve our best not our pathological worst treatment.

Have a peaceful weekend. Please be kind to yourself and others. I love you all.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday: The Racism and The Cruelty are the Point

Three Dutch Women Portraits of Ellis Island Immigrants

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I’m working through a migraine right now.  My left eye decided to go rogue so we’ll see how long I can get through this before both my body and spirit become weaker. I’m disheartened by the continued cruelty at the heart of Trump’s White Supremacist approach to immigration and it’s getting increasingly challenging for me to keep up with the news.

This latest headline via Politico–“Trump to restrict immigration based on use of public benefits”–just completely blows away the idea that it’s just “illegal” immigration that Trump hates.  It’s all immigrants but especially the ones who don’t fit his deplorable and shallow standards.  No matter if you’re legal or not and struggling, Trump has decided you shouldn’t be here.  This is a lot from a Trust Fund baby who cannot manage to feed himself without breaking the law.

The Trump Administration issued a rule Monday that allows federal officials to deny green cards to legal immigrants who have received certain public benefits or who are deemed likely to do so in the future.

The “public charge” regulation — pushed by White House senior adviser Stephen Miller and other hard-line officials — is the latest part of President Donald Trump’s vast immigration crackdown. While Trump has railed against migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, the new regulation represents his most ambitious effort yet to restrict legal immigration as he gears up for his 2020 reelection campaign.

Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli praised the regulatory change at a White House press briefing Monday morning.

“We want to see people coming to this country who are self-sufficient,” he said. “That’s a core principle of the American dream. It’s deeply embedded in our history, and particularly our history related to legal immigration.”

Conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation have touted the measure as a way to limit immigration to self-sufficient foreigners who won’t be a drain on public resources. The Republican Study Committee — a group that includes roughly three-quarters of House GOP lawmakers — praised the regulation as “a step in the right direction” in a budget proposal released in May.

Romanian Shepard

I would just like to say that I have no idea how many immigrants actually have come into this country that are “self-sufficient” at all times but I would venture to think not many.  Every one of us who survived Katrina was given debit cards and food stamps to help us get through that disaster including foreign students and others. Does that count against folks too?  I remember thinking “Happy 50th birthday Kathy, you’re homeless AND on food stamps!!”

So, what is the purpose of this? Via WAPO: “Trump administration tightens rule that could deny green cards, citizenship to immigrants who need public assistance.”

The new policy for “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” which appeared Monday on the Federal Register’s website and will take effect in two months, sets new standards for obtaining permanent residency and U.S. citizenship. The Trump administration has been seeking to limit those immigrants who might draw on taxpayer-funded benefits, such as many of those who have been fleeing Central America, while allowing more highly skilled and wealthy immigrants into the United States.

Wealth, education, age and English-language skills will take on greater importance in the process for obtaining a green card, as the change seeks to redefine what it means to be a “public charge,” as well as who is likely to be one under U.S. immigration law.

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told reporters at a White House briefing that his agency is moving to more clearly define a long-standing element of U.S. immigration law.

“Through the public charge rule, President Trump’s administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America,” Cuccinelli said.

The move comes as part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to build new bureaucratic obstacles to the U.S. immigration system, at the same time that the president seeks to put physical barriers on the Mexico border. The administration has slashed the number of refugees admitted to the United States, tightened access to the asylum system and expanded the power of the government to detain and deport those lacking legal status.

Three women from Guadeloupe in route to Montreal Canada.

Many asylum seekers and immigrants from countries with political upheaval rely on sponsorship in order to pull their lives together. There are many, many Americans whose families have historically come to the United States to avoid turmoil and starvation.  The diaspora from the Irish Potato Famine comes to mind.

My mother traced our family roots back when you had to get microfiche from all over and do a lot of digging. She prided herself on getting at the point that each and every family line relatives first stepped foot on US soil.  Each one of them came because they saw something here and they wanted to be a part of it so they came of their own free will and desire to be better . The most riveting stories to me were those of my father’s family that came from the Alsace Lorraine area that was captured by Napoleon.

Slovak Woman with children

My Jewish ancestors and Huguenot French ancestors from Alsace Lorraine came with nothing to their name after that invasion because once returned to France, their stores, farms and homes in the region were deeded to the Church in Rome.  They were called Pennsylvanian Dutch even though they were neither and worked their way west to become farmers culminating with my father being the first to get a degree in the line that lead to me.  That’s the big American Dream story for any one in this country today even if their ancestors didn’t have a choice in coming to America.

There is no difference between the dreams of these immigrants or my earlier ones many who signed the Declaration of Independence and fought for the Union or  the one British Great grandfather I had that joined many in coming through Ellis Island or any immigrant that comes here today.  I helped sponsor my Lama from Nepal and two of his children are here, graduated university, and his youngest son is finishing Med School having worked his way in restaurants to get through university.   The family is indigenous Tsherpa.

The Diaspora of black Americans from the South have similar themes.  Escaping the Jim Crow laws of the South and the terror of the KKK, many black families went north to make better lives for themselves and their families.  This is a truly American story and you don’t have to be born here to appreciate the Dream.  Hard working folks that take any job available to take their families to education and higher levels should be welcomed any where in the US.

Image result for immigrants vintage photos ellis island

Jewish Immigrants from England

So this deliberate cruelty to people wishing to better themselves that may need some help from us tears at my heart and sensibilities.

This is from Adam Serwer last month writing for The Atlantic: “What Americans Do Now Will Define Us Forever. If multiracial democracy cannot be defended in America, it will not be defended elsewhere.”  He wrote this shortly after the “Send Her Back” chants were heard.

The conservative intelligentsia flocked to the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C., this week for the National Conservatism Conference, an opportunity for people who may never have punched a time clock to declare their eternal enmity toward elites and to attempt to offer contemporary conservative nationalism the intellectual framework that has so far proved elusive.

Yoram Hazony, the Israeli scholar who organized the conference, explicitly rejected white nationalism, barring several well-known adherents from attending, my colleague Emma Green reported. But despite Hazony’s efforts, the insistence that “nationalism” is, at its core, about defending borders, eschewing military interventions, and promoting a shared American identity did not prevent attendees from explicitly declaring that American laws should favor white immigrants.

Some other attendees, such as National Review’s Rich Lowry, took pains to distance themselves from the president’s brand of nationalism. “We have to push back against Donald Trump when he does things to increase that breach between the right and African Americans,” Lowry said. But in the fall of 2017, when Trump attempted to silence black athletes protesting police brutality, Lowry praised his “gut-level political savvy,” writing, “This kind of thing is why he’s president.”

The conference stood solidly within the conservative intellectual tradition, as a retroactive attempt by the right-wing intelligentsia to provide cover for what the great mass of Republican voters actually want. Barry Goldwater did not break the Solid South in 1964 because the once Democratic voters of the Jim Crow states had suddenly become principled small-government libertarians; voters who backed Donald Trump in 2016 did not do so because they believed a nonracial civic nationalism had been eroded by liberal cosmopolitanism.

The consensus that American civic nationalism recognizes all citizens regardless of race, creed, color, or religion was already fragile before Trump took office. That principle has been lauded, with varying degrees of sincerity, by presidents from both parties, and in particular by the first black president, who reveled in reminding audiences that “in no other country in the world is my story even possible.” The nationalism that conservatives say they wish to build in fact already existed, but it was championed by a president whose persona was so deformed by right-wing caricature that they could not perceive it. Instead, they embraced the nationalism that emerged as a backlash to his very existence and all it represented.

Trump’s nationalist innovation is not taking pride in his country, supporting a principled non-interventionism, or even advocating strict enforcement of immigration laws. The only thing new Trump brings to the American nationalism of recent decades is a restoration of its old ethnic-chauvinist tradition.

These are undoubtedly sons and daughters of immigrants deemed unfit for US immigration by the No Nothings and the anti immigration furor that started in the 1920s as a result of the massive immigration from parts of Europe deemed unworthy of saving.  The US immigration Act of 1965 was supposed to end the idea that some races were worthy of immigrating and others were not.

Changes Introduced by the Immigration Act of 1965

Among the key changes brought by the Hart-Celler Act:

  • Quotas based on nation of origin were abolished. For the first time since the National Origins Quota system went into effect in 1921, national origin was no longer a barrier to immigration. “With the end of preferences for northern and western Europeans, immigrants were selected based on individual merit rather than race or national origin,” Chin says. “Accordingly, there were many more immigrants from Asia, Africa and other parts of the world which had traditionally been discriminated against.” The act also established new immigration policies that looked at reuniting families and giving priority to skilled laborers and professionals.
  • It restricted immigration from Mexico and Central and South America. According to Chin, there were no numerical limitations on immigration until 1921, but Western Hemisphere immigration had been exempt. “Based on the Monroe Doctrine—and the desire for the free flow of labor, especially agricultural labor—there had been no cap under the National Origins Quota System,” he says. “The 1965 act established a cap on Western Hemisphere immigration for the first time. It also followed on the unwise elimination of the [guest worker] Bracero Program in 1964. These decisions disrupted traditional patterns of labor movement and agricultural production in the United States in ways we are still grappling with.”
  • It changed immigration demographics and increased immigrant numbers. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, in 1965, 84 percent of the U.S. population consisted of non-Hispanic whites; in 2015, that number was 62 percent. “Without any post-1965 immigration, the nation’s racial and ethnic composition would be very different today: 75 percent white, 14 percent black, 8 percent Hispanic and less than 1 percent Asian,” the report finds.Comparing 1965 to 2015, the Hispanic population rose from 4 percent to 18 percent; and Asians grew from 1 percent to 6 percent. “This fast-growing immigrant population also has driven the share of the U.S. population that is foreign-born from 5 percent in 1965 to 14 percent today and will push it to a projected record 18 percent in 2065,” the report continues, noting that no racial or ethnic group will claim a majority of the U.S. population.

This was imagined by President Kennedy and signed into law by LBJ so it was a centerpiece to all of the Key Civil Rights/Voting Rights efforts whose goal was to end racial discrimination in all walks of life.  It only can be seen in the same light as Civil Rights and Voting Rights. These are rights that  the Republicans–under Trumpist Rule–also seek to undermine.

This Time Magazine piece–written by Julissa Arce–sums it up succinctly: “Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Was Never About Legality — It Was About Our Brown Skin”.  Indeed today’s action affirms this.

I was 11 when I immigrated to San Antonio from Mexico. When I turned 14, my tourist visa expired and I became undocumented. After more than a decade without papers, I became a United States citizen on Aug. 8, 2014.

I naively believed that when I legally became an American, with a passport that proves I belong here, all the fears I had while living undocumented would be erased: fears of being separated from my family, of being detained, of being deported, of never being fully accepted in this country. But the election of Donald Trump, his racist and harmful lies about immigrants, the policies enacted by his Administration and the violence he has incited against brown people have removed the rose-colored glasses through which I once viewed this country. I now see America more clearly for what it is: a place where the color of your skin is the most important factor. And if you’re black, brown or any other nonwhite ethnicity, it’s the thing that can make you a target of hate.

Trump has spent his entire presidency building upon the anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric he put forth when he disparaged Mexicans as rapists and drug smugglers at his campaign launch. Last October, as thousands of Central American migrants made their way to our southern border to seek asylum, Trump tweeted, in part, “This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!” In May, while speaking of migrants during a rally in Panama City Beach, Fla., he asked, “How do you stop these people? You can’t.” One woman had an idea: “Shoot them!” she shouted. The crowd cheered and clapped. “That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement,” Trump responded with a smirk.

Trump claims that he doesn’t have a problem with immigrants so long as they enter this country the “right way.” In that same October tweet, he wrote, “Please go back, you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process.” In reality, seeking asylum is a legal way to enter the country, but not only has Trump called our asylum laws “ridiculous,” his Administration has taken action to restrict the options for those seeking refuge. His treatment of migrants has already had deadly consequences with more than two dozen deaths in U.S. custody since 2017, including at least seven children. Now Trump’s rhetoric has turned deadly as well. On Aug. 3, a white nationalist opened fire in a crowded Walmart in El Paso as “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” he wrote in a manifesto prior to the shooting. The shooter didn’t stop to ask any of the 22 people he killed for their papers, or if they came to the U.S. “the right way,” or if they immigrated “legally.” That’s because it isn’t actually about legality. It is about our brown skin in America.

Trump’s amped up re-election rhetoric is making the country unsafe for People of Color and religious minorities.  These are the same people who have historically come to our country for safe haven.  He is making it a living hell instead and quite purposefully so.

Still, activism continues to stop this and the Jewish Community is keenly aware of how badly all of this can end. Many have taken to the streets.

 

 

Please have a nice and safe week and remember to be kind to yourself and others!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads: Life in the Twilight Zone

Good Afternoon!!

Living in Trump world means you wake up almost every day to situations that previously could only exist in an Onion story. Now they are our reality.

This morning I opened Twitter to find trending topics based on satirical tweets sent by a guy named Dan Lyons. This morning he was mocking Trump’s claim to have been helping first responders on 9/11.

Pretty funny, right? But lots of people took them seriously, and it’s not difficult to figure out why that happened. Because we’re living in the Twilight Zone now.

#ObamaandBiden is still trending. Will some reporter ask Jim Jordan about it?

Also trending on Twitter: #MoscowMitch and #MoscowMitchMcTreason. The Moscow Mitch nickname was created in response to Mitch McConnell’s continual blocking of election security bills. Then yesterday McConnell had a tantrum on the Senate floor in which he claimed he was being targeted with modern date McCarthyism.

The Hill: #MoscowMitchMcTreason trends after McConnell defends blocking election security bills.

The hashtag #MoscowMitchMcTreason began trending on Twitter Tuesday morning after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fired back against the nickname “Moscow Mitch” in a fiery speech from the Senate floor.

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former GOP lawmaker, dubbed McConnell “Moscow Mitch” after McConnell on Friday blocked two election security measures.

The hashtag #MoscowMitch quickly began trending on Twitter following Scarborough’s comments.

McConnell responded on Monday, decrying the attacks against him as “modern-day McCarthyism.

“I was called unpatriotic, un-American and essentially treasonous by a couple of left-wing pundits on the basis of bold-faced lies. I was accused of aiding and abetting the very man I’ve singled out as an adversary and opposed for nearly 20 years, Vladimir Putin,” McConnell said.

“These pundits are lying, lying when they dismiss the work that has been done. They’re lying when they insist I have personally blocked actions which, in fact, I have championed and the Senate has passed,” he added. “They are lying when they suggest that either party is against defending our democracy.”

Sorry Mitch, but everyone knows you blocked President Obama when he wanted to issue a bipartisan warning about Russians interfering in the 2016 election to help Trump.

Trump continued the Twilight Zone theme this morning as he left the White House. He issued an extended attack on Baltimore, claiming the city’s problems are all Rep. Elijah Cummings’ fault (nothing to do with the Mayor, Governor, or federal government). Next he responded to a question about Dana Millbank’s article calling Mitch McConnell a Russian asset by saying

“I think the Washington Post is a Russian asset, by comparison … Mitch McConnell is a man that knows less about Russia and Russian influence and even Donald Trump, and I know nothing.”

Of the people of Baltimore, he said:

“Those people are living in hell in Baltimore. They are largely African American, you have a large African American population. And they really appreciate what I’m doing, and they’ve let me know it.”

Really? Oh yes, Trump said, African American have been calling the White House and telling him how happy they are with his policies.

TRUMP: “The African American people have been calling the White House. They have never been so happy as what a president has done.”

That Abraham Lincoln, he was such a loser, right Donald? For more of this nonsense, check out Aaron Rupar’s Twitter timeline.

 

In more serious news, the second Democratic primary debate begins tonight. NPR: Your Guide To Tonight’s Democratic Presidential Debate.

The Democratic presidential candidates take the stage for the second round of debates Tuesday and Wednesday in Detroit. A lot is on the line for the candidates, who have been engaged in back-and-forths over race and health care coming into this round of debates.

On Tuesday, progressives Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren face off for the first time in this campaign. And several other candidates will be scrambling for a breakout night to get back on voters’ minds.

Viewers will also see an odd dynamic onstage — by luck of the draw, all the candidates onstage on Night 1 are white….

In order of their placement onstage, left to right: Spiritualist and author Marianne Williamson; Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas; former Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.; former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md.; and Gov. Steve Bullock, D-Mont.

The first meeting between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders will be the marquee match up. Read more at the link above.

John Ratcliffe

The most terrifying news of the day is that Trump is on the verge of taking control of the U.S. intelligence infrastructure. He has appointed Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe to replace Dan Coates as Director of National Intelligence, even though Ratcliffe has no intelligence background and is completely unqualified. If this appointment is approved by the Senate, we may never learn anything about Russian support of Trump in the 2020 election and Democrats in the House could be cut off from getting any information from the intelligence agencies.

If you watched the Mueller hearings, you may recall Ratcliffe’s unhinged attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Ryan Bort at Rolling Stone: How John Ratcliffe Nailed His Audition to Become Trump’s New Intelligence Chief.

A week ago, Rep. John Radcliffe (R-Texas) was a largely anonymous congressman serving on the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees. On Sunday night, President Trump announced he would be nominating him to oversee America’s intelligence community, a position for which Ratcliffe is woefully under-qualified. Why? Look no further than Ratcliffe’s performance during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony last Wednesday.

In lieu of asking questions of Mueller, Ratcliffe used his five minutes to make a show of excoriating Mueller for noting that the special counsel report did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice. Ratcliffe argued that, considering Mueller chose not to prosecute the president, it was outside of his legal purview to elaborate on a decision he chose not to make.

When Mueller tried to explain why the situation was “unique,” Ratcliffe cut him off and continued to rant. “Donald Trump is not above the law. He’s not,” Ratcliffe concluded with a flourish. “But he damn sure shouldn’t be below the law, which is where Volume 2 of this report puts him,” Ratcliffe said.

Back to Rolling Stone:

It was exactly the kind of sound bite designed to earn plaudits from Trump. So too was his appearance on Fox News Sunday morning. “I’m not going to accuse any specific person of any specific crime,” he told Maria Bartiromo. “I just want there to be a fair process to get there. What I do know, as a former federal prosecutor, is, it does appear that there were crimes committed during the Obama administration.”

Trump announced the nomination hours later. “I am pleased to announce that highly respected Congressman John Ratcliffe of Texas will be nominated by me to be the Director of National Intelligence,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “A former U.S. Attorney, John will lead and inspire greatness for the Country he loves. Dan Coats, the current Director, will be leaving office on August 15th. I would like to thank Dan for his great service to our Country. The Acting Director will be named shortly.”

Ratliffe is looney tunes and his only qualification is his loyalty to the mad king.

David Ignatius at The Washington Post: Trump’s intelligence shake-up could be his most dangerous move yet.

Among intelligence professionals, President Trump’s nomination of an inexperienced, partisan politician to oversee America’s spy agencies prompted deep dismay — but also a stolid reaffirmation of the spymaster’s credo: Let’s get on with it.

This combination of incredulity and stoicism was voiced by a half-dozen current and former officers I spoke with Monday about Trump’s choice of Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) to become director of national intelligence. The worry is partly that Ratcliffe lacks any real experience, and perhaps more that he has embraced Trump’s “deep state” conspiracy theories about the CIA and FBI.

“This makes the workforce wonder, what are we doing here?” said one veteran CIA station chief. But a few moments later he affirmed: “This place is under siege. People say, carry on, protect the mission, avoid the firing range.”

“Analysts will be asking how well [Ratcliffe] will represent our product downtown,” said a second former officer who served in a senior position under Daniel Coats, the departing DNI. This former official predicted that it would take Ratcliffe a year just to understand the vast array of 17 intelligence agencies he will oversee, if he’s confirmed.

The deepest worry among intelligence professionals is how the Ratcliffe nomination, and the intense partisanship that fueled it, will be perceived by the United States’ intelligence partners overseas. “They’re in wait-and-see mode,” said a former senior CIA officer after canvassing a group of intelligence colleagues.

If the White House exerts political control through Ratcliffe, “foreign governments will be wondering if they should be sharing information” with the CIA and National Security Agency, said the veteran station chief.

More articles to check out on this topic:

NBC News: Intel officials worry Trump’s pick for top spy will politicize the job.

The Washington Post: Some officials fear Trump will get the intelligence he wants, not the intelligence he needs, from DNI pick.

ABC News: Trump’s pick for intelligence director misrepresented role in anti-terror case.

The Daily Beast: Trump Intel Pick John Ratcliffe Started Theory of FBI Anti-Trump ‘Secret Society.’

The New York Times: Republican Senators Are Cool to Trump’s Choice for Top Intelligence Post.

Before I wrap this up, I want to call your attention to this long profile of Alan Dershowitz at The New Yorker by Connie Bruck, you really should. It’s devastating: Alan Dershowitz, Devil’s Advocate.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?