Monday Reads: The Barbed Wire Fence Treatment

Statue_of_Liberty_7It’s a Monday and it feels like it!!!

The one thing Martin O’Malley said Saturday night that really stayed with me was his assertion that the symbol of the United States is not the barbed wire fence but the Statue of Liberty.  We’re having our principles and values tested and many of our elected leaders are coming up short.  This includes my absentee Governor Bobby “the Jingoist” Jindal and the Governor of Texas both who profess to belong to a religion where the guru clearly states this:

“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’…

Matthew 25:42

I am not one to quote folks’ imaginary friends.  But, this is ridiculous.  You can’t profess that religion and then totally ignore the overwhelming message of its primary teacher which is basically to love one another and help the least among us.
Unlike the self aggrandizing election propaganda pushed by the likes of David “Spy Master and professional John” Vitter and Bobby Jindal (alleged christians), there have not been 10,000 Syrian refuges sent to Louisiana.  There have been 14 relocated to the state.  Jindal and others want our doors slammed shut to the refugees fleeing an enemy of our own creation.

A day after Gov. Bobby Jindal sent a letter to the White House demanding to hear from President Barack Obama the number of Syrian refugees who have been allowed into Louisiana, the State Department confirmed the number this year was 14.

“As Governor of Louisiana, I demand information about the Syrian refugees being placed in Louisiana in hopes that the night of horror in Paris is not duplicated here,” Jindal wrote in his letter Saturday.

Jindal’s letter came at the end of a day in which multiple blogs reporting that 10,000 Syrian refugees had already made their way to New Orleans went viral. Many of the blogs were published earlier this month but appeared to gain new life following Friday’s terror attacks in Paris.

Seven Syrian refugees have been resettled in Kenner, while six have been placed in New Orleans with one placed in Baton Rouge, a State Department spokesperson said Sunday in response to a request for the numbers from WWL-TV.

The blogs that cited the figure of 10,000 refugees also include an image, purportedly of Syrian men in New Orleans, which actually is a photograph of migrants protesting outside of a train station in Budapest, Hungary, on Sept. 3.

While the Obama administration has announced plans to resettle 10,000 Syrian refuges in the United States in 2016, the State Department on Sunday said those people will be spread across the country, not in one area.

“We do not have projections on how many Syrians will be resettled in each state. However, those allocations are made in close collaboration with the nongovernmental organizations that resettle refugees as well as with state and local government officials,” the State Department said in a statement.

Indeed, the State Department already has a rigorous background check and process in place to assure that our country is safe and that we can welcome refugees and folks that want to become part of the United States.  Here’s a transcript of a briefing on the process.  You can read more to find more about the programs in each of the countries generally impacted by the current refugee crisis.Emma_Lazarus_plaque

So we refer to the program as the USRAP, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, so if I use that acronym that’s what that means. So the USRAP is an interagency process that includes three primary U.S. Government agencies. That’s us, the Department of State, as the primary lead agency; the Department of Homeland Security, specifically U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; and the Department of Health and Human Services, their Office of Refugee Resettlement.

So this USRAP involves those three government agencies as well as international organizations like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, a number of nongovernmental organizations – these we normally refer to as resettlement agencies in the United States – as well as U.S. states, cities, private citizens, churches and mosques, and community groups. So it’s a lot of people involved, big process, fairly standard procedures.

So there are a number of processing requirements within the USRAP that cannot be waived, such as an in-person DHS interview, security checks, and a medical exam, including a TB test. And this is one way – one of the many ways in which our Refugee Resettlement Program differs from a lot of other countries’ resettlement programs. A lot of other countries can do things like waive an in-person interview. They can take a case based on dossier. They do very few security checks in some cases. Those are not options that are available to us. So because of these very strict requirements that we have and because at any given time we’re processing cases in 70 or more locations worldwide with a limited amount of resources, it currently takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months or even longer to process a case from referral or application to arrival in the United States.

And I want to focus on that for just a second and repeat that, because it’s an important point. If we had a much smaller case load – let’s say if we processed 5,000 or 10,000 or even 20,000 people a year, and if we only processed in capitals where we have a physical presence, like Amman or Nairobi – processing times would be much shorter. But because we accept referrals from UNHCR for refugees in remote locations and camps all over the world – places like eastern Chad and western Tanzania that are pretty difficult to get to – we can’t send our staff up to interview a case as soon as we have one referral or ten referrals or even a hundred referrals. We’re constantly looking for a critical mass of cases before we go and start processing those cases.

The USRAP is a labor-intensive program. Between the three government agencies, we spent last year a little bit more than $1.1 billion, so it is a labor-intensive and fairly resource-intensive program.

So I’m going to go over the main steps on the overseas processing side first. And the first important step in getting access to the USRAP is either a referral or an application. The vast majority of our referrals come from UNHCR, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, also known as the UN Refugee Agency. U.S. embassies and certain NGOs are also qualified to refer cases to us, but we get very few from those two sources. About 75 percent of our referrals to the program come from UNHCR. Another 25 percent of the program – so about a quarter of the program – a quarter of our applicants gain access through direct applications. And so some of you are probably familiar with some of these direct application programs.

Four right-wing, hysterically christian governors are shamefully refusing to resettle Syrian refuges. 

Statue-of-liberty

At least four Republican governors are moving to block Syrian refugees from entering their states after Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris that killed more than 125 people and wounded hundreds more.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday joined Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in refusing to accept refugees from Syria. “A Syrian ‘refugee’ appears to have been part of the Paris terror attack,” Abbott wrote in a letter informing President Barack Obama of his plans not to allow Syrian refugees into Texas. “American humanitarian compassion could be exploited to expose Americans to similar deadly danger.”

Abbott argued that neither the president nor any federal official could guarantee the refugees wouldn’t be part of any terrorist activity. “As such, opening our door to them irresponsibly exposes our fellow Americans to unacceptable peril,” he wrote.

Despite Friday’s deadly attacks, the White House has said Obama still plans to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016.

Hutchinson, Bentley and Snyder have also announced their intentions to halt Syrian refugees from entering their states, with the latter two stating their opposition Sunday.

I cannot be happier that my governor is on his way to oblivion given this executive order. He is a small minded, mean little man who is full of self loathing and hypocrisy.    It also looks like Senator David Vitter is about to join him in anonymity and no more jobs based on tax payer dollars.  These men can’t even self govern their demons let alone the interests of other people.

Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order Monday (Nov. 16) to prevent Syrian refugees from being resettled in Louisiana.

In issuing the order, Jindal referenced last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 129 people and injured hundreds more. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Jindal said the introduction of Syrian refugees into the U.S. without “proper prior screening and follow-up monitoring could result in a threat to the citizens and property of this state.”

He cited a section of the Louisiana Constitution that says “during times of emergency… the governor has emergency powers to protect the citizens and property of the state of Louisiana.”

Jindal also sent a letter to the Obama administration on Saturday demanding information about the refugees being placed in Louisiana.

The Governors of Alabama and Michigan joined in the lunacy. Way to let the terrorists win dudes!!!!  This is mostly symbolic which makes it even more shameful.

Legally, the states have limited power to control the flow of foreigners into their states; that authority is reserved largely to the federal government under the Constitution.

936365-statue-liberty_14196_600x450This is especially shameful because we’ve found out that the passport of a supposed Syrian refugee involved in the Paris Massacre was in fact, a false flag operation.  It was a falsified document.  The people who staged the Paris attacks are primarily native French and Belgians.  They were not Syrian refugees.

As the dust settles on the Paris attacks, intelligence agencies are scrambling to gather information on the reported attackers. Passports collected on-scene have helped identify the nationalities of a few of the attackers, most of whom are from the European Union. A Syrian passport has also been found, though authorities have warned it could be fake.

French authorities believe that as many as 20 people were involved in planning the attack, claimed by ISIS (also known as ISIL or the Islamic State). Most of the released information indicates that the attackers were born and raised either in France or Belgium. Omar Ismail Mostefai (1) and Salah Abdeslam (2) — who is still at large — are the two names to be officially released so far. Mostefai, who detonated himself in a suicide attack on Friday, was a French national who grew up south of Paris while Abdeslam was born and lived in Brussels.

The passport of an Egyptian national was also found.  That man was a victim of the attacks and is critically injured.

Additionally, it shows a shameful lack of understanding of ISIS which is a radical Sunni element that is against ANYONE that’s against its interpretation of Islam.  The primary military battles right now are with other ethnic Muslims, notably the Kurdish.   ISIS has its own strategy and agenda.  It is an apocalyptic cult–much like that of many fundamentalist christian sects in our country–with the goal of establishing a path to the end times and a theocracy based on its interpretation of Muslim theology. It’s at war with every one that’s not ISIS.  It has not singled out the west or its culture which is why it also did suicide attacks in Lebanon in close proximity to the Paris attacks.  All of the Republican candidates for President are terribly ill-informed when it comes to affairs of state as is their base.

But ISIS isn’t a civilization. In parts of Iraq and Syria, it’s a self-declared, though unrecognized, state. Elsewhere, it’s a network of terrorist groups linked by a common ideology. “Civilizations” are cultural groupings. In calling the Paris attack a “clash of civilizations,” Rubio evoked Samuel Huntington’s famed 1993Foreign Affairs essay of the same name. In that essay, Huntington defined “civilization” as “the broadest level of cultural identity people have.” And he suggested that the world contains “seven or eight” major ones: “Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and possibly African.”

The most straightforward way to interpret Rubio’s statement, therefore, is that the civilizational “they” that attacked Paris is Islam. Among the grassroots conservatives Rubio is wooing in his campaign for president, that’s a popular view. After all, recent polling in states like Iowa and North Carolina suggests that upwards of one-third of Republicans would like to make Islam illegal in the United States.

Ben Carson and Donald Trump have indulged that sentiment crudely. Rubio, typically, is doing so more subtly. But it’s worth noting how fundamentally his analysis diverges from that of both of America’s post-9/11 presidents. George W. Bush said America was at war with an ideology that had “hijacked Islam” in the same way Nazism had hijacked Germany or communism had hijacked Russia. Barack Obama has argued that even this assessment gives violent jihadists a stature they don’t deserve. Rubio, by contrast, is going far beyond Bush. And he’s doing exactly what the Islamic State wants: He’s equating ISIS with Islam itself.

These Republican governors are playing into ISIS’ hand.  They want the west to look bad to Muslims all over the world.  They want us all characterized as ‘Crusaders’ and not loving humanitarians capable of discerning evil from ordinary people.   Europe has its own set of right wing xenophobes which parrot similar tropes.statue-of-liberty-sunset

The Islamic State’s strategy is to polarize Western society — to “destroy the grayzone,” as it says in its publications. The group hopes frequent, devastating attacks in its name will provoke overreactions by European governments against innocent Muslims, thereby alienating and radicalizing Muslim communities throughout the continent. The atrocities in Paris are only the most recent instances of this accelerating campaign. Since January, European citizens fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have provided online and material support to lethal operations in Paris,Copenhagen and near Lyon, France, as well as attempted attacks in London,Barcelona and near Brussels. Islamic State fighters are likely responsible fordestroying the Russian airliner over the Sinai. These attacks are not random, nor are they aimed primarily at affecting Western policy in the Middle East. They are, rather, part of a militarily capable organization’s campaign to mobilize extremist actors already in Europe and to recruit new ones.

The strategy is explicit. The Islamic State explained after the January attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine that such attacks “compel the Crusaders to actively destroy the grayzone themselves. . . . Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices, they either apostatize . . . or they [emigrate] to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution from the Crusader governments and citizens.” The group calculates that a small number of attackers can profoundly shift the way that European society views its 44 million Muslim members and, as a result, the way European Muslims view themselves. Through this provocation, it seeks to set conditions for an apocalyptic war with the West.

Unfortunately, elements of European society are reacting as the Islamic State desires. Far-right parties have gained strength in many European countries. France’s National Front is expected to dominate local elections in northern France this winter; on Saturday, Marine Le Pen, its leader, declared “those who maintain links with Islamism” to be “France’s enemies.” The Danish People’s Party gained 21 percent of the vote in national elections in June on a nationalist, anti-Islamic platform. The anti-foreigner Sweden Democrats is steadily growing in popularity.

I remember taking American History in Junior High School. We were beginning to delve into World War 2 in a much more nuanced way.  Since I eventually became a history major, I was fascinated by all aspects of history including our culpability in genocides and injustice.  I was horrified to find out that we turned away many European Jewish immigrants prior to the NAZI take over.  That, and our internment of Japanese citizens was my first experience at critically looking at our country’s modern history of White Christian Male privilege. I discovered the genocide of indigenous people and the horrors of slavery earlier but had thought we’d evolved with the Civil Rights Era.

  I do not want our children to ask us why we did not act to save innocents from evil. Being Jewish in German-occupied Europe was a death sentence for those folks. We were complicit.   We should not be complicit in this again because we can do something.

Just as my mind knows the faces of Jewish friends who lost family in Germany, I know Syrians with family dead, dying, and trying to escape the horror there. I condemn strongly the hatred, bigotry, and ignorance of any one playing into the hands of ISIS.  This is not the Iron Age.  This is not the Dark Ages.  American is better than people like David Vitter, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio and the likes. Notice that TWO of these folks are the children of immigrants too!   What if we had closed our doors on them because they were Catholic? They were dark skinned and from India?  How dare they redefine our country?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

H/T to Winter Claire Randall for the Matthew quote and to David Bernstein for the State Department link.


Friday Reads

images (1)It’s the Labor Day weekend which usually puts people in the mood for autumn!

In New Orleans, tis the season of Southern Decadence!  I imagine the Kim Davis costumes will be everywhere!  I’ve already seen a tremendous number of her face photoshopped onto an orange jumpsuit with various members of the cast of Orange is the New Black. My guess is there will be plenty of that in the flesh on Bourbon Street this weekend.  She’s in jail but her staff is putting out marriage licenses for all couples while she stews in her martyr soup.

When the Rowan County Courthouse opened for business Friday, deputy clerk Brian Mason was waiting at the front counter, behind a sign reading: “Marriage License Deputy.”

James Yates and William Smith Jr. entered the media-filled courthouse shortly after 8 a.m. and began the process of applying for a marriage license. Again.

They had been rejected five times previously, as Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to any couples since the Supreme Court declared in June that gay couples had a constitutional right to wed.

On Thursday, Davis was sent to jail by U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning, who also ordered five of the six deputy clerks in the county to begin issuing marriage licenses to all couples. The deputies agreed, under oath.

By 8:15 Friday morning, Yates and Smith — together since 2006 — had finally obtained the elusive $35 license.

Mason, the deputy clerk, congratulated the couple and shook their hands.

Three GLBT couples have now gotten their licenses. It must have been hell as a work place since most of the clerks indicated to the judge they had no problem issuing licenses but were stopped by the self-righteous Davis.  Her husband (who is both #2 and #4 of her marriages) is a piece of work too.

The husband of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis said early Friday that Kim remains in good spirits and is prepared to remain in jail for months.

Joe Davis appeared outside the Rowan County Courthouse, calling U.S. District Judge David Bunning a bully for jailing his wife on Thursday for contempt of court.

“She won’t resign I promise you,” he said. “Until something gives, she’ll be there.”

Joe Davis said he went out to eat with the five deputy clerks who agreed in court Thursday to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He said he anticipates that they will keep their word and has no hard feelings against them despite Kim’s adamant refusal to authorize the forms.

At least two couples plan to return to the Rowan County Courthouse on Friday to request licenses from the five deputy clerks who say they will comply with the court to avoid jail.

imagesThe husband referred to the Bush-appointed Judge as a “butt”.

Joe also had some important words for Judge Bunning, who presided over his wife’s contempt case.

“Bunning cannot bully me, my wife or my son,” Joe Davis said on Friday of the judge, via Louisville television station WDRB. “I taught my son how to stand up for what’s right and what he believes in at any cost. Bunning doesn’t know how to pick on somebody that can handle him. The only thing he knows how to do is to pick up on the weak people.”

As for Judge Bunning, he told the New York Times: “The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order. If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes problems.”

autumn-leaves-2-mark-fullerA tell all book about Donald Trump may expose some information that will put the Huckster of Bad Deals in a very bad light.

David Cay Johnston is an author, lecturer, and investigative reporter who has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting who has presided over the board of the non-profit organization Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. His areas of expertise include tax law, accounting, economics, business and finance. He is also an outspoken Progressive whose thoughts and ideas echo those of Bernie Sanders. Since 1988, Johnston has been watching Trump closely. Recently, he came up with a list of questions that would reveal much about the GOP’s “Golden Boy” – assuming Trump would provide frank and forthcoming answers, as he claims to do.

For example, how many of our readers knew that Trump was successfully sued by the Attorney General of New York for running an “illegal educational institution”? Students at “Trump University” paid a whopping $35,000 for “Elite” mentorships – but never even saw their mentor. And here’s a juicy little fact that fans of The Godfather and The Sopranos should appreciate: the contracting firm that constructed Trump Tower was owned by a pair of gentlemen who went by the monikers of “Fat Tony” Salerno and “Big Paul” Castellano.

When it comes to charity, Trump doesn’t even donate to his own foundation. Instead, he donates other people’s money – specifically, those who do business with him.

Can you say, “kickbacks”?

It only gets better: Trump was found guilty in federal court of cheating immigrant workers hired to demolish a multi-story building. He paid them less than $5 per hour under the table. He didn’t even furnish them with hard hats.  Oh, and all that talk from Trump about how he’s a “self-made billionaire”? It turns out that he had a bit of help from the taxpayers of New York. The mayor of NYC at the time, Abe Beame, happened to be good buddies with Donny-boy’s Daddy, Fred Trump. That little connection got Donald a tax abatement on a mid-town Manhattan property (right next door to Grand Central Station) in 1976. That was the old Commodore Hotel, which today is the Grand Hyatt New York. As of 2016, that little deal that his daddy made for him will have cost taxpayers $400 million.

So much for being a “self-made” billionaire.

One of the Donald’s biggest troupes is how he’s made so much money.  Actually, he would be far wealthier had he just put his inheritance into S&P images (2)Index Fund.  I really wish the media would ask him about this little tidbit.

“It takes brains to make millions,” according to the slogan of Donald Trump’s board game. “It takes Trump to make billions.” It appears that’s truer than Trump himself might like to admit. A new analysis suggests that Trump would’ve been a billionaire even if he’d never had a career in real estate, and had instead thrown his father’s inheritance into a index fund that tracked the market. His wealth, in other words, isn’t because of his brains. It’s because he’s a Trump.

In an outstanding piece for National Journal, reporter S.V. Dáte notes that in 1974, the real estate empire of Trump’s father, Fred, was worth about $200 million. Trump is one of five siblings, making his stake at that time worth about $40 million. If someone were to invest $40 million in a S&P 500 index in August 1974, reinvest all dividends, not cash out and have to pay capital gains, and pay nothing in investment fees, he’d wind up with about $3.4 billion come August 2015, according to Don’t Quit Your Day Job’s handy S&P calculator. If one factors in dividend taxes and a fee of 0.15 percent — which is triple Vanguard’s actual fee for an exchange-traded S&P 500 fund — the total only falls to $2.3 billion.

It’s hard to nail down Trump’s precise net worth, but Bloomberg currently puts it at $2.9 billion, while Forbes puts it at $4 billion. So he’s worth about as much as he would’ve been if he had taken $40 million from his dad and thrown it into an index fund.

It takes a massive ego and a whole ton of hubris to suggest he’s actually “made” money given that it’s less than the opportunity cost of doing an mifx3Swinvestment that any one could easily access with a small balance and some stick-to -itness.
Adam B. Schiff, a Democrat from California who is the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and who serves on the Select Committee on Benghazi, is calling on Congress to disband the Benghazi committee. 

Since its formation, the Select Committee on Benghazi has been aimless and slow moving, not knowing what it was looking for or where. It has acted in a deeply partisan way, frequently failing to consult or even to inform Democratic members before taking action, and selectively leaking information to the press. After 16 months and more than $4 million, the committee has gained no additional insight into the attacks in Benghazi. It has nothing new to tell the families of those killed or the American people.

But it does have emails. Lots of emails. Some of them are from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But none of her emails tell us anything of consequence regarding the events of Sept. 11, 2012. They don’t substantiate the bogus theory that the State Department ordered the military to “stand down” or that there wasgun running, or that the secretary somehow interfered with the security provided at the diplomatic facility or annex.

Nor were any of the secretary’s emails marked classified at the time she received them. Some in the intelligence community believe that a subset of them should have been, a conclusion with which the State Department disagrees. That’s not an uncommon clash of views. As the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, I am deeply interested in making sure that all classified information is protected. And yet, as a member of the Select Committee charged with finding out the truth about the attacks, I am appalled at how much we have lost sight of the mission — if indeed that was ever the point.

Whatever their original purpose, the Select Committee’s leaders appear no longer to have any interest in Benghazi, except as the tragic events of that day may be used as a cudgel against the likely Democratic nominee for president.

The committee is solely concerned with damaging her candidacy, searching for something, anything, that can be insinuated against her. With all of the committee’s obsessive focus on Mrs. Clinton, you would think that she was a witness to the killings, instead of half a world away.

There is a refugee crisis around the world as the western world’s imperialist and colonial policies of the last century come home to roost.  I’ve been images (3)following the crisis in Syria and the number of refugees dying on their way to Europe.  Syrians are some of the greatest people I’ve ever met and it’s completely disheartening to see so many die because of our failed Middle East policies.  We already know how Texas and other places have met refugee women and children coming from South American to our country as a result of our failed drug war policies.  How is Europe handling its worst refugee crisis since World War 2?  This depends on the country and the degree to which right wing nationalism still rules the day. Nadia Khomami of the UK Guardian has listed all the signficiant developments at the link.

That site is continually updated and is a good source of information.

So, that’s the three big things that I’ve beeen following. What’s on your blogging and reading list today?