Category Archives: anti-immigration

The President Can’t Hide From His Words

On June 8. 2014 Las Vegas, Nevada police officers Soldo and Beck went to a pizza diner.  Their meal was interrupted by Jerad and Amanda Miller, two right wing anti-government extremists who had previously participated in the infamous Bundy Ranch stand off. Officers Soldo and Beck paid with their lives for the Millers’ warped minds and itchy trigger fingers.  The Millers and their ilk aren’t typical of American politics, but then that’s exactly what makes them dangerous.

Last November, the Washington Post reported:

“As a Republican, Mitchell Adkins complained of feeling like an outcast at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. “Hardcore liberals” made fun of him, he wrote, and he faced “discrimination on a daily basis.” He soon dropped out and enrolled in trade school.

But his simmering rage led him back to campus one morning in April 2017, when Adkins pulled out a machete in the campus coffee shop, demanded that patrons state their political affiliation and began slashing at Democrats.

“There was never any ambiguity about why he did it,” said Tristan Reynolds, 22, a witness to the attack, which left two women injured.”

Fortunately, the result wasn’t as lethal as in the Las Vegas, Nevada pizza parlor, but the core problem was similar.  Fast forward to October 26, 2018.  Cesar Sayoc sent out 13 pipe bombs to critics or opponents of President Trump.  We were lucky, none exploded either in the mail or at the destinations of the intended targets.

The Washington Post article, which described the increase in right wing violence offered this sobering information :

“Over the past decade, attackers motivated by right-wing political ideologies have committed dozens of shootings, bombings and other acts of violence, far more than any other category of domestic extremist, according to a Washington Post analysis of data on global terrorism. While the data show a decades-long drop-off in violence by left-wing groups, violence by white supremacists and other far-right attackers has been on the rise since Barack Obama’s presidency — and has surged since President Trump took office.”

Might we wonder why?  After Sayoc was arrested the tenor of the White House response left something to be desired:

Speaking at the White House, Trump praised the “incredible job” done by investigators and promised to punish the person responsible. Speaking later at a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, Trump won applause from his loyalist supporters for calling for national unity and an end to political violence. But he soon attacked the media, encouraged chants of “CNN sucks” and set the audience up to boo the Democratic House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, and reprise “lock her up” chants aimed at Hillary Clinton. [Guardian]

It seems he just can’t help himself.  And now, after the arrest of Christopher Hasson, and the confiscation into evidence of his cache of weapons and ammunition, the President can’t bring himself to acknowledge how his “lock her up,” chants and repeated references to the press as the “Enemy of the People” might play a role in eliciting reactions like those of the Millers’, Sayoc, Adkins, and others.

He called the Hasson incident “a shame.” When asked if his rhetoric might have played a role in igniting Hasson’s rage, the President asserted his words have been “very nice.” [CNN video]  I’m not at all certain the record bears this out — there’s another example, again in Las Vegas, where Trump called out that he’d like very much to punch a heckler in the face.   Trump keeps hauling out the Enemy of the People line to describe the media, most recently three days ago, directly targeting the New York Times.  On February 12, 2019 the Times reported on the assault of a BBC cameraman at Trump’s rally in El Paso, Texas.  The White House keeps announcing that the President condemns violence and doesn’t condone attacks on reporters and opponents, however the list of incidents compiled by ABC news keeps getting longer.  So does the assemblage from Vox.   And these incidents and comments are not without consequences:

“A Kentucky gunman attempted to enter a historically black church, police say, then shot and killed two black patrons in a nearby grocery store. And an anti-Semitic loner who had expressed anger about a caravan of Central American refugees that Trump termed an “invasion” has been charged with gunning down 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in U.S. history.”

If the President’s word choices are determined by what will play well with his base, then he (and his advisers) might do well to consider the distinction between base and debase.  He is now speaking not merely to the deplorables, but to the despicables and the debased.  It’s been noticed.  The ADL reports that as of 2014 about 70% of Americans thought it was necessary for the government to step in to counter Antisemitism, the poll results now show about 80% believing the government should do more to protect against this scourge.

In April 2009 Janet Napolitano warned us about the rising temperature of right wing extremism in this country — and the conservatives prompted hit the fainting couches.

 The American Legion formally requested an apology to veterans. Some in Congress called for me to be fired. Amid the turmoil, my (Daryl Johnson) warning went unheeded by Republicans and Democrats. Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security caved to the political pressure: Work related to violent right-wing extremism was halted. Law enforcement training also stopped. My unit was disbanded. And, one-by-one, my team of analysts left for other employment. By 2010, there were no intelligence analysts at DHS working domestic terrorism threats.

What’s happening today? Not much.

“The Trump administration has done little to counter the impression that it is soft on right-wing extremism. Even before Trump took office, his presidential transition team began drawing up plans to redirect national-security resources away from white supremacists to focus solely on Islamic terrorism. The main target of this effort was Countering Violent Extremism, an interagency task force created by Barack Obama in the wake of the Charleston Church shooting to help prevent acts of violence before they happen. In 2016, the Office of Community Partnerships, which housed C.V.E., boasted a full-time staff of 16, about 25 contractors, and a budget of $21 million. But the Trump White House was skeptical of the preventative approach.”  [Vanity Fair 2018]

The situation within the Department of Justice at present describes a CVE program killed for all intents and purposes by a thousand paper cuts.

There are some actions we should consider:

  • Fully fund and restore the CVE efforts within the Department of Justice.
  • Keep records and statistical analyses of right wing terrorist groups and their activities within the United States.
  • Prioritize efforts to combat foreign influences which seek to foment racial and ethnic divisions in the United States.
  • Publicize the sources of funding for right wing extremist groups and their propaganda machines, including Dark Money organizations.

We can do some things individually.  I, for one, don’t find ethnic ‘jokes’ amusing, and I’m not above telling the reciter thereof so. If this makes the “Adkins'” of the world uncomfortable, so be it.  I don’t need to listen to anti-government spiels, unwarranted racial or ethnic diatribes, and I feel no compunction about indicating to those emitting this verbal garbage I’m quite through listening.  “I don’t hate you, I’m just through listening.”  If this drives the cockroaches back into the dark, fine. That’s where they belong.    If a person thinks a two year old Guatemalan girl and her 20-something parents are a “national security threat,” and doesn’t hold the same opinion of  some jerk with a personal arsenal harboring his sexual, political, ideological, whatever, perversions, then the person probably won’t enjoy my company anyway. I certainly won’t be enjoying his.

We DO want affordable health care. We DO want to address climate change issues. We DO want to rationalize and reform our immigration policies.  And, we need to tell our Congressional representatives and Senators we’d like this done in a country that doesn’t have to put up with the rhetoric of derision and division, and the verbal violence that leads to the real thing.

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Filed under anti-immigration, Gun Issues, Immigration, Las Vegas, Politics, racism, White Supremacists

Things That Go Bump In The Night and Things That Are Making More Noise Than Sense

Another week of the Trumpster Fire, another week of news from a fire hose, and another week during which we, as news consumers, are required to filter wheat from chaff, and the relevant from the nearly irrelevant.  What things bumping in the night should be attended to? Which can be set off to the side and safely ignored for the moment.

Bumps With More Noise Than Significance

Preliminary public polling results.  The Press/Media is enamored of the latest rendition of The Great Blue Wave.  This is one of the least informative ways of filling one’s air-time.  First, national preference polling is interesting, but all elections are local.  While some members of the punditry are beginning to mouth the words “vote suppression,” and “gerrymandering,” not enough information and analysis has been shared about the effects of these GOP efforts to maintain control of the Congress, and of state elections. Secondly,  there are no national elections for Congressional seats — to state the perfectly obvious.  Those elections will be determined by candidate recruitment and quality, personnel and monetary resources, and campaign competence.  None of these, with the possible exception of shared mailing lists and big donors (monetary resources) is national in scope.  Third, some campaigns will be assisted by the efforts of third party groups. For example, are Union members out canvassing? Are students out doing registration drives?  Are small groups of activists providing services like rides to the polls? The extent and nature of these ancillary groups and their activities will have an impact, we just don’t know the extent to date.  None of this will be “news” to anyone who’s been paying attention to American civic life for the last few decades.

Just because it’s on the news doesn’t necessarily mean it’s important.  The occupant of the Oval Office and some members of the media are still playing the DC parlor game, “Who is Anonymous?” Or anonomus or anamonomous or whatever.  I’m still working on why this might be important.  For my money we still have staff in the executive branch who are willing to explode the national debt in service to tax cuts for the top 0.01% of American income earners, at ease with putting 12,000 children in “detention” facilities for an indefinite period, and quite pleased to allow health insurance companies to charge people with pre-existing medical conditions more for their premiums.  That these people will occasionally arise on their hind legs and proclaim the Great One has gone too far doesn’t impress me.  What would impress me?

How about more attention paid to this nugget:

“Besides family, one of the only people Trump continues to trust is Stephen Miller. “The op-ed has validated Miller’s view, which was also Steve Bannon’s, that there’s an ‘administrative state’ out to get Trump,” a Republican close to the White House said. “There is a coup, and it’s not slow-rolling or concealed,” Bannon told me. “Trump believes there’s a coup,” a person familiar with his thinking said.”

And thus our Oval Office Occupant (Or Triple Zero if spelled 0val 0ffice 0ccupant) is more heavily reliant on a blatantly racist, far right wing conspiracy fabulist, who stokes the Occupant’s most divisive tendencies?  This seems to call for more analysis, and yet the punditry still grasps the Who-Done-It? segment, or pontificates upon the “effect” of the infamous Op-Ed on the President’s “mind set.”  Clue number one a White Nationalist was influencing the 000 might have been the initial Muslim ban?  More clues — no DACA agreement  by Congressional Democrats was ever going to be satisfactory — no one ‘would care’ that there might be children separated from their parents at the southern border — it’s considered acceptable to move funds from FEMA and the Coast Guard to pay for more ICE detention facilities —  it’s supposed to be all right for asylum seeking families to be kept in these detention facilities indefinitely?

Things Not Making So Much Noise But Nevertheless Important

Health care and health insurance.  There is nothing the GOP would enjoy so much as repealing the last semi-colon and comma of the Affordable Care Act.  We’ve heard the “more competition” argument currently coming from the House Speaker before.  It doesn’t make any more sense now than it did then.  Health insurance is not a product analogous to purchasing a motor vehicle or any other consumer product.  One doesn’t choose to get hit by a bus, or hit with a cancer diagnosis, or hit with a complicated pregnancy — or even an uncomplicated one for that matter.

Consumer protection.  While the great fire hose emits its inundation of noise about all things Trumpian, consumer protections enacted to prevent yet another Wall Street melt down are under attack.  The student loan market is being “deregulated.”  Not a good thing.  The smaller issues involved in the Dodd Frank Act have been resolved with some bipartisan legislation, but the administration wants to go further — and the assortment of Goldman Sachs alums in the administration are being ever so helpful in this regard.  Left unchecked we’re going to see another round of de-regulation, which didn’t work out so well for us the last time.  Caveat Emptor American consumer — be careful before voting for any candidate who vows to cut red tape and diminish the “burdens” of regulations — like those preventing the next melt down in the Wall Street Casino.

It’s the Stupid Economy.   Yes. Wall Street has been doing quite nicely thank you very much. I maintain my position that the worst business news is readily available on most broadcast networks.  If a person believes that the DJIA represents the state of the American economy then they’re in for more surprises like the ones which emerged in 2007-08.   Information like real median household income trends is available from FRED, but before we get too excited note median household income numbers may be obscuring other figures like wages adjusted for inflation for full time employees.   Further, what’s being added in to the mix as “income?”  All income includes everything from unemployment benefits to returns on investments.  It’s those returns on investments that have made some very nice progress over the last ten years…wages maybe not so much.  We’re on our own to dive more deeply into the wage issues and income distribution data.  There’s some good news, some bad news, and some news to think about like the 16 straight quarters we’ve had of increasing domestic household debt.  So, it’s time for the question:  Are we seeing candidates for Congress who acknowledge the need for common sense controls on Wall Street casino operations? Who are aware and concerned for wage and salary workers and their economic security?  Are we getting more noise from the highly generalized pie in the sky theoretical visionaries who want us to believe that those with great wealth are going to buy all the homes, cars, washing machines, shoes, movie tickets, and restaurant meals necessary to keep the US economy rolling on?

I could use a little more light on these subjects, and perhaps a bit less bump in the night stuff about a “crisis on the border” (manufactured by the current administration) or “The Press Is Out To Get Me,” from Orange Blossom.   And, I’m looking for Congressional and Senate Candidates who will speak to me about how to fix problems, rather than shout at me about how to fix the blame for them.  I’d like for political discourse to make more sense than noise.

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Filed under anti-immigration, banking, Economy, financial regulation, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics

More Random Thoughts and Musings: Friday Fun Edition

Trump windsor

Now this is interesting.  Her Majesty decided on a nice BLUE outfit.  A nice Democratic blue ensemble.  The Independent has more.  Perhaps she didn’t get a laminated copy of his election map? Neither, apparently, did the Evening Standard’s estimated 250,000 London Protesters. Faux News was pleased to call them “rowdy.”  And then the indictments came down, just before Orange Foolious’s meeting for his performance review with Putin in Helsinki. Timing in indictments, as in the preparation of Pilau Rice, is important.

Meanwhile, the Russians remain “unapprehended” as the Chicago Tribune reports nearly half the children under the age of 5 separated from their parents remain apart from their families. The ACLU has called for the Misadministration to hand over information regarding reunifying children with their families.

House Republicans may want some separation from the Misadministration after their Strzokanalia (©@Karoli) proved to be a “terrible day for Republicans.”  Stephen Colbert has more. He usually does.

Today seems not the day to shut the TV machine down. Thus, there may (or may not) be more updates to this post as the Blimp Baby Flies, The Brits march, the Misadministration squirms, and GOP members of Congress muse about how to salvage their tattered party banner.  The Queen showed her ‘tea guests’ the exit in about 58 minutes…wishing we could do the same.

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Filed under anti-immigration, Foreign Policy, Politics

I’m Watching a Basketball Game (Instead of the DACA drama)

Yes, in the midst of the Soap Opera that is the Federal Government of these United States this political junkie is watching a basketball game I recorded yesterday. Why? Because I received just about all the news I need for the next couple of days in perhaps less than 15 minutes this morning.   The rest will be noise.

Every pundit ever hired by every cable broadcast network will expend altogether too much energy “explaining” what the machinations of the past week “mean.”  Since I’ve come to believe they aren’t significantly better at prognostication than your average ground hog, octopus, or other member of the animal kingdom, I’ll stick to my own interpretation.

The Republicans are eventually going to own the mess they’ve made.  The DACA program was working in September 2017 when the Big Dealer in Chief stuck his foot in it.  Why? I’m going to go with the explanation that it was in support of the rather egregious House version of a Bridge Act introduced on January 12, 2017.  (HR 496 for those keeping score) There is no path to citizenship in the House version, and the bill essentially treats Dreamers as cheap labor, to be exploited by both employers and the federal government in terms of an endless assessment of fees.  It would also cover precious few Dreamers.

In today’s dispatches from delusion-ville, the White House wants an immigration bill that is “good for America.”  I think we can safely assume this means no path to citizenship for young people who’ve known no other country but this one, a “merit-based” immigration plan (which really isn’t similar to Canada’s any more than it’s similar to the Canadian health care system the Republicans were quick to malign), and it eliminates family reconciliation.   A miserable, un-American plan though it may be, I am of the opinion the House “Bridge Act” [text] is what Stephen Miller and the other racists in the West Wing have in mind.  The timing looks a bit suspicious to me, Trump signed the executive order eliminating the DACA program on September 5th, the same day there was a discharge petition in the House — which promptly went nowhere.

And now we do have a major mess.   The Big Dealer in Chief doesn’t have a position on much of anything, much less immigration.  However, that state of affairs doesn’t mean he won’t attach himself to whatever buzzwords and banners will help keep his radical base in line.  Thus we can assume he will order another Diet Coke while twittering on about “immigrants and crime” (a truly faulty proposition) or “immigrants versus citizens” (without bothering to notice the connection between immigrants and their contributions to the American economy — the economy benefiting citizens; and, giving us all to understand that the Norwegians (82.3% white) are preferable to those from those **hole places which send us an in-ordinary number of people with advanced degrees.

So, the herd on Capitol Hill has until February 8, 2018 to clean up.  Senate Majority Leader McConnell is now without one of his more important hostages — CHIP beneficiaries, and Senator McCaskill knocked the legs out from under his Military hostages when she offered an measure to pay members of the Armed Forces and Sen. McConnell objected.  What McConnell did secure was the capacity to put House Speaker Ryan into a soup largely of his own concoction.

Speaker Ryan, has a problem — he has to come up with a DACA fix acceptable to the Senate, a solution not currently available in legislative language on his side of the building.  If the House does move toward a compromise bill his Freedom (for us but not anyone else) Caucus will scream to the heavens.  If the House stays put with its current version, the Senate Democrats can shut down the government funding for round two, and this time on more solid ground.  A compromise bill will likely not please either side of the divide, however the House alternative will cement the reputation of Republicans as the Party of Racists.

Thus, the Party which has promulgated the notion that allowing anyone at any time to march down the road to full citizenship is “amnesty,”  is now fettered with a label they’ve sought to avoid since the sainted Ronald Reagan gave his “state’s rights” speech at the Neshoba County Fair on August 3, 1980 giving voice and heft to the Southern Strategy.

Popcorn anyone?

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Filed under anti-immigration, Immigration, Politics, racism

Discussing Immigration With A Republican, or The Art of the Yeah But

Take a segment of the radical right Republican pronouncements from television, a few more from their written commentary, add Republican spokespersons drawling on about the subject, put these together and it’s not hard to imagine a dialog Q and A on the subject of immigration policy.  To wit:

Q – Do you support a DREAM Act for DACA recipients?

A – Yes, but…

Q – But what?

A – But we have to address Chain Migration.

Q – Why?

A – Because, we might be allowing in rapists, killers, and drug dealers!

Q – What percentage of immigrants indulge in these criminal behaviors?

A – Lots of them you see it in the news every day.

Q – Do news reports indicate the citizenship status of arrestees and those convicted?

A- No, but you know that They are more likely to commit crimes.

Q –  We don’t know that with any certainty.  Actually, the better research reports that immigrants have lower crime rates than natural born citizens. [CBS]

A – Yeah but, we have to get rid of that diversity lottery system, it’s terrible. We need skilled workers not unskilled people who will end up on welfare and food stamps.

Q – You know that those who are not citizens aren’t eligible for food assistance and public welfare programs? You know that there are some jobs which immigrants are willing and capable of doing which are not being filled at the moment?

A – Yeah, but an influx of immigrants causes wages for American workers to decline.

Q – Uh, that isn’t true either, levels of immigration don’t force down American wages [Time]

A – Yeah, but it’s a matter of law and order! Either we enforce our laws or we don’t, and we can’t become a lawless country, and those DACA recipients are illegal aliens.

Q – We don’t hold children, especially those under the age of seven, liable for the crimes of their parents.  Besides which, DACA recipients must be working or in school, and must not be arrested for any crime, no matter how minor.  They pay for DACA registration, and agree to extensive background checks. So, what’s the problem?

A – Yeah but, we have to have a Wall!  We have to impede the flow of immigrants and drugs.

Q – Are you aware that most contraband “hard” drugs don’t come over remote parts of  “the border,” but come in via ports of entry?  [Tucson.Com]

A – Yeah but, we can’t have so many people coming in without skills, education, and so forth. We need skilled workers who speak English fluently, and don’t come from broken nations.  We need merit based immigration.

Q – You do understand that Nigerian immigrants and those from subsaharan Africa have more advanced degrees than the average American citizen? [LAT] So, are you saying we need more immigrants from Nigeria? From Kenya? From Botswana?

A – Yeah but we need people who can assimilate and share American values.

Q – Do you mean something like willing to engage in the free market and become entrepreneurs?  As in approximately 25% of immigrants to this country are entrepreneurs? [Forbes]

A – Yeah but, they should speak English before they get here, because English is our national language; and, they shouldn’t take advantage of our schools and social safety net programs!

Q – You do remember, from a few lines above, that they aren’t eligible for social assistance programs?  And, you do know that according to most studies done on the subject most recent immigrants do what previous immigrants have done, i.e. lose the native language almost completely in three generations?  [Economist]

A- Yeah but, they don’t assimilate into our society like previous waves of immigrants.

Q – Like German, Irish, Jewish and Eastern Europeans?  Like Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Indian immigrants today?

A – Yeah. Like those people.

Q – What’s different about Mexican and Central American immigrants from Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Indian immigrants?

A – Yeah but… They can bring in their relatives… they can bring in relatives who are from terrorist countries.

Q – You are aware, aren’t you, that the vast majority of immigrants are not terrorists, and that in fact those “3 out of 4” persons convicted of “international terrorism” were foreign born, and the statistics cited by the President* didn’t clarify which were extradited to this country for trial?

A – Yeah but.  We should be safe from terrorists!

Q – Yes, however most of the mass shootings in this country are the work of native born white males, you do know this don’t you?

A – Yeah but, it’s the government’s job to keep us safe.

Q – So, if it’s the government’s job to keep us safe, then we should be concentrating on what ‘radicalizes’ native born white males and how we can prevent them from obtaining lethal weapons which can be turned on innocent people?

A – Yeah but, are you saying you want to take our 2nd Amendment Rights away?

Q – No, but I am suggesting that if we are to focus on the issue of keeping our citizens safe from terrorists and bombers we should apply the same level of scrutiny to white male native born Americans. So, why should we limit immigration in order to keep us safe?Why not limit the license of native born white males who are statistically much more likely to commit mass shootings?

A – Yeah but… we can’t let people into this country to soak up our tax dollars and take up space and resources in our schools, and commit crimes and bring in drugs!

Q – Could it be that the objection is based on the ethnic or racial characteristics of the immigrants rather than on their capacity for assimilation and their observance of American traditions and values?

A – I AM NOT A RACIST.

 

 

 

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Scary Stuff Indeed

Yesterday was an extremely interesting day, replete with all manner of scary stuff compliments of social media platforms and a Special Counsel. However, not all of the frightening items were associated with the Trump Campaign’s eagerness to get the produce of Russian hacking, and Russian assistance.  Here’s some other stuff in the GOP treat basket:

ICE again proves its ultimate heartlessness and horrifying lack of understanding of what it means to “protect” Americans; illustrated by the case of Rosa Maria Hernandez — a ten year old with cerebral palsy undergoing gall bladder surgery.  And, this isn’t the only case — there was the story of parents arrested while their child was having brain surgery, the arrest of an undocumented Iraqi man who was serving as a bone marrow donor for his niece, and a brain tumor patient pulled from a hospital.  ICE thus becomes the ultimate Halloween Scary Story.  Candidates for public office ought to be ask outright how they would assist in the process of getting immigration officials to adhere to their own guidelines on “sensitive locations.’

Nobody in the GOP appears to be all that outraged that the Trump Campaign not only accepted assistance from the Russians, but actively sought to get the goods on Secretary Clinton from Russian sources.  This isn’t normal, or even paranormal — it’s the kind of thing that would make any other campaign (Democratic or Republican) call the FBI if the Russians showed up at the door with treats.  But still, #45 refuses to accept the fact that the Russians at least meddled and at most attacked the US with campaign “assistance” — social media help; opposition research; and, (the part we keep ignoring) attempts to hack into the voting systems of at least 21 and possibly 39 states.  We do need much more attention paid to the last item on the list since the Cult-45 group persists in saying this is a Spook, there’s nothing to see here.

Somehow a tiny company in Montana got a whopper contract, now cancelled, to supply power to the entire island of Puerto Rico.  Nothing puts a place like Whitefish, Montana on the map like having the Secretary of the interior stammering he’s nothing to do with this — and if I believe this then you could easily get me to believe that all the little spookies at the door are Real!

It’s been 30 days since the tragic Las Vegas Shooting, and what has the Congress done to limit high capacity magazines? Bump stocks? Anything?  This month has been a nightmare for the families of the deceased, and the families of the injured.  The nightmare will continue until politicians stop being terrified of the National Rifle Association.

Republicans have been unable to explain away the specter of Opioid Abuse while cutting massive amounts of funding from Medicaid.  The GOP budget calls for cutting some $1.5 trillion from the program over the next decade — while 30% of opioid treatment is covered by Medicaid insurance.   States, already strapped by the crisis will have to either come up with more funding or ration care — speaking of Death Panels…

The Senate of the United States believes that individual Americans are perfectly capable of taking on The Big Banks all by themselves — Super Heroes in Litigation.  So, on October 24, 2017 the Senate voted to dismiss a CFPB rule that would have allowed class action law suits against the Big Banks by ripped off customers; forcing those customers into individual arbitration.  Senator Dean Heller was pleased to vote in favor of this nightmare.

This list seems long enough to send sentient beings into the closet for the Halloween Season, one almost shudders to think what more the Republicans have in mind — like the tax cuts for the 1% and questionable benefits for the rest of the population…

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Filed under anti-immigration, Gun Issues, Immigration, Medicaid, Politics

Our Own Reality Show: Late Night Version

Nightmare Trees Dems

We have a presidential candidate who gets up at odd hours of the night to tweet insults to former beauty pageant winners, and who expended a great deal of time and energy bemoaning the categorization of his White Supremacist followers as “deplorable.”  If these are one’s priorities so be it, but there’s a difference between nightmares and issues – a differentiation not tackled all that efficiently by his supporters and surrogates. 

Republicans appear to be beset with nightmares, not the least of which is we, as a nation, might seem weak in the eyes of others.  Strength is Action. Action is Strength. We must, like a Hollywood B-Movie production complete with car chases and explosions, appear strong.  As we do when bombing some location into gravel and small piles of rubble. This is the nightmare of the small man in the bar just before closing time, well liquored up, who decides to demonstrate his masculinity by punching some fellow who has offer some vague (and probably misinterpreted) insult.   Should these people wake up and read the information available they’d find that the United States spent some 54% of its discretionary spending on the military.

Military Spending Discretionary And, how does this compare to military spending by other nations?  The U.S. spends approximately $2.77 for every dollar spent by the Chinese.

Military Spending Comparisons So, this ought to give some comfort to those whose sleep is disturbed by dreams of military annihilation at the hands of the nefarious.  We have the best equipped, best lead, most professional military in the world.  There are issues here – not nightmares.

One issue is the tendency toward militarism, the notion that all problems have a military solution and thus the military must be accorded a prime place in national planning and policy.  This topic was explored here about eight years ago:

“Evidently lost on the militarists is the notion that one can be supportive of the military without adopting militarism. In fact, a “muscular” militarism that posits the application of military force to each and every conflict is counter-productive to long term military interests. The ‘whack-a-mole’ Bush Administration/McCain policies have the U.S. Armed Forces stretched to the limit, with used and abused equipment, and over-deployed troops, who are facing serious obstacles to receiving comprehensive care and benefits after their service. A cogent, less militaristic, policy would recommend the continual evaluation of our deployment ramifications, sentient assessments of our capacities, and a rational review of our own recruiting and remuneration standards. A less militaristic policy would allow us to employ the diplomatic tools in our arsenal to spare the unnecessary exploitation of our military. When we ‘wise up’ we’ll realize which Party’s candidates can deliver these policies.”  [DB]

In short, if we’ll stop all the posturing and flag waving pseudo-patriotism and start thinking about how and when the use of military force is applicable without draining our resources and putting our diplomatic efforts in jeopardy, then we can all sleep a bit better.

The second nightmare which seems to be grabbing hold of the sweat soaked sheets of our Republican friends is that someone, somewhere, is cheating us out of what is rightfully ours.  Taxation! Tax money being spent on Welfare Queens and Food Stamp cheats!  Oh, the misery.   Waking up and using The Google will solve one part of the nightmare – we really aren’t “taxed to death.”

“The tax burden is lower in the U.S. than in many other developed nations. Of 34 OECD countries, the U.S. tax rate for the average single American with no children ranks No. 17. The tax burden on a single person with two kids ranks 27th. Comparing tax rates across countries is difficult, however, without taking into account how much people benefit from their tax payments in college tuition, retirement income, or more intangible rewards, such as security and the social safety net.” [BlmbNews]

The reality is that there is no monster under the bed.  We aren’t even in the top ten OECD countries in terms of taxation.  But, but, but, how about welfare cheats?   If we look at the SNAP program from the USDA we find that: “The SNAP national payment error rate for fiscal year 2014 is 3.66 percent.  This indicates a 96.34 percent accuracy rate of providing benefits to low income people.  In fiscal year 2014, over 99 percent of participating households  were eligible for SNAP as determined by income and other program criteria.” [USDA]  I can’t speak for anyone else, but if I could get my total financial records into the 96.34% accuracy category I’d be one happy camper in sweet dream land. 

However, nightmares aren’t made of rational ruminations about fiscal accuracy and accounting practices.  They come from anecdotal renditions and repetitions of ‘stories’ about seeing some guy drive up in a new pickup and toting out a case of Budweiser.

“The Act precludes the following items from being purchased with SNAP benefits:  alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, hot food and any food sold for on-premises consumption. Nonfood items such as pet foods, soaps, paper products, medicines and vitamins, household supplies, grooming items, and cosmetics, also are ineligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.” [USDA

Under the terms of the 2002 legislation, no “illegal immigrants” are eligible for SNAP assistance. [USDA]  Further, ‘non-qualified aliens’ are not eligible for a host of other benefit programs, as specified in bureau or agency rules:

“Federal public benefits include a variety of safety-net services paid for by federal funds. But the welfare law’s definition does not specify which particular programs are covered by the term, leaving that clarification to each federal benefit–granting agency. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a notice clarifying which of its programs fall under the definition. The list of 31 HHS programs includes Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare, TANF, Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, the Child Care and Development Fund, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.” [NILC]

Sleep well Republican friends, the undocumented are not eligible for support,  and we are being most parsimonious in regard to our bestowal of benefits. 

Democrats might sleep more comfortably if the following situation were improved:

“Despite growth in SNAP caseloads since the onset of the Great Recession, about 17 percent of those eligible go unserved and SNAP is missing nearly six in ten eligible elderly persons. SNAP policies that improve program access and increase staff capacity to process applications as well as SNAP outreach can help communities, families and businesses maximize federal dollars.” [FRAC]

We should not forget the other monster in the closet. Others.  If slavery was America’s Original Sin, and segregation its phalanx of myrmidons, then racism is the residual.  However, demonization is not necessarily the exclusive domain of people of color – we’ve demonized Irish and Eastern European immigrants, Asian and Chinese immigrants, Jews, Catholics; and lest we forget “commies” during the McCarthy Era. 

Perhaps some right wing individual tosses and turns on the mattress because the phone answering service wants to know if he’d like the message options in Spanish?  This is America, Speak English!  The immigrants will, like most others before them, and the native language will be lost in three generations:

“The authors found that although the generational life expectancy of Spanish is greater among Mexicans in Southern California than other groups, its demise is all but assured by the third generation. Third-generation immigrants are American-born with American-born parents but with three or four foreign-born grandparents.
In the second generation, fluency in Spanish was greater for Mexican immigrants than for other Latin American groups, and substantially greater than the proportions of Asian immigrants who could speak their mother tongue very well. In the third generation, only 17 percent of Mexican immigrants still speak fluent Spanish, and in the fourth generation, just 5 percent. The corresponding fourth-generation figure for white European immigrants is 1 percent.
What is endangered, said the authors, is not the dominance of English but the survival of the non-English languages immigrants bring with them to the United States.” [Princeton Edu/Massey 2006]

If we’re looking for some reason to lose sleep it might be because by the 4th generation we’ve lost 95% to 99% of the language facility we might have had in this increasingly shrinking world.

But, wouldn’t we all sleep more peacefully if we’d just SAY we need to fight “radical Islam?”

First, there’s a little problem defining “radical.”  Do we mean what might be considered conservative Islam, men with beards, women in burkas?  This leaves us with a problem – what to do with the Muslim family who wants the daughter to go to medical school because there’s a need for women doctors to treat women patients?  What to do with the millions of practitioners  of Islam who are not conservative? And the millions more who have a special word for the ISIS thugs who flout their disregard for the basic tenets of Islam – daesh. (That stuff you scrape off the bottom of your shoes.)

Sleep well, the odds against an American being killed in a terrorist attack are 1: 25,000,000. [TechJuc] Another comforting (?) thought is that an American is far more likely to be shot by a toddler than a terrorist. [Snopes]

But that is another nightmare we don’t like to talk about.  I’d sleep better if we could do something about keeping firearms out of the hands of toddlers…

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