Category Archives: Human Rights

Our Outrage Was Insufficient: Tent City Terrors

If we thought the outrage was sufficient to make the current administration reverse its inhumane immigration policies — we were wrong.  This from the New York Times two days ago:

In shelters from Kansas to New York, hundreds of migrant children have been roused in the middle of the night in recent weeks and loaded onto buses with backpacks and snacks for a cross-country journey to their new home: a barren tent city on a sprawling patch of desert in West Texas.

In their former residences the children had access to schools, and to legal assistance. In their new housing they are given workbooks (read: busy work) left ungraded or marked, and they have limited access to any legal assistance they might require.

How many children? 1,600 so far.  The capacity of the “tent city” to which the children were sent is now estimated at 3,800.  The Department of Health and Human Services says these transfers are being done to protect the children from trafficking and other abuses. Not. So. Fast.

“The roughly 100 shelters that have, until now, been the main location for housing detained migrant children are licensed and monitored by state child welfare authorities, who impose requirements on safety and education as well as staff hiring and training.

The tent city in Tornillo, on the other hand, is unregulated, except for guidelines created by the Department of Health and Human Services. For example, schooling is not required there, as it is in regular migrant children shelters.” [NYT]

This doesn’t quite square with DHHS FAQs on the subject of housing and services:

UAC shelters provide housing, nutrition, physical and mental healthcare, educational services, and recreational activities such as television and sports. They provide an environment on par with facilities in the child welfare system that house American children.

The facilities are operated by nonprofit grantees that are certified by state authorities responsible for regulating such facilities housing children.

The statement above tends to summarize the guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services, (see below) but the situation in Texas certainly doesn’t sound like it comports with the requirements:

“Care providers must conduct an educational assessment within 72-hours of a UAC’s admission into the facility in order to determine the academic level of the child and any particular needs he or she may have. Care providers must provide educational services based on the individual academic development, literacy level, and linguistic ability of each unaccompanied alien child.

Each unaccompanied alien child must receive a minimum of six hours of structured education, Monday through Friday, throughout the entire year in basic academic areas (Science, Social Studies, Math, Reading, Writing, Physical Education, and English as a Second Language (ESL), if applicable). Care providers adapt or modify local educational standards to develop curricula and assessments, based on the average length of stay for UAC at the care provider facility, and provide remedial education and after school tutoring as needed. Learning materials must reflect cultural diversity and sensitivity. Any academic breaks must be approved in advance by the care provider’s Project Officer. In no event will any academic break be approved that is over two (2) weeks in duration.

Unaccompanied alien children may be separated into class groups according to their academic development, level of literacy, and linguistic ability rather than by chronological age. As needed, unaccompanied alien children must be provided an opportunity for learning advancement, such as independent study, special projects, pre-GED classes and college preparatory tutorials, among others. Academic reports and progress notes are included and updated in the unaccompanied alien child’s case file which is either sent to another care provider in the event of a transfer or released to the unaccompanied alien child upon discharge.

In short, if the children were left in “regular migrant shelters” then the guidance referenced above would be required, but it seems not to apply to the Tornillo facility, perhaps because the latter is considered “short term” or a transitory station for those who are to be released shortly?  This calls up the question: If the youngsters, presumably ages 13-17), are soon to be released then WHY move them at all?  And, the question about why move them at night is answered in the New York Times article: The authorities wanted to minimize the youngsters’ ability to run away.

Right now is as good a time as any to recall that:

(1) The Trump Administration hasn’t really done much to alter the inhumanity of its immigration policies, and certainly not in respect to our treatment of children.

(2) The Administration is increasing, not decreasing, its efforts to penalize, stigmatize, and traumatize people who approach our ports of entry seeking asylum. It is legal to seek asylum.  It is unconscionable to narrow the justification for seeking asylum such that almost no one becomes eligible.

(3) It is unconstitutional, immoral, indecent, and inhumane to separate children from their parents.  The Administration still has not fully complied with the court ordered reunification of parents and children.  The executive branch made a hash of the original plan, hoped no one would notice what a debacle the policy created, and then sought to have the ACLU become responsible for fixing the Administration’s mess.

(4) The Administration is currently seeking to hold some children indefinitely.  Indefinitely.

(5) The Administration is relying on the services of BCFS to provide the expertise and governance of the shelter.  BCFS advertises its world wide connections, but its government partnerships are mostly with Texas, along with Nevada, Washington, and Maine, and the City of Los Angeles.  It also lists various federal agencies among its partners.  There is certainly nothing intrinsically wrong with agencies farming out projects to non-profits, it’s done all the time in a variety of circumstances.  However, the old business adage always applies: “You can’t control what you don’t own.”

The bottom line appears to be that the administration is forging an immigration policy predicated on blatant racism (no Brownish Tinged People Need Apply) and founded on the concept that to make America great again America should be White.  How can we be great if we allow people to come from “Sh*thole Countries?”

It’s time to hear, very clearly, from our federal office seeking candidates — for example Senator Dean Heller (R-NV).  At what point do we stop advocating stop-gap partial fixes which “pronounce” the displeasure of Congress with the notion of separating children from their families, and take up REAL immigration policy reform?

When do we do the right thing?  Protect Dreamers?  Allow a path to citizenship for qualified productive members of our society? Protect naturalized citizens from petty prosecutions and pointless deportations?  Protect natural born citizens from ridiculously racist harassment? Cherish the children who come to us seeking our help and shelter?

“Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.  But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” (Amos 5:23-24)

In other words, when do we cut the song and dance and do the right thing?

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Filed under Human Rights, Immigration, Politics

I Just Can’t But I Will

When I started this little blog yea these many years ago it was in no small part because there didn’t seem to be (1) all that many liberal blogs in northern Nevada, and (2) a way to force myself to wander around the Internet LEARNING things to fill gaps in my understanding of important issues.  Oh, and by the way, in a former life I was a history and political science major so I liked the opportunity to dig back into these subjects and treat myself to historical references and such.   Until 2017 this was fun.  There have been a paucity of posts lately, because of the Trump Administration’s propensity for taking the fun out of just about every topic imaginable.

For example, it’s no fun anymore to peruse the economic data, seek trends, and find interesting analyses — because in Trumpland data, analysis, and rationality don’t matter.  In Trumpland our allies are peppered with trade threats which make absolutely no sense whatsoever, while our adversaries and competitors are left guessing what “policy” the administration might be advocating from one day to the next.  There is no plan.  There are only petulant, provocative, reactions — predicated, it appears, on an understanding of world trade premised upon the situation of at the very least 38 years ago.

For example, it’s no fun anymore to watch the development of social policy, and social progress.  Yes, there’s been Hate Radio since the 1980’s, but terms like “Femi-Nazis” and “Half-Ricans” were the language of the exterior, marginalized away from polite conversation and civic discourse. We did not refer to “sh*thole nations,” nor did we speak of people “infesting” us, or “invading” us. We did not refer to human beings as “vermin.”  We did not classify entire populations of adherents to a particular religion as “terrorists.” We did not deem people unfit for service because of the color of their skin or their sexual orientation.  Now, we have a President who says there were “good people” on both sides in Charlottesville — where one side chanted ‘Blood and Soil,” and “You Will Not Replace Us,” outside a synagogue. We have a President conflating asylum seekers with drug traffickers, with human traffickers, with ordinary families seeking a better life for their children.  And we ripped their children away from those asylum seekers and ordinary families.  We reclassified (?) the children as “unaccompanied minors” when we deported their parents. We lost track of where we hid those children in the dark of night. There was no plan. There never seems to be a plan.  It’s always more like the petulant provocative reactions to momentary political expediency.

For example, it’s no fun anymore to follow governmental approaches to common issues in American life.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?  Repurposed to serve the interests of the bankers who caused the problems in the first instance?  The EPA, corrupt leadership included, catering to the industries which find polluting and exploiting more profitable in the short term than caring for the viability of the planet they leave for their children.

So, the blog posts were few and far between of late.  The other notion which informed the initiation of this blog was that it would be “family friendly.”  The comments section would be monitored.  I would avoid invective and profanity in the posts.  Last week the only terms I could find to apply to the Trumpian policy of deliberate, incompetent, incomprehensible, family separation were invective and profoundly profane.

I’ve vented, alone and among friends, and I’ve calmed a bit.  So, the blog posts will continue and I will do so with the comments monitored and a curb on my tongue.  However, I will not be silenced.  I should have taken the words of one of my heroes in youth, the late great Ronnie Gilbert, to heart when someone ask her how the current situation compared to the bleak days of the McCarthy Era Black Lists — she said it was now worse.

So, I’ll pull myself together — pound out some more pixels, more often, and with as much enthusiasm as I can muster without breaking my two main rules — no unfiltered comments, no profanity.  But, I will applaud flight attendants with the courage to tell us that immigration officials lied to get migrant children on board the flight; cheer the owner of the Red Hen restaurant who would not serve a member of the Trump Administration as a measure of her conscience, and smile at the those ordinary Americans who, when they see migrant children being moved in the wee hours will call a local reporter — who will share the information with a national reporter — who will stick another pin the the map — who will try to answer the question: Where are the children and girls?

And, I’ll keep doing this until the Trump Administration hears Ronnie Gilbert’s bold contralto singing out the lyrics of “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You.” (Not)

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Filed under banking, blogs, financial regulation, Human Rights, Immigration, Politics

Respect Must Be Earned: ICE and CBP aren’t helping themselves

Law enforcement isn’t an easy job, not that it’s one of the most dangerous, it isn’t. The most dangerous job is logging, followed by commercial fishing, law enforcement ranks 15th on the list.  However, it’s not high on the popularity list in some quarters, and actions by ICE and the CBP aren’t helping.

Daniela Vargas was 7 years old when her family came from Argentina. That makes her a Dreamer, and supposedly protected from deportation under the current administration’s directives.  Her status, with a renewal application pending, should have been safe, but it wasn’t because she spoke out and was immediately detained by ICE for a “visa overstay.”

Sara Beltran Hernandez a 26 year old asylum seeker from El Salvador has been in detention for about 450 days, on February 10 she collapsed and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. [LAT] Report vary about the conditions under which she was held and her access to legal representation and family support. However, no one is disputing that she was shackled at one point until medical staff ask that the restraints be removed so her medical needs could be addressed.

Muhammad Ali Jr. was detained at a Florida airport by agents who asked him about his religion.  Ali, who was born in Philadelphia, was asked “How did you get your name?” The most obvious answer would be that he happened to be the son of Muhammad Ali, and American icon.  An American man, traveling with his American passport is detained by immigration agents?  Worse still, he’s asked about his religion. The agency denied he was detained because of his religion, but what else could it be?  Unless, of course, we’re going to start detaining and questioning all black travelers coming to America, or coming back to America?

Henry Rousso, born in Egypt, one of the pre-eminent scholars of the Holocaust was detained for almost ten hours and threatened with deportation by agents in Houston, TX.  The Houston CBP agents didn’t appear to understand that those academics who are paid a stipend to speak to conferences such as the one organized by Texas A&M, are allowed to travel on a tourist visa. The agents were described as “inexperienced”and Texas A&M officials were successful in providing the “inexperienced” ones with some on the job training.

Passengers on a domestic Delta Airlines flight were delayed at JFK airport on February 22nd, when CPB and ICE agents decided to check the identification of all passengers on the flight while looking for an individual — who was not on the flight.

All five of these incidents do not place either ICE or CBP in a kindly light as protectors of our national security.  In none of these incidents were any “bad hombres” detained and deported, not one.  What they do seem to indicate is that agents are insufficiently trained, questionably supervised, and now endowed with a sense of their own authority, sufficient to constitute a danger to our Constitution and the safety of our citizens.

If ICE and CBP agents want our respect they must do a better job of earning it.

 

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Filed under Human Rights, Immigration, Politics

Gee I’m Glad I’m Not A Conservative Republican, I can sleep at night

Monster under bed

It never fails to amaze me what disturbs the radical right.  When the city of Charlotte, NC declared that transgender individuals should use the rest room which best suits them the troglodyte state legislature promptly  enacted a solution to a non-existent problem.  Should anyone question their motives, such as a Fox News broadcaster asking specifically how many children have been molested in restrooms by a transgender person, the Governor has a quick response:

“How many cases have you had in North Carolina in the last year where people have been convicted of using transgender protections to commit crimes in bathrooms?” Wallace asked.

“This wasn’t a problem!” McCrory replied. “That’s the point I’m making. This is the Democratic Party and the left wing of the Democratic Party.”

“Have their been any cases of this?” Wallace pressed.

“Not that I’m aware of,” McCrory admitted. [C&L]

There would be a reason for that. There haven’t been any.  There weren’t any last year, and there haven’t been any in the last five years.  The charade continued:

“If there’s no problem then why pass the law in the first place?” Wallace hammered.

“There can be a problem,” McCrory fired back. “Because the liberal Democrats are the ones pushing for bathroom laws.”

“I’m not interested in that,” he added. “We did not start this on the right. Who started it was the political left.” [C&L]

Oh, because there CAN be a problem. Like there Can be a monster under my bed?   The logic defies description.  Because a city decided to protect the rights of a group of people, and because those people give some other people the creeps, therefore the state legislature should enact a statute forbidding the protection of those aforementioned individuals? Or, perhaps, because some little junior high school boys might want to sneak into the girls locker room we can’t enact protection for transgender kids and adults?  Bluntly speaking, junior high school boys and those adults who haven’t matured much beyond that stage are much more sinister than any transgender males or females using a restroom in which they’re comfortable.

Children If the Republicans want something to worry about, something more tangible than the non-existent child molesters who seem to populate the imaginations of conservative politicians, how about the scary prospect of hungry children?  In 2014, in the richest nation in the entire world, 15.3 million children lived in what is politely known as “food insecure” households. [FA.org]  As of 2014 there were 415,129 children in foster care. 107,918 children were waiting to be adopted.  Instead of worrying about some fictive character lurking in a rest room, how about getting a bit more worried about REAL children who aren’t eating, and aren’t finding homes?

Vote suppression map The  tortured conservative  logic is similar to argument for voting restrictions of which the Republicans are so fond.  Talk about an upcoming election and they begin to sound off on Voting Integrity.  Ask them about the number of prosecutable cases of voter impersonation fraud and the babbling begins.  Inform them that voter impersonation fraud is mostly smoke and no fire [Politifact] [Brennan Center] with 31 cases out of one billion ballots cast [WaPo] and the response is invariably along the line of “But but but It Could Happen.”  Yes, and there could as likely be a monster under my bed.

It’s more disturbing to find that in the 2012 elections some 35.9% of Americans voted.  48.7% of us voted in 1964, 47.3% voted in 1968 and we haven’t gotten above 45% since. [EP.org]  However, by Republican lights it’s better to be frightened of 31/1 billion ballots than of low turnout elections.  What’s the difference between these two issues  — voter impersonation fraud and low voter turnout? One’s a real problem and the other is a Monster Under The Bed.

Unstable Furniture Beware those doing mathematical calculations!  Like the distraught lady on the American Airlines flight who “saw something” and “said something,” only the Something was an Ivy League economist working on a differential equation. And, no, he’s not an Arab – he’s Italian. [WaPo] That didn’t stop the Ditzel from reporting that he made her feel uncomfortable, like he Might be a terrorist.  Unfortunately, the Ditzel didn’t know that since 2011 there have been 238 Americans killed by terrorist attacks, that would be an average of 29 annually.  29 annual deaths is about the rate for Americans killed by being crushed under unstable furniture or television sets. [WaPo] [CPSC pdf]  One might wonder if she has everything in her home bolted down tightly?

This incident isn’t quite on par with CNN’s epic mistake reporting an “ISIS flag” comprised of sex toys at a British gay pride parade [HWR] but it’s close.  Should we want something REAL to worry about, perhaps we should try avoiding things that make ISIS happy. For example, announcing that we’re AT WAR with ISLAM – which is, of course, precisely the message they’d like to use for recruiting purposes.

Money Stack

If transgender people, imaginary voter impersonators, and putative terrorists aren’t keeping the conservatives up at night then they could always worry about The Debt, The Debt, The Horrible No Good National Debt.  It’s the reason we can’t do anything – like fix our infrastructure or education our children, or take care of our elderly, or provide better Veterans’ benefits, or feed the hungry.  This fear is especially harmful to those who tend to swallow dollar amounts whole.  By the way, if the Republicans need something else to worry about, some 4,800 people die every year from choking related accidents. [NSC]  Here are some soothing words for those who tend to obsess over whole dollar reports on the national debt:

“…this problem — reporters giving the public meaningless raw-dollar amounts — is pervasive in economics journalism. But the people who run CBO are well aware of this point, and present their projections as a percentage of GDP. Interest payments will be 1.3 percent of GDP in 2015, and 3 percent in 2025. The deficit itself will be 2.6 percent of GDP, and then 4 percent, over that same time period.

Obviously, in an ideal world, you’d prefer these numbers to not grow. But increases of 1.7 and 1.4 percent points of GDP over a decade are hardly something to get excited about. [TheWeek]

OMG, we can’t leave the debt to our children! Okay, so it’s better to leave them with crumbling infrastructure? With an archaic energy grid? With a lack of public educational facilities and programs? With no affordable child care? Without food?  Without affordable housing? Without health care?

If the Republicans really wanted something to be frightened of, how about the D+ grade we get for our infrastructure?  Our aging energy grid?  Our colleges scrambling to find funds to replace reductions in state spending?  Those 15.3 million kids going hungry?  Or, if life itself seems perilous perhaps it’s because every day 297 people in American are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police interventions. And, every day 89 people die as a result of gun violence. 31 are murdered, 55 are suicides, 2 are accidental, 1 is killed by police intervention, and 1 in unaccounted for. [TBC]

Or, to put the matter in some perspective, between 2005 and 2015 there were 71 Americans killed in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. During that same period 301,797 were killed by gun violence. [Trace]

Nightmares are distracting and distractions.  The imaginary becomes more intense than the reality.  Somehow we can’t seem to focus on some very real problems in this country – hungry children, un-adopted children, children in inadequate classrooms, low voter turnout, an aging infrastructure and energy grid, gun violence and its tragic outcomes – because we have to deal with the monsters under the Republican mattresses.

Monsters bed And, that’s a real nightmare.

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Filed under conservatism, CPSC, gay issues, Gun Issues, Human Rights, Republicans, Vote Suppression, Voting

Do We Have To Make Racists Comfortable?

No sooner did an African American take the oath of office as the President of the United States than racists (and those who tolerate them) began slathering on the euphemisms and buzz words for making opposition to him credible.  Remember the e-mails that made the rounds? The ones with “bones in noses” and “watermelons on the White House lawn?” And the response, “We were only joking.”

Obama racist cartoon

Those who found this cartoon amusing are racists. Purely and simply racist. Those who took these people seriously are enablers .. consider CNN’s “debate” about whether this obnoxious drivel was “Racist or Satirical.”  There’s no debate here. The cartoon is clearly, obviously, evidently racism.  How do we know this? A black man as a “savage.” A black man as a “witch doctor.”   Enough people were indignant about this offensive cartoon that its advocates slunk off to find more fodder for their e-mail lists.

However, the obvious racists are relatively easy to deal with – and even easier to shun.  Those “dens of lone wolves,” the Internet’s dark corners of hate and intolerance can be monitored, the “patriots” can be watched, and the hate-mongers prosecuted.  It’s the enablers of institutionalized and personal racism who seem more problematic.  Perhaps we’ll be able to move forward if we shatter some persistent myths.

The Myth of Two Sides

In the current cable news template, there must be “two sides” to an issue.  Let’s revert to the day someone at CNN decided to produce a segment on that 2009 cartoon.  Yes, they decided, the cartoon was, indeed, racist, but why was the question posed at all?  Well, gee, it could, it might, it may look in some circles, … like racism, but it could also be political criticism… Really?  No, to anyone with any sensitivity, or an IQ above cauliflower, it was racism.   Moving along the continuum from “we’re just joking” we get to “can’t you take a joke?”  Other presidents have had horrible cartoons drawn and published about them, why are we so sensitive about a black president?   For the near-veggies who might read this: It’s because he is a black man, and black men have been vilified for centuries in this part of the world for being “savage,” and “wild,” and “emotional,” and “lustful,” and … we could keep going here, but that would only serve to raise blood pressure.  So, let’s get to the point: Racist and ethnic jokes aren’t funny. Except to racists.  But, but, but… African Americans (and blondes and Poles) do it? That still doesn’t make it right.  The ‘everybody does it’ response is usually the province of immature adolescents trying to explain their misbehavior to the parents.  We should be a bit more mature.

The Myth of the Mirrors

Another myth which should hit the skids is the banal “speaking out about racism is divisive.”   Well, obviously, yes.  As well it should be. Who wants to be lumped into the same category with racists?

Remember the Twitter Fit from the Right when the President commented on the murder of Trayvon Martin?   The  Right echoed George Zimmerman’s whining about the President “rushing to judgment,” and said the President’s comment “pitted American against American.” [Hill]  It’s “race-baiting” to talk about race?

“…the allegation is that simply talking about race in America makes you a racist. It is, as Boehlert called it, “a very odd brand of projection” that’s “very weird and complicated,” but that’s where the roles of endless repetition and cognitive closure come in. They naturalize and normalize what would otherwise clearly be both arbitrary and bizarre.” [Salon]

If we boiled the “endless repetition and cognitive closure” down to its essentials what comes out is – If you talk about racial issues in ways that make racists uncomfortable, i.e. it makes people confront their own racism, it must be ‘race-baiting.’   When this message moves inextricably closer to its inevitable extension we can no longer speak of a whole host of topics which cause conservatives to squirm.

We can’t have a national discussion about institutional racism in employment, housing, or health care outcomes because … we’d be “divisive.”

We can’t have a national discussion about voting rights and the African American community, and other communities of color, because … we’d be ‘divisive.’

We can’t have a national civil debate about the social costs of mass incarceration of African Americans and other people of color, because … we’d be ‘divisive.’

And, Heaven Help Us, we can’t have a discussion about policing in America because … we’d be ‘divisive.” Worse still, we’d be “race-baiting,” as asserted by the Louisville, Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police.  [Full letter here]

The Myth of A Non-Partisan World

I think I’m going to gag at the very next assertion that what we need in this country is “healing,” and “bipartisanship.”  There never was, and never will be, a harmonic idyllic session of any democratically elected ruling body gracefully gliding over issues and points of disagreement with elegance and aplomb.  And yet, this is the standard by which some of the Chattering Classes measure the effectiveness of legislators and legislation. “The bill had bi-partisan support,” as if that automatically made the bill any better law.  Yes, politics is the art of the possible. And, yes, pragmatism usually makes more progress than strident partisanship.  However, there are some points at which we should agree, and one of the prime ones in American life is that racism is wrong.

The racists are aware of this. Why else would they be quick to tell us that they were only joking, or that they are merely being satirical? Why else would they begin obnoxious expressions with “I’m not racist, but…?” Why else would they whine so loudly if it’s suggested their own brand of projection is nothing more than an attempt to ‘normalize’ what is patently arbitrary and downright bizarre?

Sometimes wrong is just wrong.   We can debate the finer points of trade agreements, international arms agreements, educational policy, health care insurance needs, and so many other topics, but this is 2015 and we should no longer have to make racists comfortable and racism tolerable. Nor do we need to tolerate its symbols.

CSA battle flag

The Stars and Bars, isn’t a Redneck Flag —  unless the aforementioned Redneck is a racist. It isn’t a symbol of southern heritage – unless that heritage is hate.

NASCAR, yes NASCAR, got the message back in 2005:

“NASCAR has a policy that prevents use of the Stars and Bars or other controversial subjects on any car, uniform, licensed product or track facility under its control, but that doesn’t stop hard-line rebel fans from displaying it.

“We recognize that the Confederate flag is an important issue for a lot of people and as our fan base grows, we are doing what we can to break down its use and be more in the mainstream,” said Ramsey Poston, NASCAR director of corporate communications.” [LA Times]

Mainstream America doesn’t sport the traitorous Stars and Bars, the battle flag of a revolt, the cornerstone of which was the preservation of the Peculiar Institution, as expressed by the CSA vice-president when speaking about their new CSA constitution:

“Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition. [Applause.] This, our new Government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” [Alexander Stephens,  March 21, 1861]

Lee surrenders Is there any good reason why we have to tolerate the display of a flag which was truly and historically divisive – physically, philosophically, and morally divisive?  It did divide us – dividing us between those who thought chattel slavery and all its horrible implications was a physical, philosophical, and moral good, from those who believed chattel slavery was a cancer in the body politic and a moral catastrophe.  It took four bloody years, but the Good Guys won.  Someone made a picture of it.

So, if reading this post made you “uncomfortable” I’m not the least bit sorry.  I think there’s a better use for my capacity for sympathy and sorrow – for the victims of that heinous act of domestic terrorism by a horrid racist in South Carolina.

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Filed under conservatism, Hate Crimes, Human Rights, media, Obama, Politics, racism

Republican Disintegration

GOP Elephant BrokenFor years now those of us on the left hand side of the political spectrum have endured the “Democrats in Disarray” narrative.  Every spat, from the serious to the silly, was described by the platitudinous pundits as yet another example of the Democratic Party being unable to organize all the critters inside the tent.  “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line,” we’ve been told.  However, at least we didn’t tear up the tent.

Nothing illustrates the disarray and mixed messaging quite so thoroughly, if inelegantly, as the current news in regard to the unaccompanied children showing up from Central America who may be seeking asylum or refugee status.

Where is the Pro-Family Party?  Good luck locating it at the moment.  On one hand, we have Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) telling us that ‘Children are the Future,’ and the little fetus in the womb is entitled to life, liberty, and property [C&L] but, if the zygote grows and gets born then evidently all bets are off.  On the other, a  sheriff in Arizona was only too happy to tip off angry protestors to the possibility that some of the “actuated zygotes” were on their way to a boys’ ranch. [C&L] There’s nothing that says “Pro-Family” quite like facilitating the activities of screaming xenophobes who want to block  buses loaded with children, and shake misspelled signs in their faces.

Why do children come here?  Maria’s story is compelling and chilling.  It’s very easy to sling generalities such as “illegal immigration is illegal,” but takes more intellectual effort to comprehend why an environment in which a youngster is forced to sell contraband drugs, is raped for the amusement of drug gang members, who has been threatened with death, [C&L] or has seen a sibling shot and killed, [NYT] is analogous to a war zone in which the police can’t be expected to help. [DoS]  Exactly how is it “Pro-Family” or “Pro-Life” to demand that (1) children be separated from their parents or (2) children be immediately shipped back into the violent chaos without a hearing?

Republicans have pulled every excuse from every page of the book to absolve themselves from the responsibility for delaying comprehensive immigration reform.  Remember when they wanted to “secure the border first?”  That would be the border with Mexico, Canada not so much.  Then the statistics came in:

“U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions totaled 420,789 nationwide in FY 2013, 16 percent above FY2012, but 42 percent below FY 2008 levels. While Border Patrol apprehensions of Mexicans in FY 2013 remained largely unchanged from FY2012, apprehensions of individuals from countries other than Mexico, predominately individuals from Central America, increased by 55 percent. ” [DHS]

That’s APPREHENSIONS, stopping migration at the border.  While immigration from Mexico declined, migration from Central America increased.

Then there’s the matter of Border Patrol staffing, which at the present numbers some 21,000 BP agents, who are engaged in “line watch and sign cutting,” “traffic checkpoints,” “marine patrols,” horse and bicycle patrols,” and anti-drug trafficking operations.  [DHS] This is enhanced by funding from Operation Stonegarden

“In FY 2013, $55 million in Operation Stonegarden funding was provided to states to enhance border security cooperation and coordination among local, tribal, territorial, state and federal law enforcement agencies. States that received funding in FY 2013 included Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas on the southern border; Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington on the northern border, and Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Puerto Rico on the coastal borders.” [DHS]

Increasing apprehensions, increasing the number of Border Patrol Agents, declining numbers from Mexico. Increased assistance to state, local, and tribal governments — and “IT” still is insufficient for the xenophobic bigot brigade.

We could build a fence? A bigger fence. A taller fence? A stronger fence.  Just about a week ago one Pastor told us that Jesus of Nazareth would have wanted a fence.

“What we are doing by having these unsecured borders is we are enticing children and mothers to make this dangerous journey,” the Christian leader added. “Yes, we want to show compassion to the children who are here, but the most compassionate thing we can do is secure the borders.”

Because in the analogical world of this mega-church reverend not having a Really Really Strong Fence is like not having one at all around your backyard swimming pool, in other words the Pastor is telling us that the United States is reduced to being one giant Attractive Nuisance?

It seems not to have occurred to some people that for every 40 foot fence there can be manufactured a 41 foot ladder.   So, what exactly IS an “unsecured border?”

The Administration increased border patrol operations — that wasn’t enough to secure the border, the Administration increased surveillance operations to secure the border, and that wasn’t enough.  Perhaps the Photo-Op from the right wing, compliments of a tweet from Fox News personality Sean Hannity is the image of a secure border?

Hannity Border Patrol

Of course the image hints at a pertinent question, the one raised by the Kansas City Star:  “Is this really the image we want to portray to the rest of the country — and the rest of the world — about how we handle humanitarian crises in other parts of the world?

No, the Pro-Life, Pro-Family Party will not be satisfied until the southern border is militarized — the bigger the guns the better, and mobilized — the more agents, Guardsmen, and members of the Armed Forces the better; except, that is, for the urging of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to get the ball rolling.  Until then — more excuses.

The “security” topic is getting to be dangerous territory for the absolutists and exclusionists so it’s time to change the excuse. The latest rationalization is “we can’t trust the President.”

Speaker John Boehner trotted out this line back in February to excuse Republican intransigence on Comprehensive Immigration Policy reform. [TP]  So, illegal entry is at a 40 year low, and we have more Border Patrol Agents than ever, but now…. There comes a point where the old saw become a truism: Those people who are good at making excuses usually aren’t good at anything else.

The Nevada Representatives from the GOP side are exemplars of the disarray in the Republican Party when it comes to immigration reform.

From Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2): “Amodei, R-Carson City., said he still believes that the House should take up reform that includes a way for many undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship by learning English and American civics, paying back taxes and fines and waiting more than a decade.” [RGJ]  That said, you will not find Rep. Amodei’s name on the discharge petition for H.R. 15, the comprehensive immigration reform bill.  In short, the Congressman appears to be all for immigration policy reform — except when he isn’t.

Representative Joe Heck (R-NV3) pitched his version of an immigration reform bill back in December 2013.  Back home with the zealots he faced the crowd, one member of which said we don’t have a broken immigration system, “We just need to enforce the law.” [WaPo]   Heck’s bill went nowhere, and we don’t see his signature on the discharge petition for H.R. 15 either.  Representatives Titus (D-NV1) and Horsford (D-NV4) have both signed the discharge petition for H.R. 15.

Nothing says disarray like politicians declaring their support for immigration policy reform, in line with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, [TP] [WaPo] while steadfastly refusing to bring the bill to do so to the floor of the House; and, offering one excuse after another to avoid the prospect of a real live vote on the legislation. It’s ironic that the two Democratic Party Representatives in Congress from Nevada are the two supporting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce call for immigration policy reform, while the two Republicans are still in stall mode.

Meanwhile, back in the not-so-family-friendly environment in Honduras, 500 who attempted to reach the U.S. came back as deportees, the reaction from Honduras:

“This is the first time in Honduras we serve such deportation” told the media the first lady, Ana García Hernández; who was present during the arrival of the deportados. For his part, the Executive Director of Private Institutions Coordinator for Girls, Boys, Teens, Youth and Their Rights (COIPRODEN) Wilmer Velasquez explained that the newcomers “show feelings among including impotence, frustration and despair and who traveled to fulfill a dream and returned with nothing.” [Lainfo.Es]

What is Pro-Family? Pro-Life? Or, even Pro-American, about leaving people feeling impotent, frustrated, and full of despair?

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>Overnight Express: News Roundup

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Representatives of the Nevada Statewide Native American Coalition met with members of the state’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. during a February 10th session on teen substance abuse issues and the importance of supporting drug and alcohol prevention. [RGJ] The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, with which the NSNAC is affiliated, reports that “Drug Free Communities” have significantly lower substance abuse rates as compared to communities without DFC funded coalitions. [CADCA] The Nevada contingent sought support from Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and John Ensign (R-NV), as well as from members of House Dina Titus (D-NV3), Shelley Berkley (D-NV1), and Dean Heller (R-NV2).

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar met with members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, telling them that he was committed to restoring integrity in government relations with Indian tribes, and to work cooperatively with Native American communities. He added, “I will also seek to resolve the unending litigation about the management of these land and water assets. And I am committed to the settlement of Indian water rights claims.” [DoI] Salazar’s full statement is available at the Senate Indian Affairs Committee website in PDF format. The GAO has published its assessment of federal land management operations in “Federal Land Management: Observations on a possible move of the Forest Service into the Department of the Interior.”

It’s not the week to be a fly by night tax preparation scam artist in Florida. The Department of Justice announced that Harold Mette of Bradenton, FL has been permanently barred from preparing federal tax returns. Mr. Mette created bogus corporations for each customer in order to fraudulently claim non-deductible personal expenses as business expenses for his clients. Even more creative, Mette deducted client’s personal medical expenses as “incentive payments” on the bogus corporation returns. [DoJ] But wait, there’s another one! Shirley Clark of Jacksonville prepared tax returns between 2004 and 2007 in which she claimed $750,000 in fraudulent fuel tax credits. The federal complaint also alleges Clark fabricated income and expense reports to maximize the earned income tax credits for her customers.[DoJ] However, Bradenton and Jacksonville are not alone – the Department of Justice is suing Robert Cusenza, West Palm Beach, seeking to bar him from tax preparation because he too got into the false fuel tax credit game, for $200,000 worth. Mr. Cusenza also claimed a variety of other bogus deductions, including home mortgage interest. One return prepared by Cusenza claimed that a couple who made $17,878 in combined annual earnings had the means to pay and were entitled to deduct $2,132, 287 in interest on their home mortgage. [DoJ]

Back in Nevada, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s office announced on February 24, 2009 that a federal court order has been issued halting deceptive trade practices of seven U.S based companies and one individual functioning as parts of an international Internet pay-day lender operation. The group was charged with failing to disclose key loan terms and using abusive and deceptive collection tactics. Nevada and the FTC seek to permanently bar the group from any future activities and force them to surrender the money obtained using the illegal collection tactics. [full story here]

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will conduct a hearing on Consumer Protection and the Credit Crisis, Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 10:00 AM. The witness list is available on the committee website, and includes FTC Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour, and representatives from the American Financial Services Association, and the Consumer Federation of America. The House Committee on Financial Services will hear from witnesses on the subject of “Exploring the balance between increased credit availability and prudent lending standards” on Wednesday, March 4, 2009. [HCFS]

Look Ma! No Trains: ‘Just waiting for some right wingers to announce that the following items in the Economic Stimulus legislation are wasteful spending: Las Vegas Metro Police – $200,000 for methamphetamine hazard response. McCarran Airport – $807,500 for wind hazard detection equipment. Las Vegas TRACON air traffic control facility at McCarran $9.9 million. Nevada Cancer Institute breast cancer screening program (mammovan) $381,000. [Berkley] To the “Tax Cuts Solve Everything Crowd,” the Center for American Progress has published “Before the Bush Recession: Supply side tax cuts failed to deliver jobs and growth between 2001 and 2007.”

Thirty nine economists, including two Nobel laureates, have signed on to the Economic Policy Institute’s statement in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act. “A rising tide lifts all boats only when labor and management bargain on relatively equal terms,” the statement says.“In recent decades, most bargaining power has resided with management. The current recession will further weaken the ability of workers to bargain individually. More than ever, workers will need to act together. The Employee Free Choice Act is not a panacea, but it would restore some balance to our labor markets. As economists, we believe this is a critically important step in rebuilding our economy and strengthening our democracy by enhancing the voice of working people in the workplace.” More at EPI.

President Obama misspoke when he said there was one medical expense related personal bankruptcy every 30 seconds, according to FactCheck.Org the number is more like one medical expense related personal bankruptcy every 60 seconds. Somehow, this still seems alarmingly high. Frankly, one each and every day would be too much.

Hot Spots: “Bangladesh guard mutiny spreads” [BBC] “Detainees split Zimbabwe Cabinet” [BBC] “Somalia death toll hits 69 in worst fighting for week” [MSNBC] “Nigeria delays troop deployment in Somalia” [VOA] “Somalia: renewed fighting could undermine new government” [IRIN] “Rwanda leaves DR Congo” [BBC] “A massacre in the Congo despite nearby support” [NYT] “Sudan, DR Congo, Zimbabwe mar Africa’s rights record, US” [AFP]

The full text of the U.S. State Department’s reports for Zimbabwe, with low marks for “arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life,” and “politically motivated abductions,” including “torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” and other transgressions fully explicated in the complete report. The State Department report on the Sudan is shorter but no less poignant in its summarization of the human rights situation. The State Department report on the situation in the DR Congo is punctuated with evidence of politically motivated killings and the execution of civilians by security forces. And then there’s “Falling revenues threaten rebuilding and stability in Iraq” [NYT]

Lest we forget: “Uncovering lost path of the most wanted Nazi” [NYT]

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