Unfortunate Similarities

Scapegoating is never positive and never without antecedents. Why does this keep happening?  Perhaps because it’s convenient, and pen-ultimately selfish.

“Scapegoating removes us from one of our central ethical constructs, which is to see everything as part of a whole. When someone is scapegoated, we are denying this conceptualization in the service of identifying an easy target. Further, scapegoating can only occur when we turn a blind eye to complex power dynamics.” [TSW]

Thus, it’s likely no accident that divisive leadership both encourages and utilizes scapegoating as a means to its own ends.  The end, of course, is power.  A divided office, a divided state, a divided nation, is all the more susceptible to control if there is a degeneration of the ability to see “everything as part of a whole.” Those who use or accept scapegoating are loath to see a diverse American population as a positive amalgam of ethnic and gender groups, but as a collection of different populations some of which are not part of a common identity.  The results of group on group scapegoating in this context  are particularly pernicious:

“Groups chosen for scapegoating are also often in low-status positions due to the socio-economic structure of society, and also lack power and the ability to fight back against the scapegoating. It is common for scapegoating to grow out of common, widespread prejudices against and practices of stereotyping minority groups. Scapegoating of minority groups often leads to violence against the targeted groups, and in the most extreme cases, to genocide. All of which is to say, group-on-group scapegoating is a dangerous practice.” [Soc.]

We’re watching stereotyping, and scapegoating in the current administration.  If it’s the current administration’s intent to be transparent about their racism and bigotry they’re doing a fine job.  Two paragraphs from a highly recommended article by Heather Digby Parton provide a description of the parallels between the current administration and its antecedents:

“There are parallels to be found in U.S. history, with the marginalization of earlier waves of immigrants and our horrific scapegoating of African-Americans and Native Americans for crimes they didn’t commit. But the drawing up of lists of criminals of a certain ethnicity to publish for public consumption brings to mind the most famous scapegoating of a population in history. That would of course be the systematic persecution of the Jewish population of Europe during the Nazi era.

From the early 1930s onward, the pro-Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer published lists of crimes allegedly committed by Jews. When Adolf Hitler came to power the government took over the job in order to further stoke anti-Semitism. The point of Trump’s order is to stoke anti-immigrant paranoia, almost entirely directed at Latinos and Muslims. The parallel is ugly but it’s accurate.” [Salon]

Der Sturmer, a tabloid newspaper published by Julius Streicher beginning in 1923 carried a tag line at the bottom: “The Jews are our misfortune.”  The message was endlessly repeated by a newspaper which relied on rumor for its sources; readers were invited to fill out and send in cards in which the ‘crimes of the Jews’ were described, and the paper printed these tales with little or no investigation. It was enough to have fodder to feed the columns of print for antisemitic readers.  Therefore, those who find parallels in the administration’s desire to create an office of Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement (VOICE, which could as easily be VICE) aren’t far from the mark.  The collection of ‘crime’ stories, and their compilation without regard to the citizenship status of “aliens,” is an open invitation to corrupt the commonality of American civic society.

Someone in this proposed office must be charged with defining an ‘alien,’ is it a first generation immigrant?  A permanent resident, a person with a green card, a person with a temporary visa? A naturalized citizen?  The definition is crucial, one of those devil in the details items warranting our scrutiny.

How will the ‘crime reports’ be compiled? From databases kept by local law enforcement personnel? From reports in local, regional, or national media?  From cards sent in by ‘concerned citizens?’  It’s interesting to note that while it’s a fact that immigrants commit fewer crimes (pdf) than native born citizens, our government prevents the compilation of gun violence statistics as a public health issue, a real national security and health problem, we are invited to compile ‘evidence’ of crimes committed by immigrants.

And, what is a ‘crime?’  Will the databases be filled with those who have entered the country without documents? Or, those who have overstayed visas? Those who have committed traffic offenses? Those who have sold items without collecting sales taxes? Those who have violated local sanitation ordinances?  If the practices of ICE and CBP of late are any indication, there’s little reason for confidence in their capacity to differentiate the serious from the quotidian from the downright ludicrous. How will violations of their enforcement operations be recorded. And, what determines inclusion in the database — must there be a conviction for a crime, or will a simple arrest suffice to include the individuals in the database, even if the charges are dropped or the individuals found innocent?

If the intent is merely to collect and publish anecdotal information about the “misfortune in our midst,” then there is precious little difference between what Der Sturmer was doing in the 1930s and what the VOICE office will be doing in the 21st century?

Lest we not take ‘Digby’s’ warning seriously it’s instructive to note that in 1927 Streicher’s ugly little paper had a readership of 14,000 which increased to 486,000 by 1935. By 1938 the paper shifted from calling out the evils of the ‘misfortune among us’ to actively advocating the annihilation of Jews. On January 20, 1942 the Nazis held their infamous Wannsee Conference.

More disturbing still is the current administration’s emphasis on stereotyping and Muslims, to the detriment of the consideration of crimes committed by white nationalist domestic terrorists.  [ Reuters]  The former serves as a convenient scapegoat, the latter is an actual source of serious criminal behaviors. [HuffPo]  Evidently contemporary Republicans are incapable of saying “Radical White Supremacist Terrorism.”

So long as we have White Nationalists and racists like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller holding forth in the White House, with the ear of the chief executive, there is ample cause for concern.  More than enough reason to say Never Again. More than enough to read ‘Digby’s’ article a second time.

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Filed under Immigration, Nativism, Politics, racism

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

The Laxalt Chronicles Continue

Laxalt reportedly pressured the chairman of the Gaming Control Board to intercede in a lawsuit on behalf of Nevada’s wealthiest casino magnate The Nevada State Democratic Party filed a complaint today with the Nevada Commission on Ethics requesting an investigation into reports that Attorney General Adam Laxalt used the powers of his office to try […]

via NV Dems File Ethics Complaint Against Adam Laxalt for Abusing AG’s Office, Submit FOIA Request for Secret Recording — Rural Nevada Democratic Caucus

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Focus on the issue, not the straw man in the corner

First, let me say I am utterly uninterested in re-litigating the 2016 election results. My attention to the Russian Connection(s) is based on my concern that the Russian government — read Vladimir Putin — sought to influence the trajectory and substance of American foreign policy such that it would align with Russian interests.

Russian national interests (elimination of sanctions for its actions in Ukraine, diminishing NATO support for the Baltic States, reintegrating Crimea within Russian borders, separating the interests of the United States and Germany, retaining the Assad Regime in Syria to secure its naval base) are not necessarily American interests.

Secondly, there is ample evidence that the Russians sought to influence the direction of US foreign policy.  If there was no coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, then why was Paul Manafort, a man with copious ties to Russian backed opponents of the Ukrainian government, hired as part of the campaign organization? What was the role of Carter Page in the campaign and its foreign policy pronouncements? Why did General Flynn lie to the vice-president about his discussions with members of Putin’s government? Our Commerce Secretary is tied to the Cyprus Bank and its connections to Russian money laundering.  And, now did Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions meet with the Russian ambassador on matters related to the Senate Armed Forces Committee, or did the agenda include aligning US policy with that of the Putin government?

And all the while the press reports the Oval Office incumbent said things like, “Russia is not going into Ukraine,” and trying to clean up this mess later when it was pointed out that Russia was in Ukraine — in Crimea. Further, the incumbent repeated his comments that ‘wouldn’t it be nice if we had better relations with Russia?’

The Obama Administration placed sanctions on Russia for (1) its activities in Ukraine, especially eastern Ukraine where it is still supporting rebel forces, and (2) for its hacking of American political organizations and individuals — the DNC, etc.  I think we can agree that Russian arms and personnel shipments to eastern Ukraine are a violation of that nation’s sovereignty.  So, why has the current Oval Office been silent about Russian recognition of citizenship documents issued by Ukrainian rebel forces? Or, the continued military operations in eastern Ukraine?  If the administration is not aligning its foreign policy interests with those of the Putin government then it is doing a remarkable impersonation of precisely that.

The Russians perceive the expansion of NATO as a direct threat, what does the Oval Office say — we must require that all nations chip in more money to insure our support, leaving the Generals to clean up the mess and seek to alleviate the confusion on the part of our allies.  If this doesn’t align with Russian interests its hard to image what would.

The bottom line is that we need to focus on our national security, this isn’t selfish, it’s security.  We need to know if the current administration is compromised.  We need to know if the current administration is compromising American security interests.  We won’t be able to answer these questions if the Republicans are successful in driving the narrative as one of partisan politics informed by a reaction to election results.

The issues raised begin with Russian tampering in our election processes, but they don’t end there.  At issue is whether or not US foreign policy is focused on long term American interests, and is NOT predicated on promoting the interests of a hostile government.

Focus please.  The election result argument is a straw man. The “wouldn’t it be nice” argument is a straw man. The pontification upon whether specific laws were broken is a straw man.  The parsing of phrases in Senate hearings is a straw man. These subtopics are related to the essential issue but they should not be confused with it. Should these straw men take center stage, then it will be all the more difficult to discern IF American foreign policy is made based on OUR interests, or if American interests have been compromised.

We need an independent commission to investigate the possible compromising of American security interests, and the sooner the better.

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Now DO Something

So, the incumbent in the Oval Office spoke to the wave of antisemitic actions…

“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.” [WH]

What’s in here?  We “condemn hate and evil,” who doesn’t? The point is not that we don’t like antisemitism, the point is that we should be doing something to stop it.

It might be helpful IF the administration would drop the plan to shift the focus of the Countering Violent Extremism program in the Department of Justice to  Countering Radical Islamic Extremism. This was like announcing the to roaches that you’re about to shut the lights off and put the insecticide can back in the cupboard.

Another helpful action would be acknowledging the rise of antisemitic and other hate groups, and the hate is spreading:

“According to the SPLC report, the number of hate groups rose to 917 in 2016 — up from 892 in 2015 — and just shy of the all-time record set in 2011. But “by far the most dramatic change was the enormous leap in anti-Muslim hate groups,” which tripled from 34 organizations in 2015, to 101 in 2016.” [DInc]

The attacks on the cemeteries, the vandalism and arson attacks on mosques, are, indeed, worthy of contempt, but they are also worthy of investigation and prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.  There are some bits of old fashioned wisdom which are important to this topic, long on currency for their inherent truth.

Remember Granny saying “You are known by the company you keep?” Or, “Birds of a feather flock together?”  It’s applicable.  If the White House doesn’t wish to appear antisemitic and hateful, then why are the likes of Bannon and Miller in important offices?

Granted that the hate is expanding toward Muslims and Mexicans at present in presidential commentary — however, Jews are right to assume that while discrimination and violence may begin with other groups it will always end with them.

When Granny added, “Actions speak louder than words,” it’s time for the administration to do more than offer “thoughts and prayers,” more than words empty of substantive action, more than an opening comment without a steel fist inside the velvet phrases.

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Republican Myths and Legends

Good morning, another day another 24 hours of trumpster fires, lit by the tinder of well worn Republican mythology.

The Economy Works In Reverse.  Let’s guess that the whopping increase in defense spending will be covered by an increase in “economic growth.”  I doubt very seriously that my utility company would be much impressed by my assertion that increases in my power bill will be paid for by my getting up an hour and a half earlier every morning.  The argument would go “because I get up earlier I will be more productive, and if I am more productive then my earnings will increase. If my earnings increase then I will have more money to spend, and therefore my bills will ‘pay themselves.'”  Gee, perhaps if I aroused myself two hours earlier I could trade my vehicle in for a Cadillac CTS-V? Somehow, I don’t think my banker will be sufficiently enamored of my presentation to hand over the money.

There’s another facet of the administration’s fantasy economy which we need to discuss, at least two ways in which while waving its firearms it shoots itself in the foot.  Round one into the metatarsal — anti-immigration rhetoric and action.  Before theorizing about economic growth, the GOP might want to look at economic activity in our major urban centers, which depend in no small part on their immigrant communities.

Round two into the navicular bone comes compliments of heavy budget cuts. For the millionth time in this blog, there’s a formula for the gross domestic product.  Once more C+I+G + (Ex-IM) = GDP.  That G stands for government spending, and not just defense spending.  Want to expand the consumer economy? Then remember that every dollar spent on the SNAP program almost doubles in economic activity.

Round three into the phalanges: Seek to limit increases in the minimum wage.  Evidently it has not occurred to GOP economists that people do not spend money they do not have.  They can accumulate debt (which Wall Street is only too happy to securitize) up to a point, but the point is quickly reached. Delinquency happens, leading to defaults, leading to the unraveling of all those beautifully packaged tranches of securities.  We know what happened last time.

Round four into the cuboid, continue the progress of income inequality, the trends of which promote the accumulation of wealth into fewer hands, creating a surplus to be used not for corporate promotion and expansion but for the collection and trading of risk diversion securities or for corporate buy-backs which do NOT generate economic growth in the overall economy but bolster the financial sector.  Have I been railing about Financialism before? Constantly?

Four shots into the foot and we’re not walking, much less running, anywhere towards overall economic prosperity.  It’s the return of the old, stale, Trickle Down Supply Side Hoax nurtured and pampered by right wing think tanks and GOP orthodoxy.

And now, we should return to a discussion of why we need an independent commission to investigate the political and economic ties of the Trump-Bannon regime to the Russian government. We might also want to avoid the trap of calling for a special prosecutor, which would only have the authority to investigate outright crimes, when what we need immediately is an investigation into the possibly profound security risks in the executive branch.  But that’s a discussion for another post.

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Filed under conservatism, Economy, financial regulation, Politics, Republicans

The GOP Assault on the Affordable Care Act

There’s no reason to re-invent the wheel or to rewrite the analysis. Here’s a list of recommended reading:

Why the Emerging Bill…will fail. Center for American Progress.  See also CAP Republicans still have no plan. h/t Andy Slavitt 

 

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