Tag Archives: Stephen Miller

Returning Ramblings of a Slightly Hopeful Political Junkie

One of the problems dealing with continuous gaslighting, outright lies, and the fire hose of information and analysis (or what passes for it these days) that’s coming our way is the dilemma of how to respond to it without publicizing the incomprehensible or missing the monumental.  While broadcast media highlights the outrage du jour, or chases their latest shiny object,  the rest of us are left to sift through the wheat, chaff, weevils, and debris.  Let’s turn to some topics we’d not like to see get buried beneath layer upon layer of BS.

The current federal administration policy towards those fleeing from the violence in parts of Central America is deliberately cruel; cruelty troweled upon un-alleviated disdain and contempt.  Only a few hours ago this report emerged:

Miller, a notorious immigration hardliner who has been at the helm of President Donald Trump’s most controversial immigration policies, reportedly told ex-Trump aide Cliff Sims he “would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America’s soil.”[BI]

That would be presidential adviser, Stephen Miller. Granting that the likes of Coulter, Hannity, and Limbaugh have garnered most of the commentary about current negotiations between the White House and the Congress, these people have a vociferous ally in the corridors of executive power.  Stephen Miller.   One of the things I would like to see and hear from my television set is not less coverage of Miller — but more. More background, more video clips, more information about who this man is, and why he holds such sway?

How much approbation does he deserve for being the Rasputin of Refugees and people of color, and for being the smirk behind the shadow of the Resolute Desk?  When the president opines that there were good people on both sides at Charlottesville _ is Miller applauding? When the Oval Office speaks of Mexicans and others from Central America as drug dealers, gang members, and human traffickers – is Miller clapping along?  How different is Miller’s smirk from that displayed by the Covington High School student, who would now have us believed from his well-coached (at the hands of Scott Jennings’ consultancy) that he was an innocent victim of Internet bombast?   Yes, I did watch the “long version” of the video, and I still saw what I saw.  An immature, smirking, bigot-in-training disparaging the efforts of a Native American elder who was attempting to defuse the situation.  So, I ask again — where were the chaperones?  Why is the Bishop backpedaling as fast as he can?  Is Miller still smiling at this?

However, I remain hopeful this president and the advisers like Mr. Miller, aren’t going to have the free ride they enjoyed during the first two years of this mis-administration. Why?

Let’s grant that the most important investigation, that of Robert Mueller and his associates, will have the most impact.  The press has been breathlessly awaiting this report since its inception.  However — remember — it’s not the only report on the horizon.

The efforts of the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York continue.  And, no, the prosecution of Michael Cohen isn’t the item on the menu.  Not only do we not know what Mr. Mueller knows, we also don’t know the entirety of what the SDNY knows.

The FBI may or may not have a continuing counter terrorism investigation open on members of this mis-administration.  It may have been folded into the Mueller Probe. It may be ongoing for individuals and institutions about which we’ve not yet heard. A little patience may go a long way.

Follow the money?  We have breadcrumbs of information thus far  Recent media reports mention “money laundering.”  Who’s doing the laundry? With whose money? And at what expense?  We do want to keep our eyes on the investigations of Deutsche Bank, and other financial institutions, which were eager to do business with Trump and his associates when American banks had had their fill of his bankruptcies and litigation. These questions remain unresolved, stay tuned.

And, now enter the House Committees.  We may not have to wait for impeachment proceedings — high energy, high intelligence, Maxine Waters will be in charge of overseeing financial issues in the House.  Elijah Cummings will be doing real Oversight.  Adam Schiff will be in charge of the House investigations (and re-investigations) of Russian interference and assaults on our governmental institutions.  Nevada’s own Dina Titus can now look into those emolument questions concerning the DC Trump hotel.  I think we can wager we will be hearing some Georgia soft twang ringing in Trump’s ears.

There are at least 17 open investigations into this mis-administration; it may not take One Great Booming Report from Mueller’s domains to send this train wreck of an executive branch into he borrow ditch — there may be 17+ reports, each cutting through the web of lies manufactured by this increasingly flailing administration.  Those cuts are going to begin to hurt.

Let’s hope we can endure a bit more pain for a while.

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Could we get a little perspective here? Immigrants, Numbers, and Trumpian Fearmongering

Oh mercy me! Merciful mercies…there are 5000 migrants “storming” our southern border, waileth the Trumpian fearmongers, intent as they are on creating a curtain of dread veiling the eyes of those who are susceptible to such manipulation.  Let’s take what’s probably an inflated number (5,000) of people seeking to apply for asylum along our southern border and compare that to some other examples of people “storming” in lines we see every day.

For example.  The Clark County Department of Aviation compiles statistics on the number of people who “storm” McCarran International Airport.  (pdf)  Wow, thus far in 2018 we’ve been “stormed” by 25,013,841 people!  But wait, we like these people. They come, some spend money at the airport, some get off the planes in Terminal 1 and go spend more money in our special Nevada play zones; playing with cards, and machines, and things with bells and whistles designed to help separate our tourists from their dollars.   Now, get out the old plastic brains and punch in 5,000 and divide that by 25,013,841.  Hint: You are going to get a small number with an exponent “e-4” on the tail end of it.  We can play with these numbers a bit more.

Try this.  Compare the 5,000 “storming” the southern border with the McCarran traffic for one month.  Let’s take a happy month for us — July — with many happy people who land in Nevada’s sunny climes to part with their paychecks; 2,991,599 of them in the month of July.  There are 31 days in July, so divide the number above by 31.  No exponent this time.  There’s an average of 96,503 passengers using terminal 1 each day in July.  Now, divide 5,000 by 96,503 and you’ll get 0.0518, turn that into a percentage and it’s 5.2%.  In other words the “storm” at the US southern border is a measly 5.2% of the number of passengers using McCarran International Airport Terminal 1 on a SINGLE DAY  in the month of July.

We can play with some other numbers from the northern part of the state, for example, RTC ridership in Washoe County.  The RTC published a report of YOY comparisons for April 2016 (pdf)  reporting 105.082 rides on the RAPID system, coming in at about 43.8 rides per service hour.  Handy calculator time again please.  Our word problem solution for this one is that 5,000 “stormers” are about 4.8% of the rides on the Washoe RTC RAPID system.  Not so much of a storm huh?

But wait, cry the fearmongers, these stormers will clog up our social services and get welfare… uh, not so much, non-citizens in Nevada aren’t eligible for social service benefits.  But but but — they’ll pack our schools!  There are 492,496 youngsters enrolled in Nevada public schools (exc downld) and again our calculator hops into action.  If every single one of the 5,000 Stormers from the “Great? Caravan” were a school aged youngster and they all enrolled in a Nevada public school they’d constitute a — wait for it — a 1.01% increase in public school population.  Hardly the stuff of alarmist proportions.  Realistically, they aren’t all school aged, they aren’t all coming here, and they aren’t anything remotely like a “storm” of invaders upon our southern flank. Please take two deep breaths and call a friend for consolation prior to any more anxiety attacks based on “swamping” our schools blathering.

So, why all the televised emphasis on the “caravan?”  It’s good “optics” for the racists.  Get a nice tight crowd shot of “illegals storming” the border and the fear factor kicks in — much more so than if we emphasize the FACT that most visa over-stays are people who fly in.

DHS has determined that there were 52,656,022 in-scope nonimmigrant admissions to the United States through air or sea POEs with expected departures occurring in FY 2017; the in-scope admissions represent the vast majority of all air and sea nonimmigrant admissions. Of this number, DHS calculated a total overstay rate of 1.33 percent, or 701,900 overstay events.”

Excuse me, but I’m having a problem here envisioning a “storm” of unlawful entries into this country when we have most visa overstays dribbling in through POEs by air and sea, and there’s a 1.33% overstay rate.  What I’m not having a problem seeing is that people like the current POTUS, and his sidekick the virulently racist Stephen Miller, are driving a PR campaign to convince people that Brown is Bad, and that “hordes” of “those (read ‘brown’) people” are “storming” our southern border.  I’m not buying it, and frankly speaking I don’t think anyone else should be buying into their malarkey either.

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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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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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