BESS LEVIN @ VANITY FAIR: CORPORATE AMERICA HELPED DIVVY UP THE SPOILS AFTER TRUMP & THE GOP LOOTED OUR TREASURY – THEY APPROPRIATED MOST OF THE LUCRE, LEAVING MERE CRUMBS FOR WORKERS – BUT, WHEN THEIR “USEFUL IDIOT” TURNED HIS IDOCY ON “DREAMERS,” THEREBY THREATENING OUR ECONOMIC WELL-BEING, THEY WERE VERY UNHAPPY!

Bess writes:

TRUMP BUDGET: VLADI’S PUPPET WOULD LITERALLY SELL OUT AND SELL OFF AMERICA, MUSHROOM DEFICIT TO LINE THE POCKETS OF THE RICH, BUILD BOMBS (BUT WITH NOBODY TO DROP THEM ON, ONCE THE RUSSIANS TAKE OVER), WHILE THOROUGHLY SCREWING THE POOR, THE VULNERABLE, AND THE VAST MAJORTY OF AMERICANS – No, It Won’t Pass, But It Stands As A Monument To The Corrupt & Perverted “Values” Of Trump and The GOP & Their Stunning Contempt For The Shortsighted Voters Who Put Them In Power!

Here’s what James Hohmann of the Washington Post has to say about the “Grifter-In-Chief” in his “Daily 202:”

THE BIG IDEA: President Trump campaigned like a populist, but the budget he proposed Monday underscores the degree to which he’s governing as a plutocrat.

Many of his proposals are dead on arrival in Congress, but the blueprintnonetheless speaks volumes about the president’s values – and contradicts many promises he made as a candidate.

“This is a messaging document,” Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters at the White House.

Here are eight messages that the White House sends with its wish list:

1. Touching third rails he said he wouldn’t:

As a candidate, Trump repeatedly said he would never cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security.

Now he proposes cutting Medicare by $554 billion and Medicaid by around $250 billion over the next decade.

His plan includes new per-person limits on the amount of health care each Medicaid enrollee can use and a dramatic shift toward block grants, which would allow states to tighten eligibility requirements and institute work requirements that would kick some off public assistance.

Impacting the middle class, Trump also calls for cutting the subsidies that allow more than four in five people with marketplace health plans to afford their insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act.

2. Scaling back support for the forgotten man:

Many displaced blue-collar workers in the Rust Belt took the president at his word when he promised to bring back their manufacturing jobs. But Trump’s budget calls for cutting funding for National Dislocated Worker Grants – which provides support to those who lose their jobs because of factory closures or natural disasters — from $219.5 million in 2017 to $51 million in 2019.

Also at the Labor Department, the president wants to slash support for the Adult Employment and Training Activities initiative, which serves high school dropouts and veterans, from $810 million last year to $490 million in 2019.

3. Giving up on a balanced budget:

Trump repeatedly promised that he would balance the budget “very quickly.” It turns out that a guy who has often described himself as the “king of debt” didn’t feel that passionately about deficits. Last year, he laid out a plan to balance the budget in 10 years. This year he didn’t even try. Trump now accepts annual deficits that will run over $1 trillion as the new normal.

Going further, the president also promised on the campaign trail that he’d get rid of the national debt altogether by the end of his second term. But his White House now projects that the national debt, which is already over $20 trillion, will grow more than $2 trillion over the next two years and by at least $7 trillion over the next decade. The administration repeatedly denied this in December as officials pushed to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion.

“After Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts in the 1980s, deficits exploded in the same range as Trump’s now, when calculated as a percentage of the economy, or gross domestic product. But Reagan’s famous ‘riverboat’ gamble came when the total national debt was a fraction of what it is today. Trump is pushing the envelope when debt is already near 80 percent of GDP, leaving far less room to maneuver if the economy turns downward,” David Rogers writes in Politico. “Economists and politicians alike don’t know what happens next. There’s all the edginess of breaking new ground. But also, as with Faulkner’s famous line, there is a sense that the past ‘is not even past.’ … Nothing now seems obvious, except red ink.”

Trump blames state of U.S. infrastructure on ‘laziness’ after WWII

4. Relying on fuzzy math:

Trump’s team knows full well that they’ll never get most of the spending cuts they’re proposing, but they’re using them to make the deficit look less bad than it really is. Just last Friday, the president signed into law an authorization bill that blows up the sequester and increases spending by more than $500 billion.

The White House also makes the unrealistic assumption that the economy will grow by more than 3 percent every year between now and 2024, which makes its projections for revenue growth rosier than they should be. No serious economist thinks that level of growth can be sustained. A recession seems probable in the next decade.

Senate Democrats noticed that Trump’s budget plan, if it was enacted, would actually result in a net decrease in federal spending on infrastructure. Chuck Schumer’s office identified more than $240 billion in proposed cuts over the coming decade to existing infrastructure programs, which is higher than the $200 billion Trump simultaneously proposed in new spending. “The cuts identified by Schumer’s office include a $122 billion reduction in outlays over the coming decade to the Highway Trust Fund, which pays for road projects and mass transit,” John Wagner reports. “Other proposed reductions would target an array of programs that fund rail, aviation [and] wastewater…”

5. Paying for tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich by cutting holes in the safety net for the poor:

In 1999, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush denounced a House Republican plan to save $8 billion by deferring tax credit payments for low-income people. “I don’t think they ought to balance their budget on the backs of the poor,” he said at a campaign stop. “I’m concerned for someone who is moving from near-poverty to middle class.”

That sentiment seems quaint now. While Trump has never claimed the mantle of “compassionate conservatism,” his budget validates several of the negative stereotypes that Bush tried to shed.

This is a budget for the haves. The have-nots get left behind.

Trump wants to cut $214 billion from the food stamp program in the next decade, a reduction of nearly 30 percent.

The budget shows Ben Carson has no suction at the White House. Despite his efforts, the secretary of housing and urban development was unable to stop Trump from reducing Section 8 federal housing subsidies by more than $1 billion, zeroing out community development block grants and eliminating a $1.9 billion fund to cover public housing capital repairs. The 14 percent cut at HUD is even deeper than what Trump proposed last year.

The budget cuts 29 programs at the Education Department, many of which are designed to help needy children – including after-school activities to keep kids off the street and a grant program for college students with “exceptional financial need.” Trump’s plan also gets rid of a tuition initiative that makes college affordable for underprivileged D.C. residents, who don’t have access to strong in-state universities.

6. Deconstructing the administrative state:

Trump wants to neuter the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by starving it of resources, limiting its enforcement power and changing its funding stream so that it’s more vulnerable to pressure from Wall Street.

He seeks to cut more than $2.5 billion from the annual budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, which is about a quarter of its spending. He’d eliminate funding for state radon-detection programs and end partnerships to monitor and restore water quality in the Gulf of Mexico, Puget Sound and other large bodies of water.

“Funding for the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay would fall from $72 million to $7 million, and a similar program for the Great Lakes would be cut from $300 million to $30 million — although neither would be wiped out,” Brady Dennis reports. “In addition, the Trump budget would eliminate — or very nearly eliminate — the agency’s programs related to climate change. Funding for the agency’s Office of Science and Technology would drop by more than a third, from $762 million to $489 million. And funding for prosecuting environmental crimes and for certain clean air and water programs would drop significantly.”

7. More guns, less butter:

Make no mistake, Trump is not calling for a reduction in the size of government. He seeks to spend $4.4 trillion next year, up 10 percent from last year. He’s calling for spending less on the homefront to cover a massive military buildup.

Trump asks for $716 billion in defense spending in 2019, a 13 percent increase. “The Trump plan provides more money for just about everything a general or admiral might desire,” Greg Jaffe notes. “The United States already spends more on its military than the next eight nations combined.”

Meanwhile, Trump proposes slashing the State Department’s budget by 23 percent. As Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Congress in 2013, when he was a Marine general leading Central Command: “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

Another campaign promise Trump is making good on: building his “Deportation Force.” The budget allocates $2.8 billion to expand immigration detention facilities so that 52,000 beds are always available, $782 million to hire 2,750 additional border agents, and $1.6 billion for the construction of 65 miles of border wall in Texas. (Whatever happened to Mexico paying?) He also adds $2.2 billion for the Secret Service to hire 450 more people.

Trump claims that U.S. has spent $7 trillion in the Middle East

8. Leaning in on privatization:

Trump wants to outsource as many public functions as possible to private, for-profit companies.

His budget calls for selling off scores of prized federal assets, from Reagan National and Dulles Airports to the George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. “Power transmission assets from the Tennessee Valley Authority; the Southwestern Power Administration, which sells power in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas; the Western Area Power Administration; and the Bonneville Power Administration, covering the Pacific northwest, were cited for potential divestiture,” Michael Laris reports. “It was not immediately clear what public or private entity might buy those roads, whether they might be tolled, or other details. Some state officials said they were uncertain about how their residents would benefit from such a proposal.”

The White House is re-upping its plan to shift the nation’s air traffic control system out of government hands, even though it went nowhere in Congress last year.

Trump proposes to end funding for the International Space Station after 2024 by privatizing the orbiting laboratory.

Finally, he wants to increase spending by more than $1 billion on privateschool vouchers and other school choice plans while slashing the Education Department’s budget by $3.6 billion and devoting more resources to career training, at the expense of four-year universities.

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Don’t be fooled by the “paper money” you might be making in the stock market (if you are one of the fortunate minority of Americans with money to invest). 2017 was one of the worst years in the history of American democracy, and 2018 promises to be even worse. Indeed, while American democracy has been resilient enough to stand up to Trump and the utterly corrupt GOP to date, they are now upping their attack. There is absolutely no guarantee that their plan to destroy our country and hand it over to an unholy mixture of Russian Oligarchs, Chinese Government Corporations, and greedy Capitalist plutocrats won’t succeed.

Donald Trump and today’s GOP are a clear and present danger to our national security and the future of our democracy!

 

PWS

02-13-18

 

A WASHINGTON ANOMOLY – THE SENATE IS ABOUT TO EMBARK ON AN “IMMIGRATON DEBATE” WHERE THE OUTCOME HASN’T ACTUALLY BEEN “COOKED” IN ADVANCE! — Tal Tells All @CNN!

“Open-ended immigration debate to grip Senate

By Tal Kopan, CNN

The Senate is set to begin debating immigration Monday evening, and in a rare occurrence for the upper chamber of Congress, no one is quite sure how that will go.

Late Sunday, a group of Republicans introduced a version of President Donald Trump’s proposal on how to handle the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protected young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation before Trump decided to terminate it. That is expected to be one of the amendments that will compete for votes this week.

Some things are known: McConnell teed up the debate early Friday morning, as he had pledged, immediately after the Senate voted to end a government shutdown. The bill McConnell chose was entirely unrelated to immigration, which he said he planned to do to allow a blank slate for proposals to compete for votes.

Let the debate begin

At 5:30 p.m. Monday, senators will vote on whether to open debate on the bill, a vote that is largely expected to succeed.

From there, a lot will be up to senators. Both sides will be able to offer amendments that will compete for 60 votes — the threshold to advance legislation in the Senate. It’s expected that amendments will be subject to that threshold and will require consent agreements from senators for votes, opening up the process to negotiations.

If a proposal can garner 60 votes, it will likely pass the Senate, but it will still face an uncertain fate. The House Republican leadership has made no commitment to consider the Senate bill or hold a debate of its own, and House Speaker Paul Ryan has pledged repeatedly to consider a bill only if President Donald Trump will sign it.

Different groups have been working to prepare legislation for the immigration effort, including the conservatives who worked off the White House framework and a group of bipartisan senators who have been meeting nearly daily to try to reach agreement on the issue. Trump has proposed giving 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship in exchange for $25 billion for his long-promised border wall and a host of other strict immigration reforms.

The bill from GOP senators largely sticks to those bullet points, including sharp cuts to family-based migration, ending the diversity lottery and giving federal authorities enhanced deportation and detention powers.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of about 20 senators was drafting legislation over the weekend to offer perhaps multiple amendments and potentially keep the debate focused on a narrow DACA-border security bill. Multiple members of the group have expressed confidence that only such a narrow approach could pass the Senate — and hope that a strong vote could move Trump to endorse the approach and pave the way for passage in the House.

Advocates on the left may offer a clean DACA fix, like the DREAM Act, as well as the conservative White House proposal — though neither is expected to have 60 votes.

The move to hold an unpredictable Senate debate next week fulfills the promise McConnell made on the Senate floor to end the last government shutdown in mid-January, when he pledged to hold a neutral debate on the immigration issue that was “fair to all sides.”

Even Sunday, leadership aides weren’t able to say entirely how the week would go. The debate could easily go beyond one week, and with a scheduled recess coming next week, it could stretch on through February or even longer.

One Democratic aide said there will likely be an effort to reach an agreement between Republicans and Democrats on timing so that amendments can be dealt with efficiently, and, absent that, alternating proposals may be considered under time-consuming procedural steps.

“We just have to see how the week goes and how high the level of cooperation is,” the aide said.

Many Democrats and moderate Republicans were placing hope in the bipartisan group’s progress.

“We’re waiting for the moderates to see if they can produce a bill,” said the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin, on Thursday. “And considering options, there are lots of them, on the Democratic side. There’s no understanding now about the first Democratic amendment.”

Durbin said traditionally both sides have shared a few amendments with each other to begin to figure out the process’ structure. He also said the bipartisan group could be an influential voting bloc, if they can work together.

“They could be the deciding factor, and I’ve been hopeful that they would be, because I’ve had friends in those Common Sense (Coalition), whatever they call themselves, and reported back the conversations, and I think they’re on the right track.”

As she was leaving the Senate floor Friday night after the Senate voted to pass a budget deal and fund government into March, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins was optimistic about the preparedness of the bipartisan group she has been leading for the all-Senate debate.

“We’ll be ready,” she told reporters.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford, who has been working both with the group introducing the White House proposal and the bipartisan group, said late Friday night that his plan is “to get things done.”

“It’s no grand secret that I have no problem with the President’s proposal; the challenge is going to be trying to get 60 votes,” Lankford said. “So I would have no issue with what (Sens. John) Cornyn and (Chuck) Grassley are working on and with the President supporting that, but I also want to continue to try finding out and see, if that doesn’t get 60 votes, what could.”

He said everyone is waiting to find out what happens next.

“Everybody’s trying to figure out the chaos of next week, and I’m with you,” Lankford said. “I don’t know yet how open the process is going to be. I hope it’s very open.”

*******************************************

Fortunately, we can rely on Tal’s amazing up to the minute reporting and analysis to keep us abreast of what’s happening on the Senate floor and in the cloakrooms!

Stay tuned!

PWS

02-12-18

BESS LEVIN @ VANITY FAIR: BULLY-IN-CHIEF “THREATENS STOCK MARKETS!” – “What’s he going to do to the ‘Stock Market’? Fire it? Send it back to its country of origin? Demand it produce its long-form birth certificate?” – NOW THAT THEY ARE IN CHARGE, GOP “SPENDS LIKE DRUNKEN SAILORS,” LEAVING POOR, MIDDLE CLASS, AND FUTURE GENERATIONS TO PICK UP TAB FOR TAX CUTS THAT LINE FAT CATS’ POCKETS!

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/02/trump-stock-market-big-mistake

Bess writes:

“Earlier this week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted a record-setting 1,597 points, the biggest point decline in history during a single trading session. Donald Trump, who has patted himself on the back for gains in the stock market on a near daily basis since becoming president, was uncharacteristically silent on the matter, while the White House suddenly claimed it was focused on the long-term health of the economy, rather than short-term market fluctuations. However, given his uniquely thin skin, not to mention the fact that the Dow dared to take a nosedive in the middle of one of his speeches, it was only a matter of time before the president weighed in on the matter.

What we expected: perhaps an angry rant sent from his bed in the East Wing, or maybe a targeted attack on one of the many experts who have said, more or less, that he was a fool for tying himself to the market. (Trump may “fancy himself a great expert,” Horizon Investments chief global strategist Greg Valliere told me, but “the markets are . . . tricky and they’re really humbling. Not to be cliché, but you live by the sword and you die by the sword.”) But never in our wildest dreams did we imagine Trump’s counterattack would be something so magnificent as this:

It’s only one tweet. But there’s so much to appreciate:

  1. When Trump says the stock market went down because of “good news,” what he’s referring to is the fact that many have attributed Monday’s drop (as well as last Friday’s) to the strong U.S. employment numbers which, among other things, are leading traders to fear higher wage demands and rising inflation, at a time when the economy is getting a giant, yuuuge stimulus in the form of the tax cuts. Trump was actually warned by a lot of people, who he didn’t listen to, that given where unemployment was—at a multi-year low—and the relative strength of the economy, now was the exact wrong time for a stimulus. (“Passing the tax reform bill is like throwing a small cup of gasoline on a fire that’s already burning,” one expert said.) But he did it anyway, because he’s stupid, and now the markets are worried about a recession (which Trump was also warned about).
  2. You know he has literally no idea how modern financial markets operate and that his basis for the stock market is a bunch of guys holding up little pieces of paper and shouting on the floor of the stock exchange.
  3. Isn’t it great that Trump believes he can bully and intimidate the “Stock Market” like he does his political enemies? What’s he going to do to the “Stock Market”? Fire it? Send it back to its country of origin? Demand it produce its long-form birth certificate?
  4. We’re calling it now: the president is one indignity away from giving the stock market a derogatory epithet. Watch your back, Liddle Stock Market! Fake Tears Stock Market! Low Energy Stock Market! Sad!

Trump (probably) won’t get another shutdown, after all

On Tuesday, the president of the United States said that he’d “love” to see the federal government shut down should Democrats fail to give him what he wants re: cracking down on illegal immigration. But for once, lawmakers do not seem inclined to oblige him. On Wednesday, Senate leaders announcedthat they’d reached a bipartisan spending agreement. And not just anyspending agreement, but a real deficit-buster that will raise spending caps by roughly $300 billion over the next two years. According to The New York Times, the limit imposed on military spending—by a 2011 deal “once seen as a key triumph for Republicans”—will be increased by $80 billion for the current fiscal year and $85 billion for the next one. Nondefense spending will increase by $63 billion this year and $68 billion next year. And while most Republicans have long since given up pretending to care about “fiscal responsibility,” not everyone is pleased.

Jason Pye, vice president FreedomWorks, told the Times that the deal “isn’t just fiscally irresponsible, it’s an abomination,” adding that “no one in Congress who claims that they’re a deficit hawk or a fiscal conservative can justifiably vote for [it].” Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan was practically in tears over the idea that Paul Ryan, whom he thought he could trust, would betray his Ayn Randian ideals in such a heinous fashion. Calling the agreement a “monstrosity,” he fumed to Politico “I just never thought that Speaker Ryan—with his history and his background in budget issues, and his concern with the debt and deficit issue—I just never thought that this would be something that the Congress would put forward.” Freedom Caucus member Mo Brooks likewise told reporters, “I’m not only a no; I’m a hell no,” and basically compared the deal to a narcotic: “This spending bill is a debt junkie’s dream,” he said. “Quite frankly, I’m astonished that the Republican Party seems to be the party of big government in this day and age.”

Nancy Pelosi also said she wouldn’t support the budget, but for reasons that Jordan would sooner spit in his mother’s face than get behind. From the House floor, Pelosi said that without an accompanying commitment from Ryan or Mitch McConnell to debate legislation to protect Dreamers, “[the] package does not have my support, nor does it it have the support of a large number of members of our caucus.”

Read the rest of the “Levin Report” at the link.
Another “right on” observation:
  1. “You know he has literally no idea how modern financial markets operate and that his basis for the stock market is a bunch of guys holding up little pieces of paper and shouting on the floor of the stock exchange.”

Kind says it all about what Trump voters and the GOP are doing to America. Ignorance, arrogance, bullying, incoherence, irrationality — what more could we ask for in a “Supreme Leader?” Let’s celebrate with a big (expensive) parade!

PWS

02-08-18

 

TIMOTHY EAGAN @ NYT: “The Stormy Daniels Presidency” — She’s Probably Smarter, No More Dishonest, Less Biased, & A Heck Of A Lot More “Transparent” Than The Trumpster!”

Eagan writes:

“Well before The Wall Street Journal reported that a porn star with the meteorological name of Stormy Daniels was paid $130,000 to keep quiet about sex with Donald Trump, it was clear that a bigger and more crass proposition would be emerging from the White House.
Going into the midterm elections, Trump is offering this deal to his supporters: Say nothing about the lies, the bullying, the accusations of sexual misconduct from more than a dozen women, the undermining of the rule of law, the abdication of basic decency — and in turn he will make you rich.
Essentially, it’s a payoff. Trump himself has framed it this way. When asked about his coming health exam last month, he said, “It better go well, otherwise the stock market will not be happy.” He used the same phrase when talking about his hard-line position on immigration.
Both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton oversaw spectacular gains in the stock market — among the best in history. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 227 percent during Clinton’s eight years and 149 percent under Obama.
Yet, neither of those men held the market out as hostage to a backward agenda and a deranged personality. Trump is running a bottom-line presidency — as soulless as a Kremlin bot on Facebook — in which people who know better are asked to stay quiet in exchange for a short-term payoff.
Modern presidents, dating at least to Ronald Reagan, have urged voters to ask one question going into pivotal elections: Are you better off than you were before? It’s a reasonable standard. But it has never been the leverage for allowing a democracy to collapse.
You heard some uplifting words during the State of the Union address, words with all the staying power of vapor from a sewage vent. But a more honest assessment of what this presidency represents came from Trump when he was in his element, surrounded by Mar-a-Lago cronies. “You all just got a lot richer,” he told a bejeweled and pink-faced crowd just a few hours after signing the $1.5 trillion tax cut in December.
Even as Trump spoke before Congress on Tuesday, he monetized the speech, with donors paying to have their name live-streamed across a Trump campaign web page.
A cartoon in Politico showed a naked Trump with a king’s crown and a golf club walking down a red carpet. “I know, I know,” one man says to another. “Just keep thinking about your stock portfolio.”
The question for those yet to join the enablers is: What’s the price — a record stock market in which 10 percent of Americans own 84 percent of the market wealth, a tax cut that burdens the working poor in years to come — for saying nothing?
Evangelical Christians were among the first to sign on to a Stormy Daniels proposition. In the infamous words of Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, Trump gets a “do-over” for the infidelity allegation. Yes, because nothing says family values like a thrice-married man who allegedly cheats on his latest wife just after she gives birth to their son. And Pat Robertson, the mush-headed moralist who still fogs up many a television screen with his gaseous utterances, told Trump last summer, “I’m so proud of everything you’re doing.”
For these self-appointed guardians of the soul, the bargain is bigger than 30 pieces of silver: It’s a promise that Trump will continue to protect their tax-exempt empires, in the name of religious freedom.
For Republicans in Congress, the pact is more consequential. They will ignore the pleadings of career law enforcement officials in order to stoke fantasies of a deep-state coup against the president. These politicians are counting on a base that will look the other way as they undermine Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian tampering with the election.
It’s a good bet. After Trump called the American justice system “a joke” and “a laughingstock,” after he fired the F.B.I. director because he would not pledge loyalty to him, after he told another top lawman that his wife was “a loser,” after he referred to members of the intelligence community as “political hacks,” it was all quiet on the Republican front.
He can falsely say that his State of the Union speech drew the highest audience in history — in fact, it ranked ninth since 1993 — because this president has told more than 2,000 lies in a year and hasn’t been called out for them by the people who signed on to silence.
But what happens if the bargain crumbles? What if the market tanks — as the Dow did in losing more than 500 points a few days ago? Do the sycophants bail? Or do they hold out for something more — like the lobbyists now drafting legislation and gutting regulations that affect the companies that pay them?
Beware, those of you who have made your deal with the Stormy Daniels presidency. You can take your settlement money — as the people who signed up for the fraudulent Trump University did — but you still got suckered.
I invite you to follow me on Twitter (@nytegan).”

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The lack of values, intellectual honesty, and common decency from the GOP and the so-called “Evangelical right” (not much recognizable Christianity in their words and actions) is stunning, but, unfortunately, not  very surprising.

PWS

02-03-18

 

 

THINK THE TRUMP GOP TAX GIVEAWAY TO THE FAT CATS WAS OUTRAGEOUS? – WAIT TILL YOU GET A LOAD OF TRUMP’S LATEST SCAMS!

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/01/trumps-infrastructure-plan-should-scare-the-crap-out-of-you

Bess Levin at Vanity Fair with the “Levin Report:”

“WHY TRUMP’S INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN SHOULD SCARE THE CRAP OUT OF YOU

The president wants to apply his hotel-licensing model to a $1.5 trillion government initiative.

If you only paid attention to the words that tumbled out of his mouth, you might believe that Donald Trump was a successful real-estate developer, just like you might also think he’s a “stable genius” with a “winning temperament” who had a shot with Princess Diana. In reality, none of these things are true. In the wake of multiple bankruptcies, the Trump Organization shifted from developing properties on its own to licensing its founder’s name to others for multi-million-dollar fees, in what Forbes once called a “low-effort, low-risk, high-reward cash flow proposition.” With no capital on the line, Trump was free to sit back with a taco bowl, take a cut of the profit, and deal with none of the consequences if and when a project ran into trouble. And now, he wants to apply the same model to a $1.5 trillion infrastructure deal.

In his State of the Union speech last night, Trump said that he was “calling on Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need,” noting that “every federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with State and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment—to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit.” Previously, the administration had said it would put in $200 billion and would expect the private sector, along with state and local governments, to pony up $800 billion for a nice, round $1 trillion plan. Now they’re apparently going to have to dig a little deeper, for no other apparent reason than because Trump thinks $1.5 trillion sounds better. That might seem like a great deal for the federal government, except for the fact that by allocating a mere $200 billion—when you take the White House’s proposed infrastructure cuts into account, it comes out as even less—they’ll have to prioritize corporate profits over the actual needs of the public.

In order to get a return on their investment, which is—understandably!—the only reason private companies will want to get involved here, the government will naturally offer them lucrative tax breaks. But, as The Washington Post points out, unlike typical public-private partnerships wherein the government is the ultimate owner of the road or bridge constructed by a private company, it’ll all be under private ownership.

“PriveCo Equity Partners [get] a gigantic tax incentive to build the bridge, which the company now owns—and which will charge tolls on [it] in perpetuity. Taxpayers could shell out nearly as much in tax incentives to the private company as we would have spent to just build the bridge, and then on top of that you’ll have to pay tolls to cross it—forever. As long as the bridge stands, people are paying extra so PriveCo Equity Partners can make a profit.”

And because Trump & Co. will pay for no more than 20 percent of any given project, states and localities that don’t have the extra funds will most likely be shit out of luck. As the Post’s Paul Waldman notes, “the focus on private investment . . . will naturally privilege projects that can generate a profit for private companies, which probably won’t be the most sorely needed upgrades.” According to a new report released this week by the left-leaning Democracy Forward, under the rubric for judging grant applicants, a whopping 70 percent of a project’s score “would be based on the availability of non-federal revenue,” whereas the “economic and social returns” it could generate make up 5 percent. Sorry, Flint, Michigan! You don’t really need new pipes, right?

Of course, this was all by design. Less scary than the fact that Trump’s friends might financially benefit from the plan is the promise (threat?) he made last night that “any bill must . . . streamline the permitting and approval process,” by which he means gut environmental protections and put public health at risk. On the bright side, no one actually believes that President Hard Hat’s plan will come to fruition, at least not in its current form. “Not to be morbid, but an infrastructure catastrophe could move the needle . . . and spur congressional action,” political strategist Chris Kruegertold Business Insider. “Barring some kind of morbid catalyst, [the plan’s passage] seems extremely unlikely.”

Since the day the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was formed, Republicans have been raving about how it’s an unconstitutional menace that must be stopped. Unfortunately for people like Representative Jeb Hensarling, who thinks the bureau is a “dictator,” a court has more or less declared that this argument is bullshit:

The structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is constitutional, an appeals court ruled Wednesday in a blow to President Donald Trump’s efforts to ease regulations on the financial system.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit made the ruling in a battle over whether the president could remove the director at will. The court in October had upheld a challenge to the structure but agreed to rehear the case.

Republicans had challenged the C.F.P.B. structure on grounds that the director’s position was unaccountable to the executive branch.

On the bright side, now that the C.F.P.B.’s acting director is a guy who thinks the place shouldn’t exist, he can simply chip away at it from the inside. It’ll require a little more effort and creativity, but if anybody is up to the challenge, it’s MickThe C.F.P.B. is a sick, sad jokeMulvaney.

You get a Twinkie! And you get a Twinkie!

Hostess Brands is using its tax bill savings to reward employees with snacks:

The company, which makes Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, is providing its employees one-time payments of $1,250—with $750 in cash and $500 in the form of a 401(k) contribution. In taking the step, Hostess cited last month’s tax legislation, which slashed the rate for U.S. corporations.

It’s also offering a year’s worth of free food to workers—though they won’t be able to eat all the Ding Dongs they like. A representative from each of Hostess’s bakeries will choose a product each week, and the employees will be able to take home a multipack of that item. The company also makes Hostess CupCakes, Fruit Pies, and Donettes.”

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Gotta love it!

Billions for the fat cats, “Twinkies” for the workers. And, while working his infrastructure scam, Trump and his GOP kleptocrats will be trashing our environment and destroying our health care. I suppose they all will eventually move to a (“Whites Only” — Sorry Ben & Tim) “tax haven” somewhere offshore leaving the rest of us sick and dying in a looted country with an “infrastructure” that nobody needs any more!

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Meanwhile, over at Bloomberg News, reporter Ben Penn exposes a Trump Administration scheme to allow management to steal billions of dollars from waitresses and waiters! That’s right, folks, Trump’s GOP kleptocrats are busy scheming to transfer wealth from the lowest rungs on the economic ladder to the well-to-do! When the Labor Department’s own internal analysis exposed this “ripoff in the making,” the Trumpsters did what any good kleptocrat would do — tried to hide the results from the public (so much for the Trump White House claim of “transparency” in the release of “Vladi’s Agent Devon’s” memo).

“Labor Dept. Ditches Data Showing Bosses Could Skim Waiters’ Tips

Posted Feb. 1, 2018, 6:01 AM

Labor Department leadership scrubbed an unfavorable internal analysis from a new tip pooling proposal, shielding the public from estimates that showed employees could lose out on billions of dollars in gratuities, four current and former DOL sources tell Bloomberg Law.

The agency shelved the economic analysis, compiled by DOL staff, from a December proposal to scrap an Obama administration rule. The proposal would permit tip pooling arrangements that involve restaurant servers and other workers who make tips and back-of-the-house workers who don’t. It sparked outrage from worker advocates who said the move would permit management to essentially skim gratuities by participating in the pools themselves.

Senior department political officials—faced with a government analysis showing that workers could lose billions of dollars in tips as a result of the proposal—ordered staff to revise the data methodology to lessen the expected impact, several of the sources said. Although later calculations showed progressively reduced tip losses, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and his team are said to have still been uncomfortable with including the data in the proposal. The officials disagreed with assumptions in the analysis that employers would retain their employees’ gratuities, rather than redistribute the money to other hourly workers. They wound up receiving approval from the White House to publish a proposal Dec. 5 that removed the economic transfer data altogether, the sources said.

The move to drop the analysis means workers, businesses, advocacy groups, and others who want to weigh in on the tip pool proposal will have to do so without seeing the government’s estimate first. The public notice-and-comment period for the proposal is set to end Feb. 5.

The new revelation lends credence to concerns from Democrats and labor organizers that the proposed rule will short change workers. It also raises questions about how much the DOL intends to take public feedback into account in shaping a final version of the rule.

The current and former DOL sources, hailing from both political parties, were all independently briefed by people involved in the rulemaking. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to prevent retaliation against themselves and others.

The Labor Department “works to provide the public accurate analysis based on informed assumptions” a DOL spokesman told Bloomberg Law in an email. The spokesman noted that the department asked the public to comment with suggestions about how to quantify the rule’s impact as part of the proposal. “As previously stated, after receiving public comment, the Department intends to publish an informed cost benefit analysis as part of any final rule.”

The DOL did not address Bloomberg Law’s inquiry as to why the agency did not include the completed transfer analysis in the proposed rule.

The department has previously defended criticism of the proposal by saying the move would lead to higher pay for some low-wage workers who don’t traditionally earn tips, such as dishwashers. The DOL has also argued that managers would be dissuaded from stealing tips, out of fear of employee turnover and decreased morale. The department further noted that it included in the proposal a qualitative analysis, which doesn’t include dollar figures.

OMB Involvement Unclear

Former career and political officials at the DOL and the White House Office of Management and Budget, joined by business and employee-side regulatory attorneys, all told Bloomberg Law that scrapping a completed analysis from a significant proposal would mark a troubling departure from the government’s mission. Agencies and OMB are expected to ensure that all available data are brought to bear during notice-and-comment rulemaking, the sources said.

White House Office of Management and Budget’s regulatory review staff was familiar with the data, before the proposed rule was released, sources said. It’s not clear whether OMB Director Mick Mulvaney approved the deletion of the numbers or whether Neomi Rao, who runs OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, was involved in the decision.

“We do not comment on the interagency review process,” an OMB senior official told Bloomberg Law in an email responding to a series of questions directed at OIRA.

Representatives for the White House and Mulvaney did not respond to requests for comment.

“I have to wonder about the internal pressure brought to bear on OIRA in this case, because historically OIRA’s position has been that analysis is a good thing,” Stuart Shapiro, a career policy analyst at OIRA in the Clinton and Bush presidencies,” told Bloomberg Law. “It helps us make better decisions, it helps us increase the transparency of the regulatory effort.” Shapiro, who reviewed labor regulations in his tenure at the office, is now a Rutgers University professor researching the regulatory process.

Bloomberg Law has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the transfer report, which is being processed by the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division.

Transparency in Question

The proposal rescinds a 2011 rule that asserted tips are the property of workers who earn them. That revision of the Fair Labor Standards Act covered scenarios in which restaurants and other employers supplemented tipped workers’ earnings by paying at least the full minimum wage.

Since the rule’s release in December, worker advocacy groups and Obama administration officials have vehemently opposed it. They point to language that permits companies to keep gratuities for themselves, provided they pay workers at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and don’t apply a tip credit that allows them to pay as little as $2.13 per hour, depending on the state.

The left-leaning think tank Economic Policy Institute attempted to fill the data void by producing an analysis of its own. EPI predicts the proposed rule on tips would lead to $5.8 billion changing hands from workers to businesses, rather than being redistributed among employees as the DOL leadership suggested.

Some worker advocacy attorneys say the absence of the data might violate administrative law.

The existence of economic data has not been previously reported. It comes as President Donald Trump’s labor secretary and OIRA administrator have said they are committed to good government and transparent notice-and-comment rulemaking as they implement the White House demands to cut unnecessary regulations issued during the Obama administration.

Some attorneys have theorized that the Trump administration fast-tracked this rescission to moot the restaurant industry’s request that the U.S. Supreme Court grant review and invalidate the Obama tipping rule.

Acosta Optics

News of the scrapped analysis comes as Acosta has tried to avoid being cast as putting business interests above employees in various legal and regulatory moves.

David Weil, Wage and Hour Division administrator under President Barack Obama, called the new tip rule a boon for the restaurant industry,

“I think it is simply a statement of fact that Secretary Acosta and the people in the political side of the Labor Department who pushed that rule, which was a wonderful Christmas present to the National Restaurant Association, didn’t want the public to understand what kind of transfer we’re talking about,” Weil told Bloomberg Law in December, before the news of an existing analysis publicly surfaced.

Democrats have also placed their thumb on the scale when it comes to regulatory analyses, Leon Sequeira, who ran the DOL policy office in the George W. Bush administration, said.

“Economic analysis is a political football in every administration,” Sequeira told Bloomberg Law. He said the Obama administration DOL provided inadequate cost-benefit analyses that understated the compliance costs on businesses. “If the agency feels that it doesn’t have sufficient information to perform as robust an analysis as some may like, then that’s the precise purpose of the proposed rulemaking—to say to all of these critics, if you’ve got a better idea or different analysis or additional information, by all means send it in.”

“It’s at the final stage, when the agency makes its final decision, that folks need to be concerned about evaluating the rulemaking,” said Sequeira, now a management-side employment attorney in Washington.

The More Data the Better

The DOL insisted in the rule proposal that uncertain employer responses make it difficult to produce reliable estimates of managers participating in tip pools and how customers might change their tipping habits. Former agency officials said, however, that the regulation breaks from protocol because it is still the department’s duty to release a best attempt at the data in the proposed rule.

“To punt on that and say we’ll let the public come up with the economic analysis, that’s really not how the process is intended to work,” Michael Hancock, a former assistant administrator at the WHD, told Bloomberg Law. “The agency has an obligation to provide its best judgment on what the likely impact is economically, and that will give the public an opportunity to comment on that.”

The DOL proposal explained that an analysis of potential benefits and transfers is too speculative at this stage. “The Department is unable to quantify how customers will respond to proposed regulatory changes, which in turn would affect total tipped income and employer behavior,” the agency stated.

One trade association executive, who had no prior knowledge of a shelved analysis, told Bloomberg Law that when it comes to rulemaking, the more information the better. “I would just be troubled if the agency had done economic work that’s directly relevant to rulemaking, and for any reason chose not to include that, because the public has a right to know everything about the rule,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity to address an issue that doesn’t affect the trade association’s members.

The National Restaurant Association, by far the trade group most invested in the rulemaking, has been a massive supporter of the effort. An economic analysis isn’t relevant to this discussion because the 2011 version of the rule didn’t include that type of analysis either, Angelo Amador, the NRA’s senior vice president and regulatory counsel, told Bloomberg Law in December. Plus, Amador said he believes he has the law on his side.

“I do not see how an economic analysis has an impact either way on something that they don’t have the authority to do,” he said. The NRA has litigated the Obama rule since 2011 and has filed a request for review that is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Two circuit courts have called the rule an abuse of agency rulemaking authority.

Tough to Estimate

In reality, both business and employee-side sources told Bloomberg Law that it’s difficult to arrive at a confident estimate on this rule change, because of many possible employer and customer reactions, and interactions with a maze of state and local minimum wage laws.

The new methods ordered by the DOL leadership on the tip pool rule reduced the transfer total by changing the industries affected and how the rule would interact with state laws, which dropped the total, a few sources said.

Hancock, whose 20-year career at the WHD spanned three presidents from both parties, said that during the approximately 15-20 economically significant rules he’s worked on, he never once witnessed the agency excluding the cost-benefit analysis from a significant regulation. Lack of data accuracy is no excuse, Hancock said.

“If their view is they’re not really confident with the data you have, you put it out there, you identify those areas where you have uncertainty about the data, and invite the public to fill in those gaps,” said Hancock, who is now of counsel at plaintiff-side firm Cohen Milstein in New York.

The Labor Department’s policy shop played a central role in the tip pooling proposal, as is customary for significant rules. Sequeira, who was heavily involved with the WHD and other agencies in developing regulatory economic analyses in the prior Republican DOL, stopped short of saying whether the DOL behaved inappropriately in this circumstance.

“It’s hard to say,” Sequeira said. “That’s the age-old conspiracy theory with virtually every regulatory proposal that comes out.”

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Kleptocracy, secrecy, anti-democracy, Putinism are at work every day the corrupt Trump Administration and the GOP enablers are in power. The Con-Man-In-Chief!

PWS

02-02-18

JAMELLE BOUIE @ SLATE: TRUMP, SESSIONS, MILLER & THE GOP RESTRICTIONISTS HAVE PUT GOOD OL’ 1920S RACISM AT THE FOREFRONT OF THEIR WHITE NATIONALIST IMMIGRATION AGENDA! –“What good does it do to bring in somebody who’s illiterate in their own country, has no skills, and is going to struggle in our country and not be successful? . . . That is not what a good nation should do, and we need to get away from it.” — J. “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions, Attorney General of the United States of America & Unapologetic White Nationalist With A Long History Of Racism!

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/02/the-nativist-blueprint-for-trumps-immigration-plan.html

Jamelle writes in Slate:

“State of the Union on Tuesday night, “one that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country.”

The president and his allies claim such an immigration policy would promote cohesion and unity among Americans “and finally bring our immigration system into the 21st century.” Far from forward-facing, however, the president’s policies evoke the beginning of the 20th century, when war abroad and opportunity at home brought waves of immigrants to the United States, from Italians, Polish, and Russians to Chinese and Japanese. Their arrival sparked a backlash from those who feared what these newcomers might mean for white supremacy and the privileged position of white, Anglo-Saxon Americans. Those fears coalesced into a movement for “American homogeneity,” and a drive to achieve it by closing off America’s borders to all but a select group of immigrants. This culminated in 1924 with the Johnson-Reed Act, which sharply restricted immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe and all but banned it from much of Asia.

Members of the Trump administration have praised the Johnson-Reed Act for its severe restrictions on who could enter the country, and the act’s history helps illuminate what exactly Trump means when he says he wants to put “America first.”

The cohesion Trump espouses isn’t national or ideological. It is racial. The fight over immigration isn’t between two camps who value the contributions of immigrants and simply quibble over the mix and composition of entrants to the United States. It is between a camp that values immigrants and seeks to protect the broader American tradition of inclusion, and one that rejects this openness in favor of a darker legacy of exclusion. And in the current moment, it is the restrictionists who are the loudest and most influential voices, and their concerns are driving the terms of the debate.

At the heart of the nativist idea is a fear of foreign influence, that some force originating abroad threatens to undermine the bonds that hold America together. What critics condemned as “Know Nothing-ism” in the 19th century, adherents called Americanism. “The grand work of the American party,” said one nativist journal in 1855, “is the principle of nationality … we must do something to protect and vindicate it. If we do not, it will be destroyed.”

In the first decades of the 20th century, the defense of “the principle of nationality” took several forms. At the level of mass politics, it meant a retooled and reinvigorated Ku Klux Klan with a membership in the millions, whose new incarnation was as committed to anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, and anti-Semitic politics as it was to its traditional anti-black racism. In Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan, historian Nancy MacLean notes how Georgia Klan leader William Joseph Simmons warned his followers that they were, in his words, “being crowded out by a “mongrel population … organized into Ghettos and Communistic groups … and uplifting a red flag as their insignia of war.” Likewise, Klan leaders and publications blasted Catholic immigrants as “European riff-raff” and “slaves of ignorance and vice” who threatened to degrade the country at the same time that they allegedly undermined native-born white workers. When, in 1923 and 1924, Congress was debating the Johnson-Reed Act, the Klan organized a letter-writing campaign to help secure its passage, turning its rhetoric into political action.

At the elite level, it meant the growth of an intellectual case for nativism, one built on a foundation of eugenics and “race science.” Prominent scholars like Madison Grant (The Passing of the Great Race) and Lothrop Stoddard (The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy) penned books and delivered lectures across the country, warning of a world in which “Nordic superiority” was supplanted by those of so-called inferior stock. “What is the greatest danger which threatens the American republic today?” asked eugenicist Henry Fairfield Osborn in the preface to Grant’s book. “I would certainly reply: The gradual dying out among our people of those hereditary traits through which the principles of our religious, political and social foundations were laid down and their insidious replacement by traits of less noble character.” The aim of the nativists was to preserve those traits and admit for entry only those immigrants who could fully and easily assimilate into them.

. . . .

It is true that there are some more moderate restrictionists in the mix, for whom the drive to reduce legal immigration is driven by concern and prudence—concern over immigration’s impact on wage and employment, especially among the country’s working-class citizens, and prudence regarding our ability to assimilate and absorb new arrivals.

The facts do not support these misgivings. Low-skilled immigration does more to bolster prospects for working-class Americans—providing complementary employment to construction and farm labor—than it does to lower wages. Likewise, immigrants to the United States have shown a remarkable capacity for assimilation, quickly integrating themselves into the fabric of American life by building homes, businesses, and families. To the extent that native-born workers need protection, it’s best provided by stronger unions and more generous support from the government.

But those moderate voices aren’t setting the agenda. Instead, it’s the hardliners who have used their initiative to inject nativism into mainstream politics and channel, in attenuated form, the attitudes that produced the 1924 law. President Trump, for example, ties Hispanic immigrants to crime and disorder, blaming their presence for gang violence. He attributes terror attacks committed by Muslim immigrants to the “visa lottery and chain migration” that supposedly allows them unfettered access to American targets. And in a recent meeting with Democratic and Republican lawmakers, Trump disparaged Haiti and various African nations as “shitholes” (or “shithouses”) whose immigrants should be turned away from the country in favor of those from European countries, like Norway. It’s unclear if Trump is aware of Rep. Albert Johnson, who spearheaded the 1924 immigration law. But in his racial ranking of immigrants, the president echoed the congressman’s sentiments. “The day of unalloyed welcome to all peoples, the day of indiscriminate acceptance of all races, has definitely ended,” proclaimed Johnson on the passage of the bill that bore his name.

The president isn’t alone in his views. Before joining the Trump administration, former White House adviser Stephen Bannon openly opposed nonwhite immigration on the grounds that it threatened the integrity of Western nations. And while Bannon has been exiled from Trump’s orbit, that legacy lives on. Stephen Miller, who is now the driving force behind immigration policy in the Trump administration, is a notorious hardliner who has echoed Bannon’s views, bemoaning the number of foreign-born people in the United States.

Miller is the former communications director for and protégé of Jeff Sessions, who as Alabama’s senator praised the Johnson-Reed Act and its restrictions on foreign-born Americans. “When the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and Congress changed the policy, and it slowed down immigration significantly,” Sessions said in a 2015 interview with Bannon. “We then assimilated through the 1965 and created really the solid middle class of America, with assimilated immigrants, and it was good for America.”

As attorney general, Sessions has leaned in to these views. “What good does it do to bring in somebody who’s illiterate in their own country, has no skills, and is going to struggle in our country and not be successful?” said Sessions during a recent interview on Fox News. “That is not what a good nation should do, and we need to get away from it.” Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a staunch defender of Trump, is especially blunt in his defense of hardline immigration policies. “Assimilation, not diversity, is our American strength,” he said on Twitter last year.

Assimilation in those middle decades of the 20th century was built, to a considerable extent, on racial exclusion. It was assimilation into whiteness, one which bolstered and preserved the racial status quo. There’s no return to the America of that era, but one could slow the nation’s demographic transition. The White House proposals for immigration reform seem designed to do just that. According to an analysis from the Cato Institute, President Trump’s framework for immigration would slash entries by 44 percent, excluding almost 22 million people from the United States over the next 50 years. And in an analysis tied to the “Securing America’s Future Act”—a House-produced bill which hews closely to what the president wants—the Center for Global Development finds that white immigrants would be twice as likely to attain entry into the United States than black and Hispanic ones, while a majority of Muslim and Catholic immigrants would be barred from the country. Couple these measures with voter suppression, a biased census, apportionment by citizenship, extreme gerrymandering, and the existing dominance of rural counties in national politics, and you can essentially rig the system for the preservation of white racial hegemony.

Immigration policy is inextricably tied to our nation’s self-identity. What we choose to do reflects the traditions we seek to uphold. In the 1920s, most Americans wanted a more homogenous country, and they chose accordingly. Forty years later, in the midst of the civil rights revolution and a powerful ethos of inclusion, Americans reversed course, opening our borders to millions of people from across the globe. In this moment, we have two options. We can once again take the path that wants to keep “America for Americans,” and which inevitably casts American-ness in ways circumscribed by race, origin, and religion. Or we could try to realize our cosmopolitan faith, that tradition of universalism which elevates the egalitarian ideals of the Founding, and which seeks to define our diversity of origins as a powerful strength, not a weakness to overcome.

portrait of Jamelle Bouie

Jamelle Bouie

Jamelle Bouie is Slate’s chief political correspondent.”

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Read the complete article, with more historical references to the racist historical basis for today’s GOP restrictionist policies, at the link.

Actually, “Gonzo Apocalypto,” most of those Latino, African, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern immigrants that you look down upon and disrespect aren’t illiterate in their own countries. And, they probably speak and understand English better than you do their native languages.

While you, Gonzo, have spent most of your adult life on the “public dole,” trying to turn back the clock and, as far as I can see, doing things of questionable overall value to society, immigrants have been working hard at critical jobs, at all levels of our society, that you and your White Nationalist buddies couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to do. Hard-working immigrants, not your “White Nationalist Myth,” have advanced America in the latter half of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st Century. Immigrants will continue to make America stong, prosperous, and great, if you and your White Nationalist restrictionist cronies would only get out of the way of progress!

“We can once again take the path that wants to keep “America for Americans,” and which inevitably casts American-ness in ways circumscribed by race, origin, and religion. Or we could try to realize our cosmopolitan faith, that tradition of universalism which elevates the egalitarian ideals of the Founding, and which seeks to define our diversity of origins as a powerful strength, not a weakness to overcome.”

Right on, Jamelle!

PWS

02-02-18

FRED HIATT @ WASHPOST: NOTE TO GOP RESTRICTIONISTS: ANTI-IMMIGRATION = ANTI GROWTH! — “A vote to choke off immigration is a vote for stagnation and decline!” – EXACTLY!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/without-immigration-america-will-stagnate/2018/01/28/e659aa94-02d5-11e8-8acf-ad2991367d9d_story.html

Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt writes:

“Message to Republicans: You can be pro-growth. You can be anti-immigration. But, honestly, you can’t be both.

Now, within the immigration debate, there are a lot of questions with no obvious right answers.

What’s the right balance of immigrants admitted for their skills and those allowed in because they have relatives here?

How much effort should be devoted to tracking down the undocumented, and how much to punishing companies that hire them?

What should we do about the millions of immigrants who came here illegally a decade or more ago and have become established members of their communities?

And — what is the right number of legal immigrants every year from now on?

Big, complicated questions — which is why Congress shouldn’t try to solve them all between now and Feb. 8, its self-imposed deadline for resolving the issue of the “dreamers.” In the few days that remain, the best it could do would be to, well, resolve the issue of the dreamers — the undocumented immigrants who were brought here as young children through no fault of their own, who obey the law and who go to school or work or serve in the military.

They are American in all but legal status. Give them a path to citizenship, as President Trump has proposed. Give Trump the money for his wall (until he gets that check from Mexico). Punt on the big, complicated questions, something Congress certainly knows how to do. Everyone declares victory, and the government doesn’t shut down.

Of course, that would leave us still facing the big questions. Ideally, Congress would schedule a serious debate on them for the spring. Ideally, it would be conducted in a constructive spirit — acknowledging, for example, that reasonable people can disagree on skills vs. family.

But ideally, also, it would also be conducted with an understanding that those who favor a drastic, absolute drop in the level of immigration, as many Republicans do, would be making a choice about America’s future.

They would be turning us into Japan.

Now, to be clear, Japan is a wondrous nation, with an ancient, complex culture, welcoming people, innovative industry — a great deal to teach the world.

But Japan also is a country that admits few immigrants — and, as a result, it is an aging, shrinking nation. By 2030, more than half the country will be over age 50. By 2050 there will be more than three times as many old people (65 and over) as children (14 and under). Already, deaths substantially outnumber births. Its population of 127 million is forecast to shrink by a third over the next half-century.

Japan is a pioneer and an extreme version of where much of the First World is headed as longevity increases and fertility declines. The likely consequences are slower economic growth, reduced innovation, labor shortages and huge pressure on pensions. If you think our entitlement politics are fraught, think about this: In Japan in 2050, the old-age dependency ratio — the number of people 65 and over as a percentage of the number who are 15 to 64 — is projected to be 71.2 percent.

The comparable figure for the United States is 36.4 percent, up from 25.7 percent in 2020. Still high, but if it proves manageable, we will have immigration to thank. America still attracts dynamic, hard-working people from around the world, and they and their offspring help keep our population and our economy growing, as recent Pew Research Center and International Monetary Fund papers explain.

The wave of immigration over the past half-century also has changed the face of the nation, reducing the share of the white population from what it would have been and increasing the share of Asians and Hispanics. It’s not surprising that some people find this disorienting.

But as so often with such debates, perceptions lag reality. Nearly half (48 percent) of immigrants these days have college degrees, as a fact sheet from the Migration Policy Institute last year showed. A quarter of technology company start-ups between 2008 and 2012 included at least one foreign-born founder. As incomes and education levels rise around the world, in other words, the skills mix of U.S. immigration is already changing, without any changes in our laws.

Here’s the bottom line: I think we should remain open to immigrants because it’s part of who we are as a nation, because every generation of newcomers — even, or maybe especially, the ones who come with nothing but moxie and a tolerance for risk — has enriched and improved us.

But you don’t have to buy into any of that Statue of Liberty stuff to favor immigration, because naked self-interest leads to the very same conclusion. A vote to choke off immigration is a vote for stagnation and decline.”

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Hiatt clearly “gets it!”

But, maybe the GOP restrictionists do too. Their opposition to legal immigration is grounded in racism, White Nationalism, and xenophobia — none of which have anything to do with rationality, facts, the common good, or even “enlightened self-interest.”

Therefore, neither an appeal to “who we are as a nation” nor “naked self-interest” is likely to change their highly emotional, but essentially irrational anti-immigrant views.

PWS

01-29-18

SATURDAY SATIRE: DAVOS REPORT: TRUMP WOWS INTERNATIONAL FAT CATS WITH PROMISE THAT AMERICA WILL LEAD THE WORLD TO NEW HEIGHTS OF INCOME INEQUALITY — “Starving The Poor To Feed The Rich Will End Poverty,” Says Leader Of World’s Most Powerful Kleptocracy!

“God loves the greedy and selfish, for they shall inherit the earth, the sun, the planets, and the entire universe.”

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WARNING: THIS IS “FAKE NEWS” BUT COMES WITH MY ABSOLUTE, UNCONDITIONAL, MONEY BACK GUARANTEE THAT IT CONTAINS MORE TRUTH THAN THE AVERAGE TRUMP TWEET OR SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS NEWS BRIEFING!

PWS

01-27-18

MLK DAY 2018 — DR. KING’S DREAM OF AN AMERICA CELEBRATING EQUALITY & RACIAL HARMONY IS UNDER VICIOUS ATTACK BY TRUMP, PENCE, SESSIONS, AND A HOST OF OTHERS IN TODAY’S WHITE NATIONALIST ENABLING GOP — Who Is Going To Fight To Reclaim The Dream, & Who Is Going To “Go Along To Get Along” With The 21st Century Version Of Jim Crow?

Folks, as we take a few minutes today to remember Dr. King, his vision for a better America, and his inspiring “I Have A Dream Speech,” we have to face the fact that everything Dr. King stood for is under a vicious and concerted attack, the likes of which we haven’t seen in America for approximately 50 years, by individuals elected to govern by a minority of voters in our country.

So, today, I’m offering you a “potpourri”  of how and why Dr.King’s Dream has “gone south,” so to speak, and how those of us who care about social justice and due process in America can nevertheless resurrect it and move forward together for a greater and more tolerant American that celebrates the talents, contributions, and humanity of all who live here!.

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From the LA Times Editorial Board:

http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=186bb118-702e-49a2-a52d-b8dac8aa0cc8

“50 years on, what would King think?

On Martin Luther King’s birthday, a look back at some disquieting events in race relations in 2017.

Nearly 50 years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. went to the mountaintop and looked out over the promised land. In a powerful and prophetic speech on April 3, 1968, he told a crowd at the Mason Temple in Memphis that while there would certainly be difficult days ahead, he had no doubt that the struggle for racial justice would be successful.

“I may not get there with you,” he said. “But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And so I am happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything.”

The following day, he was assassinated.

The intervening years have been full of steps forward and steps backward, of extraordinary changes as well as awful reminders of what has not changed. What would King have made of our first black president? What would he have thought had he seen neo-Nazis marching through the streets of Charlottesville, Va., so many years after his death? How would he have viewed the shooting by police of unarmed black men in cities around the country — or the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement? He would surely have heard the assertions that we have become a “post-racial” society because we elected (and reelected) Barack Obama. But would he have believed it?

This past year was not terribly heartening on the civil rights front. It was appalling enough that racist white nationalists marched in Charlottesville in August. But it was even more shocking that President Trump seemed incapable of making the most basic moral judgment about that march; instead, he said that there were some “very fine people” at the rally of neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Racial injustices that bedeviled the country in King’s day — voter suppression, segregated schools, hate crimes — have not gone away. A report released last week by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on inequities in the funding of public schools concludes — and this should surprise no one — that students of color living in poor, segregated neighborhoods are often relegated to low-quality schools simply due to where they live. States continued in 2017 to pass laws that make it harder, rather than easier, for people of color to vote.

The Trump administration also seems determined to undo two decades of Justice Department civil rights work, cutting back on investigations into the excessive use of force and racial bias by police departments. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions in March ordered a review of all existing federal consent decrees with local police departments with the possibility of dismantling them — a move that could set back police reform by many years.

Here in Los Angeles County, this statistic is telling: 40% of the estimated 57,000 homeless people — the most desperate and destitute residents of the county — are black. Yet black residents make up only 9% of the L.A. County population.

But despite bad news on several fronts, what have been heartening over the last year are the objections raised by so many people across the country.

Consider the statues of Confederate generals and slave owners that were brought down across the country. Schools and other institutions rebranded buildings that were formerly named after racists.

The Black Lives Matter movement has grown from a small street and cyber-protest group into a more potent civil rights organization focusing on changing institutions that have traditionally marginalized black people.

When football quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest, as he said, a country that oppresses black people, he was denounced by many (including Trump) but emulated by others. Kaepernick has been effectively banished from professional football but he started a movement.

Roy Moore was defeated for a Senate seat in Alabama by a surge of black voters, particularly black women. (But no sooner did he lose than Joe Arpaio — the disgraced, vehemently anti-immigrant former Arizona sheriff — announced that he is running for Senate there.)

So on what would have been King’s 89th birthday, it is clear that the United States is not yet the promised land he envisioned in the last great speech of his life. But we agree with him that it’s still possible to get there.”

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See this short HuffPost video on “Why MLK’s Message Still Matters Today!”

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/martin-luther-king-jr-assassination-legacy_us_58e3ea89e4b03a26a366dd77

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Read about how the Arizona GOP has resurrected, and in some instances actually welcomed, “Racist Joe” Arpaio, an unapologetic anti-Hispanic bigot and convicted scofflaw. “Racist Joe” was pardoned by Trump and is now running for the GOP nomination to replace retiring Arizona GOP Senator Jeff Flake, who often has been a critic of Trump. One thing “Racist Joe’s” candidacy is doing is energizing the Latino community that successfully fought to remove him from the office of Sheriff and to have him brought to justice for his racist policies. 

Kurtis Lee reports for the LA Times:

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-pol-arpaio-latino-voters-20180114-story.html

“Yenni Sanchez had thought her work was finished.

Spared from the threat of deportation by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, she campaigned to oust Joe Arpaio when he unsuccessfully ran for reelection as Maricopa County sheriff in 2016. She knocked on hundreds of doors in south Phoenix’s predominantly Latino neighborhoods to register voters. She made phone calls, walked on college campuses. Her message was direct, like the name of the group she worked with, Bazta Arpaio, a take on the Spanish word basta — enough Arpaio.

But now, the 85-year-old former sheriff is back and running for Senate. Sanchez, who had planned to step away from politics to focus on her studies at Grand Canyon University, is back as well, organizing once more.

“If he thinks he can come back and terrorize the entire state like he did Maricopa County, it’s not going to happen,” Sanchez, 20, said. “I’m not going to let it happen.”

Arpaio enters a crowded Republican primary and may not emerge as the party’s nominee, but his bid has already galvanized Arizona’s Latino electorate — one of the country’s largest and fastest-growing voter blocs.

Organizers like Sanchez, who thought they might sit out the midterm elections, rushed back into offices and started making calls. Social media groups that had gone dormant have resurrected with posts reminding voters that Arpaio was criminally convicted of violating a federal court order to stop racially profiling Latinos.

“We’ve been hearing, ‘Is it true Arpaio is back? OK, what can we do to help?’” said Montserrat Arredondo, director of One Arizona, a Phoenix nonprofit group focused on increasing Latino voter turnout. “People were living in terror when Arpaio was in office. They haven’t forgotten.”

In 2008, 796,000 Latinos were eligible to vote in the state, according to One Arizona. By 2016, that potential voting pool jumped to 1.1 million. (California tops the nation with the most Latinos eligible to vote, almost 6.9 million.)

In 2016, Latinos accounted for almost 20% of all registered voters in Arizona. Latinos make up about 30% of Arizona’s population.

. . . .

Last year, President Trump pardoned Arpaio of a criminal conviction for violating a federal court order to stop racially profiling Latinos. When announcing his candidacy Tuesday, Arpaio pledged his full support to the president and his policies.

On Saturday, Arpaio made his first public appearance since announcing his candidacy, attending a gathering of Maricopa County Republicans. He was unmoved when asked about the enthusiasm his candidacy has created among Latinos.

“Many of them hate me for enforcing the law,” he said. “I can’t change that. … All I know is that I have my supporters, they’re going to support who they want. I’m in this to win it though.”

Arpaio, gripping about a dozen red cardboard signs that read “We need Sheriff Joe Arpaio in DC,” walked through the crowd where he mingled with, among others, former state Sen. Kelli Ward and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, who also are seeking the GOP Senate nomination. Overall, Arpaio was widely met with enthusiasm from attendees.

“So glad you’re back,” said a man wearing a “Vietnam Veteran” hat.

“It’s great to be back,” Arpaio replied.

Arpaio, who handed out business cards touting his once self-proclaimed status as “America’s toughest sheriff,” said he had no regrets from his more than two decades in office.

“Not a single one,” he said. “I spoke my mind and did what needed to be done and would do it the same in a minute.”

In an interview, Arpaio, who still insists he has “evidence” that former President Obama’s birth certificate is forged, a rumor repeatedly shown to be false, did not lay out specific policy platforms, only insisting he’ll get things done in Washington.

During his tenure as sheriff, repeated court rulings against his office for civil rights violations cost local taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.”

Read the complete story at the link.

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Professor George Yancy of Emory University writing in the NY Times asks “Will America Choose King’s Dream Or Trump’s Nightmare?”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/15/opinion/martin-luther-king-trump-racism.html

Yancy writes:

“Let’s come clean: President Trump is a white racist! Over the past few days, many have written, spoken and shouted this fact, but it needs repeating: President Trump is a white racist! Why repeat it? Because many have been under the grand illusion that America is a “post-racial” nation, a beautiful melting pot where racism is only sporadic, infrequent and expressed by those on the margins of an otherwise mainstream and “decent” America. That’s a lie; a blatant one at that. We must face a very horrible truth. And America is so cowardly when it comes to facing awful truths about itself.

So, as we celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, we must face the fact that we are at a moral crossroad. Will America courageously live out Dr. King’s dream or will it go down the road of bigotry and racist vitriol, preferring to live out Mr. Trump’s nightmare instead? In his autobiography, reflecting on the nonviolent uprising of the people of India, Dr. King wrote, “The way of acquiesce leads to moral and spiritual suicide.” Those of us who defiantly desire to live, and to live out Dr. King’s dream, to make it a reality, must not acquiesce now, precisely when his direst prophetic warning faces us head on.

On the night before he was murdered by a white man on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., Dr. King wrote: “America is going to hell if we don’t use her vast resources to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life.” Our current president, full of hatred and contempt for those children, is the terrifying embodiment of this prophecy.

We desperately need each other at this moment of moral crisis and malicious racist divisiveness. Will we raise our collective voices against Mr. Trump’s white racism and those who make excuses for it or submit and thereby self-destructively kill any chance of fully becoming our better selves? Dr. King also warned us that “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.” To honor Dr. King, we must not remain silent, we must not betray his legacy.

So many Americans suffer from the obsessive need to claim “innocence,” that is, to lie to ourselves. Yet such a lie is part of our moral undoing. While many will deny, continue to lie and claim our national “innocence,” I come bearing deeply troubling, but not surprising, news: White racism is now comfortably located within the Oval Office, right there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, embodied in our 45th president, one who is, and I think many would agree, must agree, without any hesitation, a white racist. There are many who will resist this characterization, but Mr. Trump has desecrated the symbolic aspirations of America, exhumed forms of white supremacist discourse that so many would assume is spewed only by Ku Klux Klan.”

Read the rest of Professor Yancy’s op-ed at the link.

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From lead columnist David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick at the NY Times we get “Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List.”

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/15/opinion/leonhardt-trump-racist.html

Donald Trump has been obsessed with race for the entire time he has been a public figure. He had a history of making racist comments as a New York real-estate developer in the 1970s and ‘80s. More recently, his political rise was built on promulgating the lie that the nation’s first black president was born in Kenya. He then launched his campaign with a speech describing Mexicans as rapists.

The media often falls back on euphemisms when describing Trump’s comments about race: racially loaded, racially charged, racially tinged, racially sensitive. And Trump himself has claimed that he is “the least racist person.” But here’s the truth: Donald Trump is a racist. He talks about and treats people differently based on their race. He has done so for years, and he is still doing so.

Here, we have attempted to compile a definitive list of his racist comments – or at least the publicly known ones.

The New York Years

Trump’s real-estate company tried to avoid renting apartments to African-Americans in the 1970s and gave preferential treatment to whites, according to the federal government.

Trump treated black employees at his casinos differently from whites, according to multiple sources. A former hotel executive said Trump criticized a black accountant: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks.”

In 1989, Trump took out ads in New York newspapers urging the death penalty for five black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a white woman in Central Park; he argued they were guilty as late as October 2016, more than 10 years after DNA evidence had exonerated them.

In 1989, on NBC, Trump said: “I think sometimes a black may think they don’t have an advantage or this and that. I’ve said on one occasion, even about myself, if I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I really believe they do have an actual advantage.”

An Obsession With
Dark-Skinned Immigrants

He began his 2016 presidential campaign with a speech disparaging Mexican immigrants as criminals and “rapists.”

He uses the gang MS-13 to disparage all immigrants. Among many other statements, he has suggested that Obama’s protection of the Dreamers — otherwise law-abiding immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children — contributed to the spread of MS-13.

In December 2015, Trump called for a “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” including refusing to readmit Muslim-American citizens who were outside of the country at the time.

Trump said a federal judge hearing a case about Trump University was biased because of the judge’s Mexican heritage.

In June 2017, Trump said 15,000 recent immigrants from Haiti “all have AIDS” and that 40,000 Nigerians, once seeing the United States, would never “go back to their huts” in Africa.

At the White House on Jan. 11, Trump vulgarly called forless immigration from Haiti and Africa and more from Norway.”

The disgusting list goes on and on. Go to the link to get it all!

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Also at the NY Times, Charles M. Blow states what by now should have become obvious to the rest of us: “Trump Is A Racist. Period.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/14/opinion/trump-racist-shithole.html

Blow writes:

“I find nothing more useless than debating the existence of racism, particularly when you are surrounded by evidence of its existence. It feels to me like a way to keep you fighting against the water until you drown.

The debates themselves, I believe, render a simple concept impossibly complex, making the very meaning of “racism” frustratingly murky.

So, let’s strip that away here. Let’s be honest and forthright.

Racism is simply the belief that race is an inherent and determining factor in a person’s or a people’s character and capabilities, rendering some inferior and others superior. These beliefs are racial prejudices.

The history of America is one in which white people used racism and white supremacy to develop a racial caste system that advantaged them and disadvantaged others.

Understanding this, it is not a stretch to understand that Donald Trump’s words and deeds over the course of his life have demonstrated a pattern of expressing racial prejudices that demean people who are black and brown and that play to the racial hostilities of other white people.

It is not a stretch to say that Trump is racist. It’s not a stretch to say that he is a white supremacist. It’s not a stretch to say that Trump is a bigot.

Those are just facts, supported by the proof of the words that keep coming directly from him. And, when he is called out for his racism, his response is never to ameliorate his rhetoric, but to double down on it.

I know of no point during his entire life where he has apologized for, repented of, or sought absolution for any of his racist actions or comments.

Instead, he either denies, deflects or amps up the attack.

Trump is a racist. We can put that baby to bed.

“Racism” and “racist” are simply words that have definitions, and Trump comfortably and unambiguously meets those definitions.

We have unfortunately moved away from the simple definition of racism, to the point where the only people to whom the appellation can be safely applied are the vocal, violent racial archetypes.

Racism doesn’t require hatred, constant expression, or even conscious awareness. We want racism to be fringe rather than foundational. But, wishing isn’t an effective method of eradication.

We have to face this thing, stare it down and fight it back.

The simple acknowledgment that Trump is a racist is the easy part. The harder, more substantive part is this: What are we going to do about it?

First and foremost, although Trump is not the first president to be a racist, we must make him the last. If by some miracle he should serve out his first term, he mustn’t be allowed a second. Voters of good conscience must swarm the polls in 2020.

But before that, those voters must do so later this year, to rid the House and the Senate of as many of Trump’s defenders, apologists and accomplices as possible. Should the time come where impeachment is inevitable, there must be enough votes in the House and Senate to ensure it.

We have to stop thinking that we can somehow separate what racists believe from how they will behave. We must stop believing that any of Trump’s actions are clear of the venom coursing through his convictions. Everything he does is an articulation of who he is and what he believes. Therefore, all policies he supports, positions he takes and appointments he makes are suspect.

And finally, we have to stop giving a pass to the people — whether elected official or average voter — who support and defend his racism. If you defend racism you are part of the racism. It doesn’t matter how much you say that you’re an egalitarian, how much you say that you are race blind, how much you say that you are only interested in people’s policies and not their racist polemics.

As the brilliant James Baldwin once put it: “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.” When I see that in poll after poll a portion of Trump’s base continues to support his behavior, including on race, I can only conclude that there is no real daylight between Trump and his base. They are part of his racism.

When I see the extraordinary hypocrisy of elected officials who either remain silent in the wake of Trump’s continued racist outbursts or who obliquely condemn him, only to in short order return to defending and praising him and supporting his agenda, I see that there is no real daylight between Trump and them either. They too are part of his racism.

When you see it this way, you understand the enormity and the profundity of what we are facing. There were enough Americans who were willing to accept Trump’s racism to elect him. There are enough people in Washington willing to accept Trump’s racism to defend him. Not only is Trump racist, the entire architecture of his support is suffused with that racism. Racism is a fundamental component of the Trump presidency.

 

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Back over at the Washington Post, op-ed writer E.J. Dionne, Jr., tells us the depressing news that “We could be a much better country. Trump makes it impossible.” 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/we-could-be-a-much-better-country-trump-makes-it-impossible/2018/01/14/84bff6dc-f7d4-11e7-b34a-b85626af34ef_story.html?utm_term=.c2151ab89a3c

Dionne concludes his piece with the following observations about our current “Dreamer” debate:

“Our current debate is frustrating, and not only because Trump doesn’t understand what “mutual toleration” and “forbearance” even mean. By persistently making himself, his personality, his needs, his prejudices and his stability the central topics of our political conversation, Trump is blocking the public conversation we ought to be having about how to move forward.

And while Trump’s enablers in the Republican Party will do all they can to avoid the issue, there should now be no doubt (even if this was clear long ago) that we have a blatant racist as our president. His reference to immigrants from “sh–hole countries” and his expressed preference for Norwegians over Haitians, Salvadorans and new arrivals from Africa make this abundantly clear. Racist leaders do not help us reach mutual toleration. His semi-denial 15 hours after his comment was first reported lacked credibility, especially because he called around first to see how his original words would play with his base.

But notice also what Trump’s outburst did to our capacity to govern ourselves and make progress. Democrats and Republicans sympathetic to the plight of the “dreamers” worked out an immigration compromise designed carefully to give Trump what he had said he needed.

There were many concessions by Democrats on border security, “chain migration” based on family reunification, and the diversity visa lottery that Trump had criticized. GOP senators such as Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) bargained in good faith and were given ample reason by Trump to think they had hit his sweet spot.

Trump blew them away with a torrent of bigotry. In the process, he shifted the onus for avoiding a government shutdown squarely on his own shoulders and those of Republican leaders who were shamefully slow in condemning the president’s racism.

There are so many issues both more important and more interesting than the psyche of a deeply damaged man. We are capable of being a far better nation. But we need leaders who call us to our obligations to each other as free citizens. Instead, we have a president who knows only how to foster division and hatred.”

Read the rest of the op-ed at the link.

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Our “Liar-in-Chief:” This short video from CNN, featuring the Washington Post’s “Chief Fact Checker” Glenn Kessler deals with the amazing 2000+ false or misleading claims that Trump has made even before the first anniversary of his Presidency: “Trump averages 5-6 false claims a day.”

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2018/01/15/president-trump-false-claims-first-year-washington-post.cnn

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Also on video, even immigration restrictionists sometimes wax eloquent about the exceptional generosity of U.S. immigration and refugee laws (even as they engage in an unending battle to undermine that claimed generosity). But, the reality, as set forth in this short HuffPost video is that on a regular basis our Government knowingly and intentionally returns individuals, mostly Hispanics, to countries where they are likely to be harmed or killed because we are unable to fit them within often hyper-technical and overly restrictive readings of various protection laws or because we are unwilling to exercise humanitarian discretion to save them..

I know first-hand because in my former position as a U.S. Immigration Judge, I sometimes had to tell individuals (and their families) in person that I had to order them returned to a country where I had concluded that they would likely be severely harmed or killed because I could not fit them into any of the categories of protection available under U.S. law. I daresay that very few of the restrictionists who glory in the idea of even harsher and more restrictive immigration laws have had this experience. 

And clearly, Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, Steven Miller, Bob Goodlatte and others in the GOP would like to increase the number of humans we return to harm or death by stripping defenseless juveniles and other vulnerable asylum seekers of some of the limited rights they now possess in the false name of “border security.” Indeed, Sessions even invented a false narrative of a fraud-ridden, “attorney-gamed” (how do folks who often don’t even have a chance to get an attorney use attorneys to “game” the system?) asylum system in an attempt to justify his totally indefensible and morally bankrupt position.

Check out this video from HuffPost, entitled “This Is The Violent And Tragic Reality Of Deportation”  to see the shocking truth about how our removal system really works (or not)!

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/this-is-the-violent-and-tragic-reality-of-deportation_us_5a58eeade4b03c41896545f2

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Thinking of MLK’S “I have a dream,” next, I’ll take you over to The Guardian, where Washington Correspondent Sabrina Siddiqui tells us how “Immigration policy progress and setbacks have become pattern for Dreamers.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/15/dreamers-policy-progress-and-disaster-has-become-a-pattern-trump

Sabrina writes:

“Greisa Martínez Rosas has seen it before: a rare bipartisan breakthrough on immigration policy, offering a glimmer of hope to advocates like herself. Then a swift unraveling.

Martínez is a Dreamer, one of about 700,000 young undocumented migrants, brought to the US as children, who secured temporary protections through Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or Daca.

She considers herself “one of the lucky ones”. Last year, she was able to renew her legal status until 2020, even as Donald Trump threw the Dreamers into limbo by rescinding Daca and declaring a deadline of 5 March for Congress to act to replace it.

Martínez is an activist with United We Dream, the largest youth-led immigration advocacy group in the US. She has fought on the front lines.

In 2010 and 2013, she saw efforts for immigration reform, and a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, culminate in disappointment. She rode a familiar rollercoaster this week, as a bipartisan Daca fix was undermined by Trump’s reported – if contested – reference to African and Central American nations as “shithole countries”.

“It feels like a sequel,” Martínez told the Guardian, adding that Trump’s adversarial views underscored the need to hash out a deal. “This same man is responsible for running a Department of Homeland Security that seeks to hunt and deport people of color.”

Negotiations over immigration have always been precarious. Trump has complicated the picture. After launching his candidacy for president with a speech that called Mexican migrants “rapists” and “killers”, Trump campaigned on deporting nearly 11 million undocumented migrants and building a wall on the Mexico border.

He has, however, shown a more flexible attitude towards Dreamers – despite his move to end their protective status. Last Tuesday, the president sat in the White House, flanked by members of both parties. In a 45-minute negotiating session, televised for full effect, Trump ignited fury among his hardcore supporters by signaling he was open to protection for Dreamers in exchange for modest border security measures.

Then, less than 48 hours later, Trump’s reported comments about countries like Haiti and El Salvador prompted a fierce backlash.

“People are picking their jaws up from the table and they’re trying to recover from feelings of deep hurt and anger,” said Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of America’s Voice, a group which advocates for immigration reform.

“We always knew we were climbing a mountain … but it’s improbable to imagine a positive breakthrough for immigrants with the most nativist president in modern America in charge.”

As the uproar continued, it was nearly forgotten that on Thursday, hours before Trump’s remarks became public, a group of senators announced a bipartisan deal.

Under it, hundreds of thousands of Dreamers would be able to gain provisional legal status and eventually apply for green cards. They would not be able to sponsor their parents for citizenship – an effort to appease Trump’s stance against so-called “chain migration” – but parents would be able to obtain a form of renewable legal status.

There would be other concessions to earn Trump’s signature, such as $2bn for border security including physical barriers, if not by definition a wall.

The compromise would also do away with the diversity visa lottery and reallocate those visas to migrants from underrepresented countries and those who stand to lose Temporary Protected Status. That would help those affected by the Trump administration’s recent decision to terminate such status for some nationals of El Salvador, effectively forcing nearly 200,000 out of the country.

The bill would be far less comprehensive than the one put forward in 2013, when a bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Eight” proposed a bill that would have given nearly 11 million undocumented migrants a path to citizenship.

The bill passed the Senate with rare bipartisan support. In the Republican-led House it never received a vote.

Proponents of reform now believe momentum has shifted in their favor, despite Trump’s ascent. The Arizona senator Jeff Flake, part of the 2013 effort and also in the reform group today, said there was a clear deadline of 5 March to help Dreamers.

“I do think there is a broader consensus to do this than we had before,” Flake told the Guardian. “We’re going have 700,000 kids subject to deportation. That’s the biggest difference.”

Read the rest of the story at the link.

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Finally, John Blake at CNN tells us “Three ways [you might not know] MLK speaks to our time.”

http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/12/us/mlk-relevance-today/index.html

“(CNN)“Every hero becomes a bore at last.”

That’s a famous line from the 19th century philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, but it could also apply to a modern American hero: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
As the nation celebrates King’s national holiday Monday, it’s easy to freeze-frame him as the benevolent dreamer carved in stone on the Washington Mall. Yet the platitudes that frame many King holiday events often fail to mention the most radical aspects of his legacy, says Jeanne Theoharis, a political science professor at Brooklyn College and author of several books on the civil rights movement.
“We turn him into a Thanksgiving parade float, he’s jolly, larger than life and he makes us feel good,” Theoharis says. “We’ve turned him into a mascot.”
Many people vaguely know that King opposed the Vietnam War and talked more about poverty in his later years. But King also had a lot to say about issues not normally associated with civil rights that still resonate today, historians and activists say.

If you’re concerned about inequality, health care, climate change or even the nastiness of our political disagreements, then King has plenty to say to you. To see that version of King, though, we have to dust off the cliches and look at him anew.
If you’re more familiar with your smartphone than your history, try this: Think of King not just as a civil rights hero, but also as an app — his legacy has to be updated to remain relevant.
Here are three ways we can update our MLK app to see how he spoke not only to his time, but to our time as well:
. . . .
The country is still divided by many of the same issues that consumed him.
On the last night of his life, King told a shouting congregation of black churchgoers that “we as a people” would get to “the Promised Land.” That kind of optimism, though, sounds like it belongs to another era.
What we have now is a leader in the White House who denies widespread reports that he complained about Latino and African immigrants coming to America from “shithole” countries; a white supremacist who murders worshippers in church; a social media landscape that pulsates with anger and accusations.
King’s Promised Land doesn’t sound boring when compared to today’s headlines. And maybe that’s what’s so sad about reliving his life every January for some people.
Fifty years after he died, King’s vision for America still sounds so far away.”
Read the complete article at the link.
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There you have it. A brief but representative sample of some of the many ways in which Dr. King’s dream of a “post racist America” is still relevant and why there’s still much more work still to be done than many of us might have thought several years ago.  
So, the next time you hear bandied about terms like “merit-based” (means: exclude Brown and Black immigrants); “extreme vetting” (means: using bureaucracy to keep Muslims and other perceived “undesirables” out); “tax cuts” (means: handouts to the rich at the expense of the poor); “entitlement reform” (means: cutting benefits for the most vulnerable); “health care reform” (means: kicking the most needy out of the health care system); “voter fraud” (means: suppressing the Black, Hispanic, and Democratic vote); “rule of law” (means: perverting the role of Government agencies and the courts to harm Blacks, Hispanics, Gays, women, the poor, and other minorities); “job creation” (means: destroying our precious natural resources and the environment for the benefit of big corporations), “border security” (means: slashing rights for children and asylum seekers, and more money for building a wall and expanding prisons for non-criminal migrants, a/k/a/ “The New American Gulag”), “ending chain migration” (means keeping non-White and/or non-Christian immigrants from bringing family members) and other deceptively harmless sounding euphemisms, know what the politicos are really up to and consider them in the terms that Dr. King might have.
What’s really behind the rhetoric and how will it help create the type of more fair, just, equal, and value-driven society that majority of us in American seek to be part of and leave to succeeding generations. If it isn’t moving us as a nation toward those goals, “Just Say NO” as Dr. King would have done! 
PWS
01-15-18

ELIZABETH BRUENIG HAS AN INTERESTING IDEA: WHAT IF THE “IDLE RICH” HAD TO WORK FOR A LIVING?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/if-the-poor-must-work-to-earn-every-dollar-shouldnt-the-rich/2018/01/05/c36d9a10-f243-11e7-b390-a36dc3fa2842_story.html

Bruenig writes in the WashPost:

“The lion’s share of poor people are elderly, children or disabled persons; another chunk are caregivers. And while caregiving isn’t compensated as market labor, parents looking after children and people caring for elderly or sick family members are hardly shiftless layabouts. Being both a mother and a writer, I am well aware that the less compensated of my two jobs is the more demanding one.

But what about that small number of people who could work but, for whatever reason, don’t? Shouldn’t they have to? Well, before deciding whether it’s morally right for them to receive income without working, consider a far larger group that takes in far more money without toil: the idle rich. They soak up plenty of unearned money from the economy, in the form of rent, dividends and capital income. Salaries and wages — that is, money paid for work — only make up about 15 percent of the income of Americans making $10 million per year or more; the rest is capital income from simply owning assets.

And yet rarely do politicians inveigh against the laziness of the well-off. In fact, the government shells out huge sums of money to the rich every year through tax breaks and subsidies.

. . . .

In other words, the well-to-do already do what workfare advocates seem so nervous about: rake in money they haven’t earned through market labor and thrive off the government’s largesse. Perhaps that itself is unfair — so why duplicate it on the other end of the economy? Put simply, it seems ludicrous at best and sadistic at most to start one’s fairness policing from the bottom up. If we mean to transform our economy into one in which people earn precisely what they work for and no more, and receive nothing from the government lest their work ethic wither, it would be best to start from the top down, where nobody runs any risk of starvation or homelessness if they lose their benefits.

In fact, none of us live entirely on what we earn. We rely on the infrastructure, knowledge and technology developed by those who have come before us, and those contemporaneous with us. Instead of trying to mince each person’s life’s work into careful calculations of contribution and merit, it seems more sensible to pursue a fairer economy overall: one that directs its excesses not to the already rich, but to those who have the greatest need; one that recognizes in its distributive structure that every person is immeasurably valuable, deserving of life and dignity.”

***********************

Read the rest of Bruenig’s article, which includes statistical support for her position, at the link.

Wow! Valuing human lives, achievements, and contributions as much as capital! What a revolutionary concept for a capitalist society.

PWS

01-07-18

WHILE TRUMP & FAT CATS CELEBRATE TAX HEIST AT MIR-A-LAGO, AND THE GOP PLANS TO CUT YOUR SAFETY NET, EARNED BENEFITS, & DESROY THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM TO FINANCE HANDOUTS TO THE SUPER RICH, SEE HOW 41 MILLION AMERICANS LIVE IN HOPELESS POVERTY IN THE MIDST OF PLENTY!

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/15/america-extreme-poverty-un-special-rapporteur

Ed Pilkington reports for The Guardian:

“Los Angeles, California, 5 December

“You got a choice to make, man. You could go straight on to heaven. Or you could turn right, into that.”

We are in Los Angeles, in the heart of one of America’s wealthiest cities, and General Dogon, dressed in black, is our tour guide. Alongside him strolls another tall man, grey-haired and sprucely decked out in jeans and suit jacket. Professor Philip Alston is an Australian academic with a formal title: UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

General Dogon, himself a veteran of these Skid Row streets, strides along, stepping over a dead rat without comment and skirting round a body wrapped in a worn orange blanket lying on the sidewalk.

The two men carry on for block after block after block of tatty tents and improvised tarpaulin shelters. Men and women are gathered outside the structures, squatting or sleeping, some in groups, most alone like extras in a low-budget dystopian movie.

We come to an intersection, which is when General Dogon stops and presents his guest with the choice. He points straight ahead to the end of the street, where the glistening skyscrapers of downtown LA rise up in a promise of divine riches.

Heaven.

Then he turns to the right, revealing the “black power” tattoo on his neck, and leads our gaze back into Skid Row bang in the center of LA’s downtown. That way lies 50 blocks of concentrated human humiliation. A nightmare in plain view, in the city of dreams.

Alston turns right.

Philip Alston in downtown LA.
Philip Alston in downtown LA. Photograph: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian

So begins a two-week journey into the dark side of the American Dream. The spotlight of the UN monitor, an independent arbiter of human rights standards across the globe, has fallen on this occasion on the US, culminating on Friday with the release of his initial report in Washington.

His fact-finding mission into the richest nation the world has ever known has led him to investigate the tragedy at its core: the 41 million people who officially live in poverty.

Of those, nine million have zero cash income – they do not receive a cent in sustenance.

Alston’s epic journey has taken him from coast to coast, deprivation to deprivation. Starting in LA and San Francisco, sweeping through the Deep South, traveling on to the colonial stain of Puerto Rico then back to the stricken coal country of West Virginia, he has explored the collateral damage of America’s reliance on private enterprise to the exclusion of public help.

The Guardian had unprecedented access to the UN envoy, following him as he crossed the country, attending all his main stops and witnessing the extreme poverty he is investigating firsthand.

Think of it as payback time. As the UN special rapporteur himself put it: “Washington is very keen for me to point out the poverty and human rights failings in other countries. This time I’m in the US.”

David Busch, who is currently homeless on Venice beach, in Los Angeles.
David Busch, who is currently homeless on Venice beach, in Los Angeles. Photograph: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian

The tour comes at a critical moment for America and the world. It began on the day that Republicans in the US Senate voted for sweeping tax cuts that will deliver a bonanza for the super wealthy while in time raising taxes on many lower-income families. The changes will exacerbate wealth inequality that is already the most extreme in any industrialized nation, with three men – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffet – owning as much as half of the entire American people.

A few days into the UN visit, Republican leaders took a giant leap further. They announced plans to slash key social programs in what amounts to an assault on the already threadbare welfare state.

“Look up! Look at those banks, the cranes, the luxury condos going up,” exclaimed General Dogon, who used to be homeless on Skid Row and now works as a local activist with Lacan. “Down here, there’s nothing. You see the tents back to back, there’s no place for folks to go.”

California made a suitable starting point for the UN visit. It epitomizes both the vast wealth generated in the tech boom for the 0.001%, and the resulting surge in housing costs that has sent homelessness soaring. Los Angeles, the city with by far the largest population of street dwellers in the country, is grappling with crisis numbers that increased 25% this past year to 55,000.

Ressy Finley, 41, was busy sterilizing the white bucket she uses to slop out in her tent in which she has lived on and off for more than a decade. She keeps her living area, a mass of worn mattresses and blankets and a few motley possessions, as clean as she can in a losing battle against rats and cockroaches. She also endures waves of bed bugs, and has large welts on her shoulder to prove it.

She receives no formal income, and what she makes on recycling bottles and cans is no way enough to afford the average rents of $1,400 a month for a tiny one-bedroom. A friend brings her food every couple of days, the rest of the time she relies on nearby missions.

She cried twice in the course of our short conversation, once when she recalled how her infant son was taken from her arms by social workers because of her drug habit (he is now 14; she has never seen him again). The second time was when she alluded to the sexual abuse that set her as a child on the path towards drugs and homelessness.

Given all that, it’s remarkable how positive Finley remains. What does she think of the American Dream, the idea that everyone can make it if they try hard enough? She replies instantly: “I know I’m going to make it.”

A 41-year-old woman living on the sidewalk in Skid Row going to make it?

“Sure I will, so long as I keep the faith.”

What does “making it” mean to her?

“I want to be a writer, a poet, an entrepreneur, a therapist.”

Ressy Finley, who lives in a tent on 6th Street in Downtown LA.
Ressy Finley, who lives in a tent on 6th Street in Downtown LA. Photograph: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian

Robert Chambers occupies the next patch of sidewalk along from Finley’s. He’s created an area around his tent out of wooden pallets, what passes in Skid Row for a cottage garden.

He has a sign up saying “Homeless Writers Coalition”, the name of a group he runs to give homeless people dignity against what he calls the “animalistic” aspects of their lives. He’s referring not least to the lack of public bathrooms that forces people to relieve themselves on the streets.

LA authorities have promised to provide more access to toilets, a critical issue given the deadly outbreak of Hepatitis A that began in San Diego and is spreading on the west coast claiming 21 lives mainly through lack of sanitation in homeless encampments. At night local parks and amenities are closed specifically to keep homeless people out.

Skid Row has had the use of nine toilets at night for 1,800 street-faring people. That’s a ratio well below that mandated by the UN in its camps for Syrian refugees.

“It’s inhuman actually, and eventually in the end you will acquire animalistic psychology,” Chambers said.

He has been living on the streets for almost a year, having violated his parole terms for drug possession and in turn being turfed out of his low-cost apartment. There’s no help for him now, he said, no question of “making it”.

“The safety net? It has too many holes in it for me.”

Of all the people who crossed paths with the UN monitor, Chambers was the most dismissive of the American Dream. “People don’t realize – it’s never getting better, there’s no recovery for people like us. I’m 67, I have a heart condition, I shouldn’t be out here. I might not be too much longer.”

That was a lot of bad karma to absorb on day one, and it rattled even as seasoned a student of hardship as Alston. As UN special rapporteur, he’s reported on dire poverty and its impact on human rights in Saudi Arabia and China among other places. But Skid Row?

“I was feeling pretty depressed,” he told the Guardian later. “The endless drumbeat of horror stories. At a certain point you do wonder what can anyone do about this, let alone me.”

And then he took a flight up to San Francisco, to the Tenderloin district where homeless people congregate, and walked into St Boniface church.

What he saw there was an analgesic for his soul.”

*************************************

Read the rest of the story, with many major “poverty stops” across America, at the link.

At some point, all Americans will pay a price for the Trump/GOP plan to loot America for the rich and increase income inequality.

PWS

12-26-17

 

 

SO, YOU THINK YOU WANT TO BE A SYCOPHANT! – VEEP MIKE PENCE IS THE BIGGEST BADASS BROWN-NOSER IN AMERICA—TAKE HIS “MASTER CLASS IN KISSING ASS” (With Wonderful Commentary By Slate’s Katy Waldman)!

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/12/a_line_by_line_breakdown_of_mike_pence_s_master_class_in_toadyism.html

Katy writes:

After his tax bill victory on Wednesday, Donald Trump graciously called a Cabinet meeting—he probably sensed his staff was itching to get something off its chest. If he had not convened his cheerleading squad, it’s possible they would have been borne away by their unvented amazement, swept into the streets like Enoch to heaven. The president of the United States would not allow such a thing to happen to his beloved staff.

ADVERTISING
Katy WaldmanKATY WALDMAN

Katy Waldman is a Slate staff writer.

Right before the speeches began, though, Trump looked mad. What if all the nice things people said about him failed to live up to the nice things he deserved to hear? Florid with dark expectation—already anticipating the insufficiency of the praise—Trump gestured at his No. 2 and curtly prompted him to “say a few words.”

“I’m deeply humbled, as your vice president, to be able to be here.”

That was Mike Pence’s cue. Those of us watching on TV were left to imagine the vice president’s rapturous expression as the back of his head started to enumerate the blessings Trump has brought to America.

“You’ve restored American credibility on the world stage.”

Meanwhile, the camera was a surrogate for the president’s mind. It focused intently on Trump, his stormy visage framed by the piously downcast faces of his white male priesthood, which on Wednesday included Ryan Zinke, Rex Tillerson, Jim Mattis, and Wilbur Ross.

“You’ve spurred an optimism in this country that’s setting records.”

Trump, in implacable Apprentice mode, clenched up like a fist, his arms crossed over his chest. He looked like a mafia boss hearing the news that his heavies had just been iced and tossed into the Hudson with cement around their ankles. Meantime, in our world, his cronies were delivering what the Washington Post calculated to be 14 compliments in less than three minutes, at a rate of approximately one commendation per 12.5 seconds.

“You’ve signed more bills rolling back federal red tape than any president in American history.”

As my colleague Ruth Graham pointed out to me, Pence’s lavish ode was less a piece of political rhetoric emanating from the government headquarters of a democratic country than a freestyle evangelical orison: Lord, we just come to you today with thanks, Lord. You promised us tax reform, and Lord we are just so humbled, Lord, that you have fulfilled your promise.

“Because of your leadership, Mr. President, and because of the strong support of the leadership in the Congress of the United States, you’re delivering on [a] middle-class miracle.”

Praise the Lord!

“You’ve unleashed American energy.”

And hot air. Lots and lots of hot air.

When the video of Pence’s performance emerged online, Twitter wags mocked the “groveling” “ass kissers” “[going] around the Cabinet table kissing Trump’s butt.”

“You’ve actually got the Congress to do, as you said, what they couldn’t do with [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska] for 40 years.”

The vice president has made himself an instrument of Trumpian divinity before. He formed part of a backdrop of aggressive Jesus-worship during Trump’s announcement that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (Muslim viewers, triply assaulted by Pence; Christmas lights; and an extravagant, beribboned tree, surely got the hint.) And in October, the White House deployed Pence as a culture-war pawn, sending him to an NFL game and instructing him to leave early when the players inevitably knelt to protest police violence. “Pence did not take this job to perform demeaning tasks for the pleasure of his boss; he was expected to use his ties to the GOP establishment to help push Trump’s agenda through Congress,” wrote Mark Joseph Stern at the time. “But following the administration’s failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, Trump seems to be repurposing Pence … as a prop in the grudges he fosters to keep his white working-class base satisfied.”

“You got the Congress to do, with tax cuts for working families and American businesses, what they haven’t been able to do for 31 years.”

Before he linked his political fortunes to Trump, the former governor of Indiana was known to prioritize values over results. As Stern observed, Pence made his name in the House of Representatives “playing up his Christian conservative credentials by introducing symbolic bills and resolutions that went nowhere.” In the governor’s house, he often “let ideology trump pragmatism,” as when he backed a draconian anti-abortion measure that was swiftly struck down as unconstitutional.

“And you got Congress to do what they couldn’t do for seven years, in repealing the individual mandate in Obamacare.”

The Trump presidency is often accused of degrading American institutions, from the courts to the press to the government agencies that now hustle to undermine their stated missions. It’s easy to forget how corrupt organizations can also degrade individuals.

“Mostly, Mr. President, I’ll end where I began and just tell you, I want to thank you, Mr. President.”

Sacrificing results to values is one thing. The shameful spectacle of Pence, a U.S. elected official, toadying up to his fuming, incompetent boss as his peers nodded along felt like a glimpse from some dark totalitarian timeline. It was unreal: Cabinet members called together to fawn over their leader in the most obsequious possible terms, as he steamed in the center of the camera frame like a bratty starlet caught in a downpour, and the chyrons ran past with their tidings of tax-related disaster.

“I want to thank you for speaking on behalf of and fighting every day for the forgotten men and women of America.”

Mike Pence, featuring Dido:

“Because of your determination, because of your leadership, the forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more.”

What Pence may have discovered when he put his faith in a new Lord was that his religiosity was a perfect match for Trump’s petulant ego. They are grim idol and trembling sycophant, the one’s insatiable need for reverence answered in the depths of the other’s devotional temperament.

“And we are making America great again.”

******************************************

Thanks, Katy, for giving us such deep insight into one of the shallowest minds in America!

PWS

12-23-17

 

RESISTING TRUMP AND THE WHITE NATIONALIST STATE: “YEAR 1” — Read Polish Journalist Martin Mycielski’s “Authoritarian Regime Survival Guide”

YEAR 1 Under Authoritarianism

What to Expect?

  1. They will come to power with a campaign based on fear, scaremongering and distorting the truth. Nevertheless, their victory will be achieved through a democratic electoral process. But beware, as this will be their argument every time you question the legitimacy of their actions. They will claim a mandate from the People to change the system.

    Remember – gaining power through a democratic system does not give them permission to cross legal boundaries and undermine said democracy.

  2. They will divide and rule. Their strength lies in unity, in one voice and one ideology, and so should yours. They will call their supporters Patriots, the only “true Americans”. You will be labelled as traitors, enemies of the state, unpatriotic, the corrupt elite, the old regime trying to regain power. Their supporters will be the “People”, the “sovereign” who chose their leaders.

    Don’t let them divide you – remember you’re one People, one Nation, with one common good.

  3. Through convoluted laws and threats they will try to control mainstream media and limit press freedom. They will ban critical press from their briefings, calling them “liars”, “fake news”. They will brand those media as “unpatriotic”, acting against the People (see point 2).

    Fight for every media outlet, every journalist that is being banned, censored, sacked or labelled an “enemy of the state” – there’s no hope for freedom where there is no free press.

  4. They will create chaos, maintain a constant sense of conflict and danger. It will be their argument to enact new authoritarian laws, each one further limiting your freedoms and civil liberties. They will disguise them as being for your protection, for the good of the People.

    See through the chaos, the fake danger, expose it before you wake up in a totalitarian, fascist state.

  5. They will distort the truth, deny facts and blatantly lie. They will try to make you forget what facts are, sedate your need to find the truth. They will feed “post-truths” and “alternative facts”, replace knowledge and logic with emotions and fiction.

    Always think critically, fact-check and point out the truth, fight ignorance with facts.

  6. They will incite and then leak fake, superficial “scandals”. They will smear opposition with trivial accusations, blowing them out of proportion and then feeding the flame. This is just smokescreen for the legal steps they will be taking towards totalitarianism.

    See through superficial topics in mainstream media (see point 3) and focus on what they are actually doing.

  7. They will propose shocking laws to provoke your outrage. You will focus your efforts on fighting them, so they will seemingly back off, giving you a false sense of victory. In the meantime they will push through less “flashy” legislation, slowly dismantling democracy (see points 4 and 6).

    Focus your fight on what really matters.

  8. When invading your liberal sensibilities they will focus on what hurts the most – women and minorities. They will act as if democracy was majority rule without respect for the minority. They will paint foreigners and immigrants as potential threats. Racial, religious, sexual and other minorities will become enemies to the order and security they are supposedly providing. They will challenge women’s social status, undermine gender equality and interfere with reproductive rights (see point 7). But it means they are aware of the threat women and minorities pose to their rule, so make it your strength.

    Women and minorities should fight the hardest, reminding the majority what true democracy is about.

  9. They will try to take control of the judiciary. They will assault your highest court. They need to remove the checks and balances to be able to push through unconstitutional legislation. Controlling the judiciary they can also threat anyone that defies them with prosecution, including the press (see point 3).

    Preserve the independence of your courts at all cost, they are your safety valve, the safeguard of the rule of law and the democratic system.

  10. They will try to limit freedom of assembly, calling it a necessity for your security. They will enact laws prioritizing state events and rallies, or those of a certain type or ideology. If they can choose who can demonstrate legally, they have a legal basis to forcefully disperse or prosecute the rest.

    Oppose any legislation attempting to interfere with freedom of assembly, for whatever reason.

  11. They will distort the language, coin new terms and labels, repeat shocking phrases until you accept them as normal and subconsciously associate them with whom they like. A “thief”, “liar” or “traitor” will automatically mean the opposition, while a “patriot” or a “true American” will mean their follower (see point 2). Their slogans will have double meaning, giving strength to their supporters and instilling angst in their opponents.

    Fight changes in language in the public sphere, remind and preserve the true meaning of words.

  12. They will take over your national symbols, associate them with their regime, remake them into attributes of their power. They want you to forget that your flag, your anthem and your symbols belong to you, the People, to everyone equally. Don’t let them be hijacked. Use and expose them in your fight as much as they do.

    Show your national symbols with pride, let them give you strength, not associate you with the tyranny they brought onto your country.

  13. They will try to rewrite history to suit their needs and use the education system to support their agenda. They will smear any historical or living figure who wouldn’t approve of their actions, or distort their image to make you think they would. They will place emphasis on historical education in schools, feeding young minds with the “only correct” version of history and philosophy. They will raise a new generation of voters on their ideology, backing it with a distorted interpretation of history and view of the world.

    Guard the education of your children, teach them critical thinking, ensure their open-mindedness and protect your real history and heritage.

  14. They will alienate foreign allies and partners, convincing you don’t need them. They won’t care for the rest of the world, with their focus on “making your country great again”. While ruining your economy to fulfil their populist promises, they will omit the fact that you’re part of a bigger world whose development depends on cooperation, on sharing and on trade.

    Don’t let them build walls promising you security instead of bridges giving you prosperity.

  15. They will eventually manipulate the electoral system. They might say it’s to correct flaws, to make it more fair, more similar to the rest of the world, or just to make it better. Don’t believe it. They wouldn’t be messing with it at all if it wasn’t to benefit them in some way.

    Oppose any changes to electoral law that an authoritarian regime wants to enact – rest assured it’s only to help them remain in power longer.

And above all, be strong, fight, endure, and remember you’re on the good side of history.
EVERY authoritarian, totalitarian and fascist regime in history eventually failed, thanks to the PEOPLE.
– With love, your Eastern European friends

 ***************************************

Martin Mycielski is a journalist, serving as Brussels correspondent for leading Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza. Before that he was one of the leaders of the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) NGO and protest movement, which has organized the largest mass demonstrations in Poland since the fall of communism, opposing the authoritarian and unlawful actions of the Law and Justice (PiS) government and its leader, Jarosław Kaczyński (read more here and here, or just Google). In 2016 KOD’s efforts to defend democracy, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law were recognized by the European Parliament which awarded it the European Citizen’s Prize.

Since childhood Martin has been enamoured with the US, it’s culture, politics and people. Tragically, January events have put the worlds greatest democracy at risk, as they have clearly undermined the fundamental values the States were build upon, such as freedom, democracy, equality & diversity. As these values form the idea of America Martin has been raised on, he has decided to step in and help to defend them the only way he knows how – by sharing with you his experiences from a continent being currently torn apart by populists, authoritarians and tinpot dictators.

His message to President Donald J. Trump is therefore a paraphrased fragment from W. B. Yeats:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams;
And if you don’t, we the People will push you off them.

You can follow Martin on Twitter at @mycielski.

To view his professional background visit his portfolio, or invite him on LinkedIn to connect.

****************************

Scary, but important points to remember if we want “liberal Western democracy” to survive the Trump era.

Points 8, 9, an 14 have particular relevance to what is happening in our legal and immigration systems now. thus, I reiterate them in full here:

Point 8

When invading your liberal sensibilities they will focus on what hurts the most – women and minorities. They will act as if democracy was majority rule without respect for the minority. They will paint foreigners and immigrants as potential threats. Racial, religious, sexual and other minorities will become enemies to the order and security they are supposedly providing. They will challenge women’s social status, undermine gender equality and interfere with reproductive rights (see point 7). But it means they are aware of the threat women and minorities pose to their rule, so make it your strength.

Women and minorities should fight the hardest, reminding the majority what true democracy is about.

Point 9

They will try to take control of the judiciary. They will assault your highest court. They need to remove the checks and balances to be able to push through unconstitutional legislation. Controlling the judiciary they can also threat anyone that defies them with prosecution, including the press (see point 3).

Preserve the independence of your courts at all cost, they are your safety valve, the safeguard of the rule of law and the democratic system.

Point 14

They will alienate foreign allies and partners, convincing you don’t need them. They won’t care for the rest of the world, with their focus on “making your country great again”. While ruining your economy to fulfil their populist promises, they will omit the fact that you’re part of a bigger world whose development depends on cooperation, on sharing and on trade.

Don’t let them build walls promising you security instead of bridges giving you prosperity.

 

 

PWS

12-22-17

MICHELLE GOLDBERG IN THE NYT: AS GOP LEADERS SUCK UP TO “DER FURHER,” THIS IS WHAT NEO-NAZI SUBMISSION LOOKS LIKE!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/22/opinion/fifty-shades-trump-republicans.html

Michelle writes:

“At a televised cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Donald Trump, as is his custom, called on his appointees to publicly praise him. In a performance that would have embarrassed the most obsequious lackey of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Vice President Mike Pence delivered an encomium to his boss, who sat across the table with arms folded over his chest, absorbing abasement as his due.

“I want to thank you, Mr. President,” Pence said. “I want to thank you for speaking on behalf of and fighting every day for the forgotten men and women of America. Because of your determination, because of your leadership, the forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more. And we are making America great again.” The president thanked him for his kind words, and Pence replied, “Thank you, Mr. President, and God bless you.”

It was a neat summation of where the Republican Party is at the end of the first year of Trump. There’s been a synthesis, in which Trump and establishment Republicans adopt one another’s worst qualities. Trump, who campaigned as a putative economic populist — even calling for higher taxes on the rich — will soon sign into law the tax plan of the House speaker Paul Ryan’s Ayn Randian dreams. The majority of elected Republicans, in turn, are assuming a posture of slavish submission to Trump, worshiping their dear leader and collaborating in the maintenance of his alternative reality.

Some of this might be strategic; everyone knows Trump is susceptible to flattery. But in many cases — certainly with Pence — it seems sincere. In a recent Atlantic profile of the vice president, McKay Coppins wrote that Pence’s faith mandates obedience to temporal as well as heavenly authority. When he accepted the vice-presidential nomination, Coppins wrote, “he believed he was committing to humbly submit to the will of Donald Trump.” From a secular perspective, Pence, like many other Republicans, appears to be a person inclined to authoritarianism.

Erich Fromm, a German-Jewish psychoanalyst who fled Nazism, described authoritarian personalities as simultaneously craving power and submission. “The authoritarian character loves those conditions that limit human freedom; he loves being submitted to fate,” he wrote. Fate, in his formulation, can be the laws of the market, the will of God, or the whims of a leader. According to Fromm, authoritarians might make a show of valuing freedom and independence — watchwords of the American right — but long to be ruled by a stronger force.

Viewed this way, it’s not surprising that religious conservatives have been among Trump’s most ardent fans. Certainly, it’s understandable that people on the right would try to get what they can out of this president. But the relationship between Trump and many Republicans increasingly looks less like a marriage of convenience than a sadomasochistic affair.

. . . .

It is, as they say, not normal for erstwhile law-and-order Republicans to attack the F.B.I. for being overzealous in its pursuit of Russian subversion. Nunes’s inquiry appears similar to Trump’s voter fraud commission, invented to substantiate right-wing fantasies about Democratic vote rigging. The point, in both cases, is to flesh out a lie rather than find the truth. Hannah Arendt once wrote of this sort of policy-as-disinformation: “Totalitarianism will not be satisfied to assert, in the face of contrary facts, that unemployment does not exist; it will abolish unemployment benefits as part of its propaganda.”

For the past year, a lot of us have assumed that Republicans are putting up with Trump out of fear of their base or lust for tax cuts. We’ve imagined that beneath our mutual partisan loathing lies some remaining shared commitment to liberal democracy. Maybe that’s true, and Republicans will display new independence once tax reform is signed, particularly if support for the president keeps dwindling.

But there’s another possibility, which is that a critical mass of Republicans like being in thrall to a man who seems strong enough to will his own reality, and bold enough to voice their atavistic hatreds. Maybe Trump is changing Republicans, or maybe he’s just giving men like Pence permission to be who they already were.”

****************************************************

Read Michelle’s entire article, aptly named “Fifty Shade of Orange” at the above link. I’ll reluctantly go with “possibility two:” Trump is just giving GOP “closet bigots,” oligarchs, anarchists, racists, theocrats, and neo-Nazis permission publicly to be what they always were underneath. Not a happy thought, but at least we’ll know what we’re up against and why to date most so-called “establishment Republicans” who intend to remain in office have “gone along to get along.”

Remember, at the  end of the day, not a single GOP Senator was willing to vote against a fairly obvious “Tax Heist.”  That, plus all the “slavish submission” and repulsive flattery of “The Supreme Leader” this week tell you all you need to know about the “Heart and Soul” of the GOP. The country needs “regime change” before it’s too late!

PWS

12-22-17