FORMER DHS SEC MIKE CHERTOFF TELLS HOW CUTTING REFUGEE ADMISSIONS HURTS AMERICA AND ENDANGERS NATIONAL SECURITY!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/cutting-refugee-admissions-hurts-americans-heres-how/2017/09/14/c7c8b5e6-9987-11e7-b569-3360011663b4_story.html?utm_term=.268b590d8b01

Chertoff writes in the Washington Post:

“President Trump will make another decision this month that will affect thousands of people: How many refugees will the United States admit in fiscal year 2018?

The president already cut refugee admissions by more than half this year, from more than 100,000 down to 50,000. By way of comparison, the highest ceiling under President Ronald Reagan was 140,000. The president has also signaled, through his executive orders and in his budget proposal, that these cuts will carry over to next year. And in fact, some in his administration are trying to convince him to cut even further.

This would be a mistake. Cutting refugee admittances would not only be a moral failure but also damage our national interest abroad and our economy.

Of course, security is an imperative, and the refugee resettlement program is secure. U.S. security and intelligence agencies conduct multiple reviews on every refugee admitted, and only those approved for admission by the Department of Homeland Security are granted refuge in the United States.

 

There is also the humanitarian imperative: We are in the midst of the greatest refugee crisis on record, with more than 22 million people seeking safety from violence, conflict and persecution all over the world. The vast majority of refugees — nearly 90 percent — are hosted by poor and middle-income countries. Only the most vulnerable — those whose safety cannot be assured in their countries of first refuge — are selected for resettlement. For these refugees — widowed women; orphaned children; survivors of rape, torture and brutal religious persecution — refugee resettlement is a lifeline.

But what’s in it for the United States?

Strategic allies located near crises host the largest refugee populations in the world. Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan and Kenya are among the top refugee-hosting states. Their willingness to host millions of refugees contributes greatly to regional stability and security, all in regions where U.S. troops are deployed. As our military works to contain terrorist insurgencies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and the Horn of Africa, forcing refugees to return to unsafe and unstable countries would make countering terrorism more difficult.

 

That’s why in 2016, when the Kenyan government threatened to close the Dadaab refugee camp and forcibly return more than 250,000 Somalis to an unstable Somalia, then-Secretary of State John F. Kerry got on a plane to Kenya. It’s also why the United States should be concerned that more than 700,000 Afghan registered and unregistered refugees have been returned to Afghanistan since 2016 — a threefold increase from 2015 — at a time when growing instability in Afghanistan and terrorist gains are forcing an increase in U.S. troop levels.

If we’re not willing to do our fair share, how can we ask front-line allies to do more?

Maintaining resettlement commitments is also critical to our military, diplomatic and intelligence operations abroad. Tens of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan nationals have put their lives on the line to support intelligence-gathering, operations planning and other essential services. Terrorist groups openly target these individuals because of their cooperation with Americans. Resettlement is instrumental to ensuring their safety — a testament to the U.S. military’s commitment to leave no one behind on the battlefield.

And in a proud American tradition, Republican and Democratic presidents have used refugee admissions to signal support for those who reject ideologies antithetical to U.S. values. In the past few decades, we have raised our admissions ceilings to take in those fleeing communist uprisings, religious persecution and tyranny.

 

Today, the United States must provide unwavering support for Muslims who put their lives at risk to reject terrorist ideologies, many of whom refused to join or be conscripted into terrorist groups, militias and state security forces persecuting their fellow citizens. The Islamic State considers all those who flee its rule as heretics subject to execution. Those who risk their lives — and their children’s lives — to reject terrorism must know, as a matter of our fight against extremism, that the United States supports and welcomes them.

Even in the wake of 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our country’s history, President George W. Bush deliberately and explicitly maintained a refugee admissions ceiling of 70,000 annually, affirming the United States’ great humanitarian tradition.

Finally, refugees enrich and are deeply supported by our communities. Hundreds of mayors, faith leaders and business leaders have attested to the contributions refugees make. Thousands of Americans donate volunteer hours, in-kind goods and services, and private dollars to support refugees. One study estimates only 39 percent of the costs of resettlement are covered by federal dollars.

 

Despite being among the most vulnerable and destitute when they arrive, refugees thrive. Entrepreneurship among refugees is nearly 50 percent higher than among U.S.-born populations, creating jobs for Americans. More than 57 percent of them are homeowners.

Our values and our national security interests argue for raising our refugee ceiling, not lowering it. The president should seize the mantle of Reagan and fortify U.S. leadership on refugees.”

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I’ll admit to not always being a Chertoff fan. In particular, his failure to support internal efforts to institute a strong prosecutorial discretion program at ICE that would have empowered the Chief Counsel to control the Immigration Courts’ growing docket was unfortunate, given his legal and judicial background.

But, I agree with what Chertoff says here. Just compare the power, logic, and moral authority of his statement with the mealy-mouthed, cowardly, morally vapid lies flowing from the mourths of xenophobic, disingenuous, fear mongers like Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, Rep. Steve King, and the rest of the White Nationalist crowd!

Refugeees make America great! White Nationalist xenophobes, not so much!

PWS

09-15-17

RELIGION: Gary Silverman In Financial Times: How White Evangelicals Traded The Mercy & Hope Of Jesus Christ For The False “Profit” Donald Trump!

https://www.ft.com/content/b41d0ee6-1e96-11e7-b7d3-163f5a7f229c

Silverman writes:

“Trump’s efforts to reach evangelicals during the campaign were marred by technical difficulties. After an appearance at Liberty University in Virginia, which was founded by Falwell, Trump was lampooned for quoting from a section of the Bible he called “Two Corinthians”, rather than “Second Corinthians”, as would customarily be done. Ultimately, Liberty University split over Trump. Its current president, Jerry Falwell Jr, endorsed his candidacy. But Mark DeMoss, a member of the university’s board of trustees and a former chief of staff for the elder Falwell, objected and resigned as a trustee. In a Washington Post interview last year, DeMoss described Trump’s rhetoric as antithetical to Christian values.

“Donald Trump is the only candidate who has dealt almost exclusively in the politics of personal insult,” DeMoss said. “The bullying tactics of personal insult have no defence — and certainly not for anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. That’s what’s disturbing to so many people. It’s not [the] Christ-like behaviour that Liberty has spent 40 years promoting with its students.”

Nonetheless, Trump was backed by 81 per cent of white voters who identified themselves as evangelical Christians, more than recent Republican candidates such as Mitt Romney and John McCain, according to the Pew Research Center, and more even than George W Bush, whose strategist Karl Rove made wooing them a priority of the campaign. Analysts say Trump made evangelicals an offer that they could not refuse. Unlike his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton — who was both disliked by conservatives and uncompromising in her support of a woman’s right to choose — Trump pledged to appoint an anti-abortion justice to fill the vacancy on a Supreme Court that was split between conservatives and liberals.

The white evangelical flight to Trump has caused “deep heartbreak” for “evangelicals of colour” who see him as a bigot, says Jim Wallis, a progressive evangelical leader in Washington. “It’s the most painful divide I have seen in the churches since the beginning of the civil rights movement.”

. . . .

But that’s not the way things look at the house on a hill in Auburn, Alabama, where Wayne Flynt lives with his wife of 55 years, Dorothy. As evangelical Christianity has grown more successful in the political realm, Flynt fears that it has been reduced to a sum of its slogans. Lost in the transition, he says, is the traditional evangelical standard for sizing up candidates — “personal moral character”, which includes such criteria as marital fidelity, church attendance and kindness.

“No one I know of would argue that Donald Trump inculcates moral character,” Flynt says. “What has happened to American Christianity is there is this afterglow of what a candidate is supposed to represent. It’s no longer moral character. It’s policy positions on things that bother evangelicals.”

Flynt says evangelical Christians are mainly mobilising against the sins they either do not want to commit (homosexual acts) or cannot commit (undergoing an abortion, in the case of men). They turn a blind eye toward temptations such as adultery and divorce that interest them. In 2010, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution calling the rising incidence of divorce among its members a “scandal”. A Pew Research Center study in 2015 found that evangelical Protestants in the US were more likely to be divorced or separated than Catholics, Jews, Muslims or atheists.

“Jesus says four times in four different places: do not divorce,” Flynt says. “Does divorce bother evangelicals? No, absolutely not. Does adultery bother evangelicals? No, not really, because if so they wouldn’t have voted for Donald Trump. So what bothers them? Abortion and same-sex marriage. Beyond that, there’s no longer an agenda.”

Flynt, who left the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979 to protest its turn to the right, notes ruefully that his former denomination has lost members for nine years in a row.

Into this religious void, he believes, stepped Trump, an unabashed materialist and hedonist — “What is right to Donald Trump is what gives him pleasure,” Flynt says — who thinks that he alone can make America great again.

“To be sure, every politician has some element of narcissism, but he has perfected narcissism, he has made it the supreme element of his life, and not only that, evangelicals have responded in an almost messianic way that he is the saviour, which makes him feel really good because he does believe he is the saviour,” Flynt says. “It is kind of curious evangelicals would not be offended by this. I am as an American Christian. I’m offended because I already thought following Jesus was going to make us great again.”

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Whatever happened to the Christian message of humanity, humility, faith, self-sacrifice, generosity to all, mercy, forgiveness, understanding, peace, elevating the spiritual over the material, and grace? I hear those things from Pope Francis (although I’m not a Catholic). But, not from Trump and his zealots. Go figure!

PWS

06-25-17

HISTORY: Paul Fanlund In Madison Cap Times: How We Got From Nixon To Trump!

http://host.madison.com/ct/opinion/column/paul_fanlund/paul-fanlund-so-why-can-t-america-just-be-good/article_e8734a95-ed8b-5544-a32f-f5ee791264a3.html#tncms-source=behavioral

Fanlund writes in an op-ed:

“When Roger Ailes died, essays about him ranged from adoring to vilifying. As creator of Fox News, he was perhaps the nation’s most influential political messenger — or propagandist — of the past 50 years.

One aspect of any honest obituary, of course, was his misogyny. Ailes was finally forced out at Fox in 2016 after years of sexual harassing women employees. His 17-year-old son threatened his father’s accusers at the funeral, warning mourners that he wanted “all the people who betrayed my father to know that I’m coming after them, and hell is coming with me.”

But what I found most interesting in immersing myself in analyses of Ailes’ life was how little his craft had to do with liberal versus conservative ideology.

Rather, Ailes was perhaps the master of the dark art of inventing and relentlessly reinforcing hateful caricatures of political opponents — in his case, people of color, bureaucrats, university professors and, of course, the media.

His brilliant execution of that art culminated in Donald Trump.

Ailes, as is widely known, learned from Richard Nixon, for whom he worked as a young television consultant. Nixon launched his political career much earlier by championing “forgotten Americans,” lunch-pail-toting working men whose fortunes, in Nixon’s telling, were stymied by taxes and regulations imposed upon them by far-away elites.

The rest, as they say, is history. Nixon appealed to his “silent majority” to stand against anti-war and civil rights protesters. Democrats opened the floodgates to Republican demagoguery by advancing civil rights. The GOP today has broadened its pool of villains to include Latino and Muslim immigrants.

The 1980s brought jolly Ronald Reagan with his fantastical stories about welfare queens, followed by George H.W. Bush’s law and order and patriotism themes, and so on.

“Individual issues would come and go — acid, amnesty and abortion in 1972, and immigration, political correctness and transgender bathrooms in 2016 — but the attacks on liberals as elite, out of touch and protective of the ‘wrong people’ came from the same playbook,” wrote David Greenberg, a Rutgers professor of history and journalism, in a New York Times op-ed on Ailes.

OK, but why does it always work?

Why are so many — especially older, white, middle-class people — so susceptible to this toxic narrative when it is clear that the trickle-down GOP policies that follow do them so little good?

Maybe, I theorize, it has something to do with how we were all taught.

I’ve talked with many friends about the flag-waving jingoism of our pre-college education, in which our nation was portrayed as perfect, our leaders without fault.

My formal education began when Dwight Eisenhower was president, an era of unfettered national pride. We were a paragon of liberty and justice and never fought in unjust wars. It was as if someone decided that American children could not process the slightest balance or shade of gray.

In this frame, Andrew Jackson was, as Trump likes to say, a glorious “swashbuckler” like himself, not a president who drove Native Americans from their homes, killing thousands in the process. Nor were we ever taught that Jackson, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other forefathers owned slaves.

It seems the goal was always to convey “American exceptionalism,” or, more bluntly, reinforce a cultish sense of American superiority.”

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Fanlund’s entire op-ed, at the above link, is well worth a read!

Lots of folks don’t like it when we put US history in perspective. For example, during the “glory days” of my childhood in the 1950’s millions of African Americans throughout the nation, and particularly in the South, were deprived of the basic rights of US citizenship. This was notwithstanding the clear dictates of the 14th Amendment, which had been added nearly a century earlier.

The US and many state governments merely decided not to enforce the law of the land. So much for all of the “rule of law” and “nation of laws” malarkey purveyed by right wingers today.

Indeed, many southern states enacted discriminatory laws that were directly contrary to the 14th Amendment. And, amazingly, for the majority of the 19th and 20th Centuries, courts of law at all levels were complicit in enforcing these unconstitutional laws and ignoring the14th Amendment!

PWS

05-26-17

IN MEMORIUM — From Politico: Bob Michel, Former GOP Leader & Great Public Servant In The “Old Style”

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/bob-michel-dies-former-gop-house-leader-234936

David Rogers writes in Politico:

“Former House Republican Leader Bob Michel, who helped shepherd Ronald Reagan’s agenda through Congress only to be pushed aside by the rise of Newt Gingrich a decade later, has died at the age of 93.

Elected first in 1956, the Illinois lawmaker spent 38 years in Congress — more than half in his party’s leadership. No House Republican has held the Republican leadership post longer, and Michel’s death is sure to trigger a host of memories, all the more relevant because of what Washington has become in the years since.
Indeed, it’s difficult to overstate how much the transition from Michel to Gingrich in 1994 impacted first House Republicans and then all of Congress as the fabric of civility soon fell apart and both political parties became more polarized.

“It’s day and night,” said Thomas Mann, a political scientist and long time student of Congress. “I see that transition — the shift from Michel to Gingrich — as the beginning of our really dreadfully dysfunctional Congress and a politics that became so personal and negative and anti-institutional that it really changed the whole character of public life in this country.”

As Republican leader, Michel’s legislative skills were genuine, albeit often under-appreciated in a House dominated then by Democrats. But history is likely to remember him most for the man himself and what many saw as the uncommon decency he brought to his job.

His was a mix of grace, humor and battle-tested bravery rarely seen now in the Capitol. As a Republican, he didn’t shy from carpooling with the gruff Chicago Democrat Dan Rostenkowski, riding back-and-forth from Illinois overnight in a station wagon equipped with a mattress in the back for sleep breaks between turns at the wheel. He played golf with one Democratic speaker, and built a lasting friendship with another. But Michel also took his shots, including a remarkable vote in June 1981, when he stunned Democrats by effectively seizing control of the House long enough to dictate the terms for debate for Reagan’s budget cuts.”

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PWS

02/18/17