Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Short Takes

Cleveland Police fires, suspends officers over deadly 2012 shooting.

Lead pipes not being removed from Flint water system.

F.B.I. arrests Milwaukee man for planning temple attack.

Denmark approves seizing refugees’ valuables.

Italy covers up nude statues during Iran presidential visit.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Friday, December 18, 2015

Don’t Quote Me

Every now and then even Fox News can catch a Republican flat-footed and flustered.

Ted Cruz is a smooth political operator. Even his critics have to give him that. A former debate champion at Princeton, the Texas senator seldom gets tied in a rhetorical knot, not matter how tangled a situation might seem.

Recall the masterful way he talked around Stephen Colbert’s surprise mention of same-sex marriage during an appearance on “The Late Show” in September. Aware that his opposition to gay marriage is unpopular with the host — and apparently with the audience, based on audible reactions — Cruz quickly flipped the discussion into one about states’ rights to make their own marriage laws.

So it was borderline stunning to see Cruz squirm on Fox News Channel on Wednesday evening, when Bret Baier challenged the Republican presidential candidate’s assertion — made in Tuesday’s debate — that he has never supported allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status.

Baier cited interviews and statements Cruz made on the Senate floor in 2013, when he was pushing an amendment to the so-called “Gang of Eight” immigration bill (Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, another GOP White House hopeful, was in the gang) that laid out a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Cruz wanted to take citizenship off the table but made clear at the time that he would be willing to grant some legal status.

As Baier pointed out, Cruz’s earlier statements don’t jibe with what he said on the debate stage in Las Vegas: “I’ve never supported legalization; I do not intend to support it.”

Baier played a tape of Cruz’s May 2013 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which he said: “I don’t want immigration reform to fail; I want immigration reform to pass. And so I would urge people of good faith on both sides of the aisle, if the objective is to pass common-sense immigration reform that secures the borders, that improves legal immigration and that allows those here illegally to come out of the shadows, then we should look for areas of bipartisan agreement and compromise to come together.”

Mr. Cruz tried to wiggle out of it by claiming he was using a Jedi mind trick: he was really trying to kill immigration reform by being for it.

Cruz was clearly stuck. He tried to argue that his objective was to “defeat Marco Rubio’s amnesty” with his amendment. But Baier fired back with Cruz’s own words: “The problem, though, is that at the time you were telling people like Byron York with the Washington Examiner that this was not a poison pill. You told him, ‘My objective was not to kill immigration reform.’ You said you wanted it to pass at the time.”

Look, the guy is slick and smug, but thank Dog there is video and Google.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Yes, It Can Happen Here

In 1935 Sinclair Lewis wrote a novel titled It Can’t Happen Here about  Senator Buzz Windrip who rose to popularity and became President of the United States by running on a ticket of social and economic reforms and a return to patriotism and traditional values.  After he’s elected he imposes a plutocratic/fascist regime with the help of a paramilitary force called the Minute Men, much like Hitler’s SS.  The title of the book comes from the idea that such an event can’t really happen in America.

Yes, it can.  We’ve gotten close on several occasions, most recently in the mid-1930’s when, out of the depths of the Depression and in the fear of Bolshevism in Europe, Huey Long — on whom Lewis based Windrip — came very close to running for president in 1936 only to be stopped by an assassin in 1935.  And now Donald Trump is doing it again, and if yesterday’s declaration of banning the admission of “every” Muslim, including American citizens coming back from a trip to Toronto, is any indication, he’s just getting warmed up.  He’s already demonized blacks, veterans, the disabled, women, and anyone who raises an objection to his rhetoric, so of course picking on the religion that is being portrayed as the enemy — another pickup from you-know-who — is the next step.

Of course everyone with the sense nature gave a goose will condemn him, including his rivals for the GOP nomination, but he’s going to get a bump in the polls and he’s going to roll on as the establishment Republican Party reels in horror and asks, with no sense of irony or self-awareness, “How could this happen?”

Charlie Pierce thinks that Mr. Trump has reached the stage of desperation and this plan to ban all Muslims from coming into the country is his last flail before he gets taken over by the comparatively moderate Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.

It is utterly immoral, completely unworkable, incredibly expensive, and the person proposing it admits he has no idea of the nature of the problem this proposal was designed to combat—except that it was designed by He, Trump, which apparently makes all the difference.

We keep saying that this won’t last, that certainly Donald Trump is going to go too far and the country will finally turn against him and he’ll drop off the screens.  We thought that after he dissed John McCain’s time as a P.O.W. in Vietnam, after he tangled with Fox News, and after any number of declarations that heretofore would have killed off any other presidential campaign, but unless we’re waking up this morning to nation that has finally had enough, he’s going to keep on stomping.

Footnote: See also All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, which truly follows the life and death of Huey Long.  The film version with Broderick Crawford is stunning and scary as hell.

Friday, November 20, 2015

It’s What They Do

I expected the Republicans to vote as a bloc on the stupid and chickenshit bill to gum up the works for Syrian and Iraqi refugees.  It is, as the current meme goes, what they do.

I also expected a number of Democrats to cringe and curl up into a ball and vote along with them because, y’know, it’s also what they do.  They’re not afraid of jihadists sneaking into the country under the guise of being poor wandering ones from war-torn countries; after all, the people who committed the attacks in Paris were either Belgian or European Union citizens; the Syrian passports found at the scene were forgeries, most likely being carried as a part of the plan to throw off the investigators.  I doubt they were thinking, “Gee, after we do this, the U.S. House is going to play right into our hands and completely lose their shpadoinkle over the idea of Syrians sneaking into Deadcat, Indiana, and waging jihad while washing dishes at the Cracker Barrel.”

What they’re really afraid of is being called soft on terrorism by the Republicans who have completely lost their shpadoinkle over a group of people who are running for their lives from a bunch of vicious thugs and murderers and have no more capacity to wage guerrilla war on the West than Rush Limbaugh has of doing the macarena with Hillary Clinton.

Aside from the fact that the law is doomed and short-sighted — after all, if the intent is to block only Syrian and Iraqi refugees, what’s to stop a determined jihadist from picking up a false set of papers from say an Albanian or a Serbian or whatever set of forgeries are available from the guy at the copy shop who sells them on the side — it was another in a long series of GOP attempts to call out the weak-willed and bed-wetters among the Democrats. And it worked; now we know who can be held hostage via e-mail and who could be coaxed into voting for laws that basically put Muslims under the same yoke of suspicion and ostracization as the Japanese citizens in Los Angeles on December 8, 1941, or the Jewish shopkeepers in Nuremberg in 1938.  After all, Donald Trump says “he’s potentially open to the creation of a database to track Muslim citizens, or requiring that Muslim Americans carry a special form of identification noting their faith.”  What, wear some version of the symbol of Islam on their clothing?

I have gotten used to the Republicans and their candidates sucking up to fascism and religious intolerance American style (not to mention the irony of labeling gun registration as the road to tyranny but registering Muslims as a bulwark of freedom).  And sadly I have gotten used to Democrats caving in to this mindset.  It’s what they do.

Short Takes

France and Belgium tighten security measures and restrict civil liberties in response to the Paris attacks.

Veto bait: The House voted a bill to restrict admission to Syrian and Indonesian refugees.

Mexican immigration to the U.S. is actually in the negative; more are leaving than arriving.

Protesters and city leaders plead for calm in Minneapolis in the wake of another unarmed black person killed by police.

Catch of the Day: GMO salmon is approved by the FDA.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Short Takes

Winter weather and tornadoes hit the Midwest.

Over 100 people indicted in Waco biker brawl that killed nine.

Two relatives of Venezuelan president indicted on drug charges.

Another fence is built in Europe to thwart immigrants.

Weather may have caused Ohio plane crash.

Hurricane Kate heads east across the Atlantic.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Starting Off With A Lie

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is beginning his term as Speaker of the House in typical Republican fashion: lying through his pearly-white teeth.

Newly elected Speaker Paul Ryan said Sunday he’s willing to work across the aisle with Democrats but won’t do immigration reform with President Obama in his final 14 months in office.

“The president has proven himself untrustworthy on this issue, because he tried to unilaterally rewrite the law himself. Presidents don’t write laws. Congress does,” the Wisconsin Republican said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” referring to Obama’s executive actions this year to ease immigration policies.

“The president’s proven himself to be untrustworthy on this issue.”

This is crap.  The Republicans are deathly afraid of touching any kind of immigration reform no matter who writes it because they have already invested so much time and effort demonizing immigrants to the point that it has become The Issue for them.  It’s what launched Donald Trump’s campaign, it’s what makes the base fork over the dough, and any attempt to repair the system will be seen as caving in to sanity, and you sure can’t do that and win the primaries.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Short Takes

Volkswagen CEO resigns over emissions scandal.

Hackers stole 5.6 million sets of fingerprints from the federal government.

Pope Francis talks about immigration and climate change.

Eastern Europe lightens up on migrant quotas.

The Tigers beat the White Sox 7-4.

Tropical Update:  TS Ida moves a little to the north.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

And The Bag It Came In

Mike Huckabee continues to prove why he’ll never be president of anything ever.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, whose presidential campaign has become a crusade for “religious liberty” and the rights of the unborn, told social conservatives this weekend that they should be skeptical of allowing more Syrian refugees into the United States.

“Are they really escaping tyranny, are they escaping poverty, or are they really just coming because we’ve got cable TV?” Huckabee asked, in an audience question-and-answer session at the conservative Eagle Forum conference in St. Louis. “I don’t meant to be trite. I’m just saying: We don’t know.”

If you think that the epitome of the American dream is to risk life and limb so you can get screwed over by Comcast, you really are a douche.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Short Takes

Reports on ISIS were distorted by the military, analysts say.

Hungary cracks down on immigrants.

Flash flood in Utah kills nine.

The Obama administration adds $250 million to fight the California wildfires.

Facebook is working on a “dislike” button.

Tropical Update: Still out there: Invest 93L and 95L.

The Tigers beat the Twins 5-4.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Short Takes

Thousands flee California wildfires.

Babies drown as migrant boat capsizes off Greek island.

Germany begins border checks to limit immigrants.

Phoenix police search for highway sniper.

R.I.P. Frank D. Gilroy, 89, playwright.

Tropical Update: Two disturbances in the Atlantic: Invest 93L and 94L.

The Tigers split a double header with Cleveland.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Short Takes

Officials in Budapest block refugees from getting on trains to Germany.

President Obama will push for helping Arctic communities stave off rising oceans.

The Army opens Ranger school to all comers.

Baltimore judge refuses to drop charges against cops charged in Freddie Gray’s death.

R.I.P. Dean Jones, 84, star of many Disney films.

Tropical Update: Fred stays put.

The Tigers got walloped 12-1 by the Royals.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Keeping Track of Them

Not to be outdone by Donald Trump or Scott Walker, Chris Christie of New Jersey thinks we should get FedEx to mark immigrants with bar codes so we could track them like packages.

“At any moment, FedEx can tell you where that package is. It’s on the truck. It’s at the station. It’s on the airplane,” Mr. Christie told the crowd in Laconia, N.H. “Yet we let people come to this country with visas, and the minute they come in, we lose track of them.”

He added: “We need to have a system that tracks you from the moment you come in.”

I suppose tattooing them on their arms would be too on the nose, huh?

It’s His Turn

I never understood why all the Very Serious People said that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) would be a formidable candidate in presidential race.  He’s not an especially inspiring speaker, he hasn’t done that great a job as governor as compared to his neighbor Gov. Mark Dayton of Minnesota in terms of turning the state around after the recession, and he’s basically your average right-wing nut job on social policy such as abortion and marriage equality.  He’s basically Mitch Daniels of Indiana with backing from the Koch Brothers.

Now he and the rest of the GOP field are getting big-footed by Donald Trump and his used-car-dealer demagoguery, so he has to come up with something to get back the spotlight.  Like Mike Huckabee did a month ago, he has to find something to say that will at least get our attention for a moment.

How about immigration?  Well, why not?  It’s a hot topic, and while Wisconsin isn’t the choice destination of anchor babies and pot smugglers, it’s something that gets the base riled up without any logic behind it: deport 11 million! seems to be the way to make them applaud and throw money.

But he had to find a fresh angle.  Everybody’s talking about building a wall to keep out the Mexicans and other brown people; why not look the other way and keep out the white hockey players and poutine-eaters?

NBC’s “Meet The Press” host Chuck Todd asked Walker on the Sunday program if he would consider building a wall along the country’s northern border.

Walker said that some people along the campaign trail have raised the issue.

“They raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago. So that is a legitimate issue for us to look at,” Walker told Todd.

Rest assured that the only reason Canada would go along with this would be to keep us from getting into Canada.

Monday, August 24, 2015

You Keep Using That Phrase

ThinkProgress on the origins of a term that has become popular with with Republicans.

The GOP presidential campaign kicked off with real estate mogul Donald Trump’s incendiary remarks about Mexican immigrants being rapists and drug dealers, and quickly evolved to endorsements of changing the Constitution to strip millions of immigrants of their citizenship. Now, presidential candidates have a new angle on the immigration debate: Targeting the children of foreign-born parents as so-called “anchor babies.”

The term “anchor babies” has long been relegated to the realm of ultra-conservative arguments against allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country. But recently, the phrase has been widely used by Republican lawmakers as part of a clarion call to repeal the 14th Amendment, which grants automatic citizenship to every child born on U.S. soil, regardless of the immigration status of their parents.

Mr. Trump champions the phrase and compounds it by by making the demonstrably false statement that only the United States grants birthright citizenship.  (Canada and most of Latin America also grants citizenship to children born in the country.  Why else would Ted Cruz have had to renounce his Canadian citizenship last year?)  Jeb Bush manfully asks “What would you call them?” even after he served on a committee that called for the disuse of the term.  (Hillary Clinton replied via Twitter: “They’re called ‘babies.'”)  Bobby Jindal, the pathetic example of “me-tooism,” is “happy to use it,” perhaps because he is the one closest to being a child who would have been called such so he’s using self-hating deflection.  Scott Walker has been all over the place on it, using the term one week and then, predictably, changing his mind on it the next.  Only Marco Rubio has stood up to condemn the term, so even a blind squirrel can find his nuts.

Like “death panels” or “religious liberty,” it has become a buzzword in the presidential campaign, but it’s also a dog whistle to the kind of people that the party needs to draw in for their base.  Those would be the xenophobic and racist-tinged white males who are big talkers about the Constitution and freedom but are all too happy to junk the parts they don’t like in order to keep living out their gun-stroking fantasies of their perfect world when life wasn’t so complicated, people knew their place, and calling someone a racist or sexist epithet didn’t mean their reality show got cancelled.

If those are the kind of people the Republicans think they need to win a presidential election, we’ve got a lot bigger problem than immigration and what to call people who in any other place would be called citizens.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Take Him Back

As was noted yesterday, Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio would both flunk the “natural born citizenship” test as being put forth by those who are advocating for the end to birthright citizenship.  So would Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  But Mr. Cruz, too, is “absolutely” in favor of ending birthright citizenship.

I just think it’s ironic that the people who would probably have the toughest time reassuring their constituents that they’re real ‘Muricans are the biggest mouths for shutting the door on people who have a stronger claim to being citizens than they do.

As for Mr. Cruz, he had to actually fill out a form to renounce his birthright Canadian citizenship last year.  I would suggest that the good people of his native land take him back; it would be just desserts for sending us Justin Bieber.  But I really like my Canadian friends.

While We’re At It, Repeal the 13th Amendment

Jan Mickelson, a radio talk show host in Iowa, has an idea about what to do with all those people who can’t prove they’re here legally.

…anyone who is in the state of Iowa that who is not here legally and who cannot demonstrate their legal status to the satisfaction of the local and state authorities here in the State of Iowa, become property of the State of Iowa.’ So if you are here without our permission, and we have given you two months to leave, and you’re still here, and we find that you’re still here after we we’ve given you the deadline to leave, then you become property of the State of Iowa. And we have a job for you. And we start using compelled labor, the people who are here illegally would therefore be owned by the state and become an asset of the state rather than a liability and we start inventing jobs for them to do.

[…]

CALLER: Well you know I don’t have my Constitution in front of me and you know like I say, it sounds like a clever idea and maybe you can make it – put it in action, but I think the fall out would be so significant. And I, you know —

MICKELSON: What would be the nature of the fall out?

CALLER: Well I think everybody would believe it sounds like slavery?

MICKELSON: Well, what’s wrong with slavery?

Okay, so this is just some right-wing nutsery AM radio talk show guy in Iowa; nothing to worry about, right?  Except for the fact that he doesn’t sound a whole lot further down the road than some of the presidential candidates who are being asked “what do we do with the 11 million people who are undocumented?”

Well, to his credit, the talk show host didn’t say he was advocating for the “final solution.”  That would be a little too on the nose.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sycophancy and Self-Loathing

Gov. Bobby Jindal:

We need to end birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Mr. Jindal is the son of Indian immigrants who came here on his mother’s student visa.  In other words, he’s in favor of ending the constitutional right that made him eligible to run for president.

Oh, yes, he said “illegal” immigrants.  But I seriously doubt that the people who believe we should trash the Fourteenth Amendment are going to split hairs over immigrants who came in on a student visa and had a baby.

I’m sure there are all sorts of psycho-babbly reasons why Mr. Jindal so desperately wants to be liked by people that think he’s unworthy of citizenship, but he’s just embarrassing himself.

Marco Rubio is in the same boat, so to speak.  His parents arrived in the U.S. in 1956 (no, they weren’t fleeing the Castro brothers; they left during the regime of the previous brutal dictator) and were not citizens when Mr. Rubio was born in 1971.  He too is in favor of somehow putting an end to birthright citizenship:

“I’m not in favor of repealing the 14th Amendment,” Rubio said during a Tuesday news conference at the rain-soaked Iowa State Fair. “But I am open to exploring ways of not allowing people who are coming here deliberately for that purpose to acquire citizenship.”

Shorter version: I got mine; screw you.

What’s even more shameful is that Mr. Rubio once co-sponsored the bipartisan immigration bill that included a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants.  But when he realized that would hinder his appeal to the knuckle-dragging know-nothings in the GOP base in his run for the presidency, he turned on the bill to gain their favor.

Neither Bobby Jindal nor Marco Rubio will become president, but frankly who would want to have such weak-willed men in office who would sacrifice both the Constitution and their own family history just to get elected.

Bonus: Paul Waldman at the Washington Post wonders if the Republicans gave away the election of 2016 by landing on the birthright citizenship issue.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Constitutional Dissonance

Shorter Scott Walker on immigration:

We must enforce the law by violating the Constitution.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says we should “reexamine” birthright citizenship as if it is some nebulous policy promulgated by liberals to pack the voting booths with immigrants who have yet to learn to walk.

What is it about people who say they revere the Constitution but have no trouble distorting it, ignoring it, or shredding it to fit their political motives?  If it’s not citizenship as defined by the Fourteenth Amendment, it’s the simple declaration that all citizens are entitled to the equal protection of the laws, also in the Fourteenth Amendment, that gave us marriage equality.  Yet somehow that is unconstitutional.

They’re also not wild about the First Amendment protecting people from the establishment of religion because, of course, it’s only meant for Christians.  They also believe that it protects people from being fired for denying marriage licenses to people they don’t like and from networks cancelling reality shows because one of the members of the family that breeds like rabbits is a pedophile, and that the Constitution guarantees “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  No, it does not.  That’s from the Declaration of Independence, which was a resolution passed by the Continental Congress, which went out of business before the Constitution was written.

But let’s be fair.  If we’re going to revisit various parts of the Constitution, let’s talk about the Second Amendment, shall we?