Thursday, March 8, 2018

Friday, February 16, 2018

Lost Dreams

The hopes for DACA are dashed.

After three consecutive plans to address the DACA program went down in flames Thursday afternoon, Republicans who signed onto the bipartisan compromise bill that came closest to passage tore into the Trump administration for lobbying against it.

“I don’t think the President helped very much,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a cosponsor of the bipartisan plan, told reporters following the vote. “There’s probably 75 votes here for border security plus a pathway to citizenship for the DACA recipients, but you need presidential leadership. Without it, we won’t get there.”

Ahead of the vote, President Trump threatened to veto the compromise bill if it ever reached his desk, and he tweeted just before the vote began calling it a “total catastrophe.” He also threatened to veto any short-term fallback plan to protect DACA recipients from deportation.

Of course Trump was going to be an asshole about it; we all knew that from the beginning.  And of course the GOP seeks cover by blaming him instead of doing what a vast majority of Americans, regardless of party, want done.

We’re begging you: for once try not to live up to our expectations.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Dream On

Via the Washington Post:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi commandeered the House floor Wednesday for a day-into-night marathon plea to Republicans for action on immigration, casting the fate of young undocumented immigrants in moral terms.

The 77-year-old Pelosi stood for more than eight hours, reading multiple personal stories from “dreamers” and citing Bible passages. Her speech ranked as the longest given by a member of the House of Representatives in at least a century, possibly ever, focusing on an issue that has vexed Democrats for months.

The speech underscored that Democrats lack the leverage they insisted they would have in spending showdowns with Republicans. Pelosi and others repeatedly promised immigration activists and the party base they would force a vote sparing undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children from deportation after President Trump rescinded the program in September.

Instead, Democrats’ ineffectiveness has angered those same activists and the voters critical in a midterm election year with control of the House at stake.

Pelosi, who began talking shortly after 10 a.m., sought the same assurances Democrats have gotten in the Senate — the promise of debate on an immigration bill, the one glimmer of hope on an issue that seems to defy resolution.

“Why should we in the House be treated in such a humiliating way when the Republican Senate leader has given that opportunity in a bipartisan way to his membership? What’s wrong? There’s something wrong with this picture,” Pelosi said.

Aides to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said that he intends to allow debate on immigration legislation that is supported by Trump. But when the debate might happen — and what kind of bill Trump can support — is still unclear.

I admire her stamina, her persistence, and her willingness to make the point that as of now, the Democrats are basically powerless in the House to leverage anything out of the Republicans.

The only way to get their way is to be in the majority, so that’s what needs to happen in November.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Friday, January 26, 2018

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Not Fully Informed

Chief of Staff John Kelly tries to clear up a few things.

Trump’s chief of staff privately told a group of Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday that Mr. Trump had not been “fully informed” when promising voters a wall along the Mexican border last year, and said that he had persuaded the president it was not necessary. He also expressed optimism that a bipartisan immigration deal could eventually be reached.

John F. Kelly, the retired Marine general credited with bringing a measure of discipline to Mr. Trump’s chaotic White House during his six months as chief of staff, told members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that he had educated the president about the issue of immigration, adding that Mr. Trump had “evolved” on the wall.

Hold it right there, cowboy.  “Credited with bringing a measure of discipline to Mr. Trump’s chaotic White House”?  So calling Africa and Haiti “shitholes” and tripping over his own message five times before breakfast is supposed to be an improvement?  Okay, so he didn’t call them “fucking shitholes.”


But in telling lawmakers that Mr. Trump had essentially erred from the start in promoting a wall and by claiming credit for dissuading him, Mr. Kelly appeared to be voicing a sentiment some in the West Wing have heard him express privately — that it is his job to tutor a sometimes ill-informed president who has never served in public office before.

At the same time, it suggested that Mr. Kelly, who served as secretary of homeland security before coming to the White House and has hard-line views on immigration that mirror the president’s restrictionist approach, was positioning himself now as a moderating influence.

Mr. Kelly made the remarks at a meeting with members of the Hispanic Caucus, as a group known as the Twos — the No. 2 Democrat and Republican in both the House and Senate — worked toward negotiating a deal to protect from deportation the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers. The meeting with the Hispanic caucus was first reported by The Washington Post.

What it really means is that we have an attempt at a reverse Wizard of Oz throne room scene: pay no attention to the flaming talking head; listen to the man behind the curtain who’s really running the show.

The problem with that is that even if you take away all the bells and whistles and tweets and fumbles, you still have a policy on immigration that puts young undocumented immigrants in jeopardy, and worse, unsure of what’s next.  Who knows what the nitwits at Fox and Friends will come off the couch with — aliens in the bathtub! — and send Trump around the bend.

If this little chat was meant to moderate the administration’s approach and instill confidence in their leadership, it needs a lot of work.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


This article in the Washington Post sheds disturbing light on how things work in Trumpland.

When President Trump spoke by phone with Sen. Richard J. Durbin around 10:15 a.m. last Thursday, he expressed pleasure with Durbin’s outline of a bipartisan immigration pact and praised the high-ranking Illinois Democrat’s efforts, according to White House officials and congressional aides.

The president then asked if Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), his onetime foe turned ally, was on board, which Durbin affirmed. Trump invited the lawmakers to visit with him at noon, the people familiar with the call said.

But when they arrived at the Oval Office, the two senators were surprised to find that Trump was far from ready to finalize the agreement. He was “fired up” and surrounded by hard-line conservatives such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who seemed confident that the president was now aligned with them, according to one person with knowledge of the meeting.

Trump told the group he wasn’t interested in the terms of the bipartisan deal that Durbin and Graham had been putting together. And as he shrugged off suggestions from Durbin and others, the president called nations from Africa “shithole countries,” denigrated Haiti and grew angry. The meeting was short, tense and often dominated by loud cross-talk and swearing, according to Republicans and Democrats familiar with the meeting.

Trump’s ping-ponging from dealmaking to feuding, from elation to fury, has come to define the contentious immigration talks between the White House and Congress, perplexing members of both parties as they navigate the president’s vulgarities, his combativeness and his willingness to suddenly change his position. The blowup has derailed those negotiations yet again and increased the possibility of a government shutdown over the fate of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers.”

To some people, this is the art of dealmaking; keep the various parties off guard by changing your position so that no one knows exactly where you stand and thereby getting the best deal possible.

And to the rest of us, it indicates that he has no idea what the hell he’s doing and therefore he can be easily manipulated by whoever is in the room and can get his attention.

So while everyone has been debating over whether he said “shithole” or “shithouse,” the truth is that the policies of this country are being determined by someone who can be distracted and diverted by whoever gets to him first.  In this case it was Chief of Staff John Kelly backed up by Sen. Cotton.

In the late morning, before Durbin and Graham arrived, Kelly — who had already been briefed on the deal — talked to Trump to tell him that the proposal would probably not be good for his agenda, White House officials said. Kelly, a former secretary of homeland security, has taken an increasingly aggressive and influential role in the immigration negotiations, calling lawmakers and meeting with White House aides daily — more than he has on other topics. He has “very strong feelings,” in the words of one official.

So the guy who was supposed to be the one to keep Trump from going off the rails is actually making him worse.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Just One Of 11 Million

From the Detroit Free Press:

His arms wrapped around his wife and two teenage children, Jorge Garcia’s eyes welled up Monday morning as he looked into their eyes one last time near the entrance to the airport security gate at Detroit Metro Airport.

His wife, Cindy Garcia, cried out while his daughter, Soleil, 15, sobbed into Garcia’s shoulder as they hugged. Two U.S. immigration agents kept a close watch nearby.

After 30 years of living in the U.S, Garcia, a 39-year-old Lincoln Park landscaper, was deported on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday from metro Detroit to Mexico, a move supporters say was another example of immigrants being unfairly targeted under the Trump administration.

Jorge Garcia was brought to the U.S. by an undocumented family member when he was 10 years old. Today he has a wife and two children, all of whom are U.S. citizens.

Garcia had been facing an order of removal from immigration courts since 2009, but under the previous administration, he had been given stays of removal.  But because of the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown,  Garcia was ordered in November to return to Mexico. His supporters say he has no criminal record — not even a traffic ticket — and pays taxes every year.

Nevertheless, Garcia had to be removed, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). On Monday morning, accompanied by ICE agents at Detroit Metro Airport, Garcia went through security as supporters around him held up signs that read, “Stop Separating Families.”

If it was solely up to Trump and his minions, this would be happening every day in the name of “freedom” and “security.”

Tell me how that doesn’t make us a shithole country.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Family Values

Via the Washington Post:

The Trump administration announced Monday that it will terminate the provisional residency permits of about 200,000 Salvadorans who have lived in the country since at least 2001, leaving them to face deportation.

The administration said it will give the Salvadorans until Sept. 9, 2019, to leave the United States or find a way to obtain a green card, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security. After earthquakes hit the country in 2001, Salvadorans were granted what is known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, and their permits have been renewed on an 18-month basis since then.

This means that they will be deporting American citizens — a lot of the Salvadoreans had children born here — and sending them back to a country they’ve never been to.

There are shameful examples in our history of turning on immigrants, usually by those who were one generation removed from being immigrants themselves, and in the last 100 years we saw the consequences of turning away people and sending them back, many to their death.

Even if there is a legal hold put on this, and I can’t imagine that there won’t be, it is still an attack on the basic American value and tradition of providing a safe haven for those seeking refuge from disaster, either natural or political.  It is a large part of the reason this country exists in the first place.  At least it used to be.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Here we go with my annual recap and prognostication for the year.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

  • I have no earthly idea what will happen with Trump in the White House.  But I can say that for the first time in my life — and I will hit 65 this year — I am frightened both for myself and my country.
  • At some point in 2017 elements of the electorate will realize that they got conned into voting for Trump and that they were played for fools.  The backlash will begin when they find out he can’t follow through on his bullshit promises, and reach a peak when they find out that repealing Obamacare and deporting 11 million people effects them personally.  When it happens, it will not be pretty.

I’m still frightened.  Nothing — not the Mueller investigation, the revelations coming from various sources, or chatter about impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment — has calmed my fear that he is still capable of doing something that puts us and the rest of the world in peril.  As for the second bullet point, we are seeing faint glimmers that disillusionment is happening in the nooks and crannies of America where he can do no wrong, and no amount of tweeting and bullshit from Fox News can turn around his dismal approval numbers.  But that just means that fully 1/3 of the electorate still approve of him.  Even his failures — Obamacare yet survives and the deportations haven’t happened — haven’t dimmed the hopes of the dim.

  • There will be a downturn in the economy thanks to the cyclical nature of economics and the instability in the market by the Twitter-In-Chief. He will, of course, blame it on Barack Obama.

Obviously I’m not an economist because if I was I would have known that the economy lags behind and the continued growth and low unemployment rate are a result of Obama’s policies.  Of course Trump is taking credit for it.

  • A year from now the Syrian civil war will still be dragging on.  ISIS will still be a factor, and if Trump does what he says he will do with the Iran nuclear deal, expect to see them re-start their nuclear program.  “Dr. Strangelove” will be seen by historians as a documentary.
  • The refugee crisis will continue and fester once nativists and right-wing elements win majorities in western European countries.

The Syrian civil war goes on but it’s not dominating the news cycles, and ISIS is a lessening factor.  I don’t know if it’s sheer exhaustion.  The refugee crisis goes on but with a lesser magnitude.

  • Our diplomatic thaw with Cuba will freeze as the attempts to end the blockade will not get through Congress. Only until Trump gets permission to open a casino in Varadero Beach will there be any progress.

Trump rescinded some of the Obama administration’s changes in our relations with Cuba but not enough to return us to Cold War status.  The blockade, such as it is, enters its 57th year.

  • Violence against our fellow citizens will continue and take on a more xenophobic tone as the white supremacists think they are now in control. The attorney general will do nothing to put an end to it because, in his words, “they had it coming.”

Charlottesville and Trump’s tacit support of the Nazis proved that to be true, more’s the pity.

  • We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. 2016 was an especially painful year. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

I lost two uncles and a nephew since I wrote that.

  • The Tigers will finish second in their division.

They traded Justin Verlander.  Yeah, he helped the Astros win the World Series, but…

Okay, now on to predictions.

  • There will be indictments at a very high level in the administration as the Mueller investigation rumbles on.  Plea bargains and deals will be made and revelations will come forth, and by summer there will be genuine questions about whether or not the administration will survive.  But there won’t be a move to impeach Trump as long as there are Republican majorities in the Congress, and invoking the 25th Amendment is a non-starter.
  • The Democrats will make great gains in the mid-term elections in November.  This is a safe bet because the party out of power usually does in the first mid-term of new president.  The Democrats will take back the Senate and narrow the gap in the House to the point that Speaker Paul Ryan with either quit or be so powerless that he’s just hanging around to collect pension points.  (No, he will not lose his re-election bid.)
  • There will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it won’t happen until after the mid-terms and Trump’s appointment will flail as the Democrats in the Senate block the confirmation on the grounds that the next president gets to choose the replacement.
  • There will be irrefutable proof that the Russians not only meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but they’ve had a hand in elections in Europe as well and will be a factor in the U.S. mid-terms.  Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, of course.
  • Raul Castro will figure out a way to still run Cuba even if he steps down as president, and there will be no lessening of the authoritarian rule.
  • The U.S. economy will continue to grow, but there will be dark clouds on the horizon as the deficit grows thanks to the giveaways in the GOP tax bill.  If the GOP engineers cuts to entitlement programs and the number of uninsured for healthcare increases, the strain on the economy will be too much.
  • This “America First” foreign policy will backfire.  All it does is tell our allies “You’re on your own.”  If we ever need them, they’re more likely to turn their backs on us.
  • The white supremacist movement will not abate.  Count on seeing more violence against minorities and more mass shootings.
  • A viable Democratic candidate will emerge as a major contender for the 2020 election, and it will most likely be a woman.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren is considered to be the default, but I wouldn’t rule out Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York just yet.  (Sen. Gillibrand would drive Trump even further around the bend.  She was appointed to the Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became Secretary of State in 2009.)
  • On a personal level, this will be a busy year for my work in theatre with a full production of “All Together Now” opening in March and several other works out there for consideration.  I will also be entering my last full year of employment in my present job (retirement happens in August 2019) but I’ll keep working.
  • People and fads we never heard about will have their fifteen minutes.
  • I’ll do this again next year.

Okay, friends; it’s your turn.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Reading

Consciousness of Guilt — David Frum in The Atlantic.

“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that.”—Donald Trump on Vladimir Putin, en route to Hanoi, November 11, 2017.

So, to put it bluntly: At this point in the proceedings, there can be no innocent explanation for Donald Trump’s rejection of the truth about Russian meddling in last year’s elections. Earlier, it may have been suggested, sympathetically, that the case had not yet been proven. That Trump’s vanity blocked him from acknowledging embarrassing facts. Or—more hopefully—that he was inspired by some Kissingerian grand design for a diplomatic breakthrough. Or that he was lazy. Or stubborn. Or uninformed. Or something, anything, other than … complicit. Not anymore.

As yet, it remains unproven whether Trump himself was personally complicit in Putin’s attack on U.S. democracy as it happened during last year’s presidential campaign. What is becoming ever-more undeniable is Trump’s complicity in the attack after the fact—and his willingness to smash the intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies in order to protect Putin, Russia, and evidently himself. Consider what the president said to reporters on Saturday: Then you hear it’s 17 agencies [who agree that Russia meddled in the elections], whoa, it’s three. And one is [former CIA Director John] Brennan, and one is whatever. I mean give me a break, they’re political hacks. … So you look at that and you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with that.”

A year after the 2016 election, the Trump administration has done nothing to harden U.S. election systems against future interference. It refuses to implement the sanctions voted by Congress to punish Russia for election meddling. The president fired the director of the FBI, confessedly to halt an investigation into Russia’s actions—and his allies in Congress and the media malign the special counsel appointed to continue the investigation.  These are not the actions of an innocent man, however vain, stubborn, or uniformed.“Beyond a reasonable doubt” is the standard for criminal justice. It’s not the standard for counter-intelligence determinations. The preponderance of the evidence ever-more clearly indicates: In ways we cannot yet fully reckon—but can no longer safely deny—the man in the Oval Office has a guilty connection to the Russian government. That connection would bar him from literally any other job in national security except that of head of the executive branch and commander- in-chief of the armed forces of the United States.

At any time, this situation would be dire and ominous. It’s graver still at a time when this president seems determined to lead the United States into a preventive war in the Korean peninsula. President Trump may soon demand that this country incur terrible risks and accept heavy sacrifices—even as he leaves Americans in darkening doubt over whose interests he is serving, and why.

Roy Moore Is The GOP — Charles P. Pierce.

The fact is that Roy Moore is very much who the Republicans are. He is representative of a fanatical splinter of American Protestantism that has accounted for a great deal of the success enjoyed by modern conservatism and the Republican Party for over four decades, and there always has been dark sin at the heart of that success.

The rise of what used to be known as “the religious right” did not begin with the legalization of abortion. That’s a nice story that the various Bible-banging charlatans would like you to believe. No, the institutions that would nurture and produce the religious right were the white-only Christian academies and universities that sprang up in the South as part of the massive resistance to desegregation—the churchgoing end of that strategy. The religious right was not born out of opposition to Roe v. Wade. It was born out of opposition to Brown v. Board.

There was always something wretched in its founding that invariably asserted itself in our politics. Dishonesty and camouflage were its primary sacraments. As part of their bargain with these people, Republicans and conservatives agreed tacitly to overlook these things, and so they became accustomed to overlooking everything until, today, alleged pedophilia of the most grotesque sort is the latest thing to be overlooked in the cause of tax-cuts and the restriction of women’s reproductive rights.

Without fastening itself to the enthusiastic remnants of American apartheid, modern conservatism and the modern Republican party never would have become the juggernaut they became, and the religious right was one of the more enthusiastic of those remnants. Small wonder, then, that so many Good Christian Men are either lining up behind Roy Moore, or if-then’ing themselves into incoherence trying not to talk about him. He has all the right positions on all the right issues that discomfort all the right people, and, given that, these people would vote for Satan himself.

He is you. He is all of you. Another monster out of the lab.

Fighting Deportation — Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn in Mother Jones.

Eleven cities and counties across the United States announced on Thursday that they will provide free legal representation to immigrants facing deportation, part of a new initiative called the Safety and Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Cities Network. The initiative, launched in collaboration with the Vera Institute of Justice, a national nonprofit and research organization, helps cities with funding and resources to help train legal service providers and share best practices.

Unlike in criminal court cases, immigrants generally do not have the right to a free court-appointed attorney during removal proceedings, and often have to bear the costs on their own.  Nationally, only 37 percent of immigrants facing deportation proceedings get access to a lawyer, and only 14 percent of immigrants in detention do, according to a report from the American Immigration Council, a nonprofit and advocacy group. As Mother Jones has reported previously, studies have shown that access to legal representation can drastically improve an immigrant’s chances of winning relief from deportation or release from detention. Without it, often immigrants and families are quickly deported.

Vera started soliciting competitive applications from cities and counties to be part of the network earlier this summer. Local governments had to commit some public cash, which Vera would then supplement with additional funding. Atlanta, GA, Austin and San Antonio, TX, Baltimore and Prince George’s County, MD; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; Dane County, WI, and Oakland/Alameda County, Sacramento, and Santa Ana, CA were selected.

Vera’s project comes at a time when cities and states are ramping up their efforts to protect undocumented immigrants against a potential crackdown. A Reutersanalysis found that arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal history increased by more than 200 percent in the first half of the year. Though deportations have slowed, ICE agents have made 43 percent more arrests since Trump has been in office, compared to the same time last year, according to the Washington PostAttorney General Jeff Sessions has also attempted to speed up deportations and reduce immigration court backlogs, though to seemingly little effect.

For cities like Atlanta, it will be the first time the city has ever provided legal defense for those facing deportation. “This support is needed now more than ever,” Mayor Kasim Reed said.

“Immigrants are our friends, neighbors, and co-workers, but new enforcement tactics are breaking up families and weakening our neighborhoods and our city,” Elizabeth Brown, council member for the City of Columbus, stated in a press release. The city will provide $185,000 to three groups, and received $100,000 in additional funding from Vera.

Providing universal representation is an approach that Vera has tested before. In 2013, the group helped start a pilot project called the New York Immigrant Family Unit Project (NYIFUP) that provided free legal defense services to immigrants detained at the Varick Street Immigration Court. A new report evaluating the program found that immigrants who participated were able to able improve their chances of remaining in the US. Before the project began, only 4 percent of immigrants who had no legal representation at the court were able to win their cases. With the help of the free legal defense, NYIFUP estimates that 48 percent of its cases will end successfully. The program has represented more than 1,770 people and also helped reunite more than 750 people with their families, according to the report.

Outside of the SAFE Cities Network, other cities have taken on their own efforts to provide funds for legal defense. In April, Seattle’s city council unanimously passed a resolution to allocate $1 million to a defense fund for immigrants and refugees, and increased that fund to $1.5 million with the inclusion of King County in August. Earlier this summer, Los Angeles city and county officials also approved an L.A. Justice Fund that, with help from outside donors, would provide up to $10 million for legal defense to immigrants.

“It’s inhumane for people to go to court with no lawyer,” Omar Siagha, a green card holder who was able to win his case through the NYIFP, said in a press release. “Everyone deserves a chance to explain their case to the judge.”

Doonesbury — Humor me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

He Did It Again

Did anyone really think that Trump would honor the deal on DACA that he came up with “Chuck and Nancy”?

Trump, who pledged to help protect young people known as “Dreamers” brought illegally to the United States as children, called on Sunday for money to fund a border wall to be part of any immigration deal.

In a list of “principles” laid out in documents released by the White House, the Trump administration also pressed for a crackdown on unaccompanied minors who enter the United States, many of them from Central America.

The plan, which was delivered to leaders in Congress on Sunday night, drew a swift rebuke from Democrats, who are seeking a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that Trump ended last month.

“The administration can’t be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans,” said House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

“The list includes the wall, which was explicitly ruled out of the negotiations. If the president was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so,” they said in a statement.

I think we’ve seen this before.

How could they not know this was going to happen?  Trump was never going to give in on the wall and on demonizing the Dreamers.  It’s his whole shtick; it’s why he descended the Golden Escalator in the first place, and it’s his connection to the base (see below).

The catch is that while he was happy to mess with the Republicans while sitting down with Chuck and Nancy and now he’s turned on them, there’s no reason why he won’t do it again just to be Trump.