Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Boundary Issues

Via CBC:

The father of a fallen U.S. army captain who made headlines during the American election campaign for taking on Republican candidate Donald Trump has cancelled a talk he was set to deliver in Toronto after being notified that his travel privileges are under review, organizers say.

Pakistan-born Khizr Khan, who famously offered up his copy of the U.S. Constitution to the billionaire presidential hopeful who vowed to implement a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., was scheduled to speak at a luncheon hosted by Ramsay Inc. on Tuesday.

But on Monday, organizers of the luncheon issued a statement saying that Khan would not be travelling to Toronto.

“Late Sunday evening Khizr Khan, an American citizen for over 30 years, was notified that his travel privileges are being reviewed,” Julia McDowell of Ramsay Inc. said.

The statement goes on to quote Khan, saying he offered his sincere apologies for the cancellation.

“This turn of events is not just of deep concern to me but to all my fellow Americans who cherish our freedom to travel abroad. I have not been given any reason as to why,” the statement quotes Khan as saying.

CBC News reached out to Khan’s law office directly, which said in an email it had no comment.

As upyernoz — someone who knows a lot about immigration law — points out, U.S. citizens aren’t supposed to have “travel privileges” that can be revoked by the government.  Your U.S. citizenship is not subject to the whims of whoever is in charge of the executive branch or the department heads underneath him.

At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work in a democracy.

A Nice Little Trip For Them

Via the New York Times:

Ben Carson’s first full week as secretary of Housing and Urban Development got off to a rough start on Monday after he described African slaves as “immigrants” during his first speech to hundreds of assembled department employees. The remark, which came as part of a 40-minute address on the theme of America as “a land of dreams and opportunity,” was met with swift outrage online.

Mr. Carson turned his attention to slavery after describing photographs of poor immigrants displayed at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. These new arrivals worked long hours, six or seven days a week, with little pay, he said. And before them, there were slaves.

“That’s what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity,’’ he said. “There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”

And in 1941 a lot of Jewish people from Germany went to Poland for a little vacation in the countryside.

Speaking of historical models:

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Monday confirmed a Reuters report that he was considering a proposal to separate women and children who cross the U.S. border with Mexico illegally, a policy shift he said was aimed at deterring people from making a dangerous journey.

Kelly was asked in a CNN interview about the proposal, first reported by Reuters on Friday, in which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would change U.S. policy and keep parents in custody while putting children in the care of the Health and Human Services Department.

“Yes, I am considering – in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network – I am considering exactly that,” Kelly said.

“We have tremendous experience in dealing with unaccompanied minors,” he said. “They will be well cared for as we deal with their parents.”

Why don’t they just put “Arbeit Macht Frei” over the border crossings and be done with it?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Rounding Up The Usual Suspects

Via the New York Times:

Trump has directed his administration to enforce the nation’s immigration laws more aggressively, unleashing the full force of the federal government to find, arrest and deport those in the country illegally, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes.

Documents released on Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security revealed the broad scope of the president’s ambitions: to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants; strip such immigrants of privacy protections; enlist local police officers as enforcers; erect new detention facilities; discourage asylum seekers; and, ultimately, speed up deportations.

The new enforcement policies put into practice language that Mr. Trump used on the campaign trail, vastly expanding the definition of “criminal aliens” and warning that such unauthorized immigrants “routinely victimize Americans,” disregard the “rule of law and pose a threat” to people in communities across the United States.

Despite those assertions in the new documents, research shows lower levels of crime among immigrants than among native-born Americans.

[…]

Administration officials said some of the new policies — like one seeking to send unauthorized border crossers from Central America to Mexico while they await deportation hearings — could take months to put in effect and might be limited in scope.

For now, so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the United States as young children, will not be targeted unless they commit crimes, officials said on Tuesday.

Mr. Trump has not yet said where he will get the billions of dollars needed to pay for thousands of new border control agents, a network of detention facilities to detain unauthorized immigrants and a wall along the entire southern border with Mexico.

But politically, Mr. Kelly’s actions on Tuesday serve to reinforce the president’s standing among a core constituency — those who blame unauthorized immigrants for taking jobs away from citizens, committing heinous crimes and being a financial burden on federal, state and local governments.

There will be legal challenges in court, there will be millions of dollars wasted, there will be families separated, and at some point someone’s going to pull a gun and start shooting, all to bolster Trump’s standing with a xenophobic base of voters that he cultivated carefully to follow him whether or not it violated the Constitution or the basic fact that this country was founded by people who came here from other places and the idea of “illegal immigrant” is based on bigotry and fear.

But it works great at campaign rallies in Florida, so there you are.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday Reading

His Greatest Weakness — John Stoehr in the Washington Monthly.

I teach a class at Yale on the classic books of presidential campaign reporting, books like Teddy White’s The Making of the President. As you can imagine, my students are exceedingly bright, highly informed, and savvy. But they don’t know much.

By that, I mean they don’t know much about how normal people think about politics. I know that I’m suggesting that my students aren’t normal. They are normal in the sense that they are smart young adults with all the concerns smart young adults have. But they aren’t normal in another sense. They are elite.

To get to Yale, they have gone through years of indoctrination making them suitable to Yale. I don’t mean brainwashing. I mean they know deep in their bones that they are required to make arguments based on facts and come to conclusions through reasoning. They must master and pledge allegiance to logic.

As you can imagine, my students find Trump supporters confounding. This is not an ideological reaction: I have liberal, libertarian, civic republican, and conservative students. They have been shocked by Trump’s election, because to them he is so transparently unfit to lead anything, much less the US government.

They know he’s unfit, because they know something about politics and policy, and knowing something about politics and policy means they know when the president is demonstrating some kind of allergy to falsifiable objective reality independent of his insecure ego.

My students, in other words, privilege knowledge, because to them, knowledge is how they will command and control their destinies.

What they don’t know is that most people don’t know much about politics, don’t know much about policy, don’t care to understand the details that make up the foundation any position, and don’t think they need to care about understanding those details, because knowledge is not what they trust most in the world.

What they trust is character.

Before I continue, let me say one more thing. After I strive mightily to get my students to understand how normal people perceive politics, they often come to an unfair conclusion—that the people who support Donald Trump are racist and stupid.

That’s probably true for a good number of the president’s supporters, but it’s certainly not true for a great many more. The reason is simple: politics is about conflict. Most people, whether normal or elite, really try to avoid conflict. It’s okay to not know much about politics, and not to care to know, because people just want to get along. No one should be faulted for that.

Besides, life is hard. There are so many things to worry about—jobs, kids, finances, health, so very many things—that Washington politics is the last thing most want to think about. I often tell my students that most people have something better to do.

The reason I’m going into the weeds like this is to get readers of the Washington Monthly and anyone who believes Donald Trump is a singular threat to democracy to understand how and why his supporters very much like what the president is doing, even though it makes no sense to the readers of the Washington Monthly and anyone who believes Donald Trump is a singular threat to democracy. In understanding how and why these people very much like what the president is doing, we can devise an effective strategy for the battles ahead.

There’s a reason why Donald Trump is reportedly fond of watching himself on TV with the sound turned off. It’s not only because he’s a narcissist, though narcissism surely plays a part. It’s also because he is trying to experience what most normal people experience when they watch the president on TV, and that means a majority of people since most still get their news about what’s happening in Washington from TV, despite the ubiquity of digital. Remember, they don’t know enough to know he’s lying. What they can see is Trump’s performance: the expressions of strength, the wit and charm (which are evident), and the braggadocio.

[Thursday]’s press conference was in fact a hot mess, but imagine watching it with the sound turned off so you don’t know what the president is saying. Imagine watching the president’s gestures, his expression, his sparring with the press. That’s probably a close approximation of what his supporters experience when they watch the president on TV. That’s the extent to which most people assess the president’s policy views. It is style’s mastery over substance.

Which brings me back to character. That is something people can judge, because they trust their ability to size up the president. That trust, of course, is misplaced, because Trump is in fact a serial liar, but remember, most people, especially Trump supporters, don’t know enough about politics or care enough to know much about politics, so they don’t know he’s lying.

What they can see is how he looks. And this is key.

I really want you to understand the connection between Trump’s appearance and the trust his supporters place in him. What the Democratic opposition needs to do is undermine that trust. Part of doing that is pointing out every time Trump lies. (The Washington press corps is doing that.) But the opposition must also attack the president where it really hurts him—by appealing to logic and reason, but not only logic and reason. The opposition must wound the president by focusing on his weakness.

Fact is, the president is weak. We saw that yesterday. When confronted with the fact that he did not win a bigger electoral victory than anyone since Reagan, he immediately backed down, spluttering something about how he had been given that information so it’s not his fault. Some have implied he will never accept the truth, so don’t bother. But that’s an argument of logic and reason. What happened in that brief exchange needs to happen a million times over in order to reveal that the president is weak and that in that weakness his supporters have misplaced their trust.

So, say it with me: The president is weak.

Say it again. Over and over. Then when the president really does demonstrate weakness, as he did when confronted by the reporter about his fake electoral landslide, the president will have substantiated the opposition’s charge of weakness.

That will hurt.

Trump ran on strength. Only he was strong enough to solve our problems. And people believed him. They still believe him. But if the opposition can establish an image of weakness, it will come close to breaking trust in him.

Who Watches the Watchers? — Linda Greenhouse in the New York Times.

Whom do federal immigration agents despise more: former President Barack Obama, or the immigrants whose lives are in their hands?

That uncomfortable question came to mind as I read articles over the past week of the growing numbers of raids, roundups, the knocks on the door, the flooding of “target-rich environments,” a phrase an anonymous immigration official used in speaking to The Washington Post. What’s a target-rich environment? “Big cities,” the official explained, “tend to have a lot of illegal immigrants.”

Clearly, with President Trump’s executive orders having expanded the category of immigrants deemed worth pursuing and deporting, the gloves are off. There’s been plenty of news coverage of this development, but few reminders of the context in which the pursuers have been freed from previous restraints.

So it’s worth noting that the union representing some 5,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents actually endorsed Mr. Trump in September, the first time the union endorsed a candidate for president. In an inflammatory statement posted on the Trump campaign’s website, Chris Crane, president of the union, the National ICE Council, complained that under President Obama, “our officers are prevented from enforcing the most basic immigration laws.” The statement went on to say that while Mr. Trump had pledged in a meeting to “support ICE officers, our nation’s laws and our members,” Hillary Clinton’s immigration plan was “total amnesty plus open borders.”

That everything in that statement except for the reference to Mr. Trump was untrue is not the point. (Far from failing to enforce the law, the Obama administration deported more than 400,000 unauthorized immigrants a year, and Mr. Trump’s Democratic rival endorsed neither total amnesty nor open borders.) Rather, the statement is evidence of how openly these law enforcement officers have been chafing at the bit to do their jobs as they please.

And chafing for a long time: back in 2012, Mr. Crane was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s deferral of deportation for immigrants brought to the United States as children. The claim was that the program put agents in a position of either failing to enforce immigration law as written or suffering reprisals at work for not adhering to the new policy. The plaintiffs were represented by Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state. An anti-immigration activist who joined the Trump transition team as an adviser on immigration, Mr. Kobach is an originator of the false “massive voter fraud” rationale for voter ID requirements and has exported anti-immigrant legislation to states around the country, most notably Arizona.

A federal district judge in Dallas dismissed Mr. Crane’s lawsuit against the deferral program. Mr. Crane also showed his disdain for President Obama by refusing to allow members to participate in a course aimed at training immigration agents in carrying out the Obama administration’s policy that gave priority to deporting high-risk offenders rather than immigrants with clean records and deep roots in the country. Last month, after President Trump issued his immigration orders, Mr. Crane’s union and the union representing Border Patrol officers issued a joint statement declaring that, in case anyone asked, “morale among our agents and officers has increased exponentially” as a result of the president’s promised actions.

Why does any of this matter — aside from the irony of these public employee unions having achieved pride of place in the conservative firmament, while Republican governors and legislatures are moving quickly to disable public employee unions they find troublesome?

It matters because along with entrusting our immigration enforcers to keep us safe, in the president’s often-tweeted phrase, we also entrust them with the responsibility of treating unauthorized immigrants not as prey but as human beings entitled to dignity, even if only minimally to due process.

Not everyone shares that view. I get that, and I’m reminded of it every time I write about immigration. Reader comments on articles about immigration, including the gripping one last week about Guadalupe García de Rayos, the Phoenix woman and mother of two American children who was abruptly deported when she dutifully showed up for her routine check-in at the local ICE office, run to “if she wasn’t illegal in the first place, she wouldn’t have been deported.”

Right. I’d like to think we’re better than that. A month ago, we were.

In what may be an early warning of what’s to come, last Friday immigration agents in Seattle took a 23-year-old Mexican into custody despite his paperwork proving that he had been granted work authorization under the deferred-deportation program, which for now remains in effect.

“It doesn’t matter, because you weren’t born in this country,” one of the immigration enforcement agents told the man, Daniel Ramírez Medina, according to a petition for habeas corpus filed on his behalf in Federal District Court in Seattle. Mr. Ramírez was brought to this country at age 7 and twice qualified for the deferral program, most recently with a renewal last May. On Tuesday, a federal magistrate judge gave the federal government until Thursday to explain the basis for the detention.

This column is usually about the Supreme Court, and this one is, too. Next Tuesday, the justices’ first day back from a monthlong recess, the court will hear an important case on whether a Border Patrol officer can be required to pay damages to the family of a Mexican boy he killed with a bullet fired across the dry bed of the Rio Grande, the international border that separated the two by only yards. The facts of the case, Hernández v. Mesa, sound highly unusual, but they aren’t; there have been 10 cross-border shootings in recent years in addition to several dozen others along the border.

This case raises important questions about the extraterritorial reach both of the Constitution and the damages remedy that is available to United States citizens whose constitutional rights are violated on American soil by a federal official. Sergio Hernández, the unarmed 15-year-old killed seven years ago by the Border Patrol agent, Jesus Mesa Jr., was not an American citizen, and the bullet reached him in Mexico. He and his friends had been playing in a dry culvert, daring each other to run up the opposite bank and touch the barbed-wire fence on the American side. The F.B.I. report initially claimed that the boys were throwing rocks at the agent, but cellphone videos showed Sergio hiding under a railroad trestle in the last minutes of his life. He was shot when he stuck his head out from his hiding place.

The Justice Department investigated but declined to prosecute Mr. Mesa. Mexico charged the agent with murder, but the United States refused to extradite him. Sergio’s parents sued for damages, but lost when the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that even if Sergio had constitutional rights that were violated by the shooting, the existence of any right was sufficiently unclear as to entitle Mr. Mesa to “qualified immunity,” a legal shield extended to official defendants when the relevant law is deemed uncertain. Because the case has never gone to trial, the eventual Supreme Court decision won’t resolve the conflicting accounts or establish the motive for the agent’s fatal shot. But presumably the law will be clear, one way or another, the next time such an incident occurs.

On the chaotic night last month when Mr. Trump fired the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, for refusing to defend his immigration order, he made another personnel change that got less attention. Without explanation, he replaced the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Daniel Ragsdale, with Thomas Homan, a career employee who had been serving in the agency’s top enforcement position. Last April, when Mr. Homan received the government’s highest Civil Service award, a profile in The Washington Post began: “Thomas Homan deports people. And he’s really good at it.”

In the Post profile, Mr. Homan declined to answer questions about policy, or whether he might be supporting Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. “Sorry, I can’t say what I think,” he told the reporter.

The Roman poet Juvenal asked: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guardians? We need to ask that question now, urgently. I fear the answer.

 Why Thornton Wilder Matters — Laura Collins Hughes on the revival of “The Skin of Our Teeth.”

Thornton Wilder

When Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth” had its Broadway premiere in 1942, directed by Elia Kazan and starring a dream cast led by Tallulah Bankhead and Fredric March, the critic Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times called it “one of the wisest and friskiest comedies written in a long time.” When it returned in 1955, with Helen Hayes and Mary Martin, Mr. Atkinson deemed it simply “perfect.”

After that, though, the play’s fortunes fell. On its third and most recent Broadway outing, José Quintero’s 1975 revival starring Elizabeth Ashley, the Times critic Mel Gussow dismissed it as “simplistic.” Boundary-breaking in its day, it has long been scarce on professional stages.

So Arin Arbus’s new Off Broadway production for Theater for a New Audience, in previews at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn, is a rare chance for re-evaluation. With a cast of 35 (!) and original music by César Alvarez (“Futurity”), it follows the members of the Antrobus family of suburban New Jersey through the ice age in Act I (their pets are a mammoth and a dinosaur; freezing refugees clamor at the door) and into a great flood in Act II. The third act opens amid the ruins of a war. With each calamity, the Antrobuses have to figure out whether and how to survive.

Jeffrey Horowitz, the founding artistic director of Theater for a New Audience, said he didn’t choose the play with topicality in mind. But Wilder had his own suspicions about when it resounds most powerfully. As he explained in the 1950s, in a preface to his collection “Three Plays”: “It was written on the eve of our entrance into the war and under strong emotion, and I think it mostly comes alive under conditions of crisis.”

Several admirers of the play spoke recently about why “The Skin of Our Teeth” endures, what makes it problematic and why this could be a ripe time for its resurgence. Here are edited excerpts from those interviews.

Carey Perloff

The artistic director of American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco directed “The Skin of Our Teeth” at Classic Stage Company in New York in 1986 — a production that, according to Mr. Gussow’s review in The Times, included the refugees in Act I singing a chorus of “Tomorrow,” from “Annie.” Ms. Perloff laughed as she said she didn’t recall much about that long-ago detail, but she was very clear on the play’s current resonance.

All of us who are running theaters now are in this strange position of thinking: What is the appropriate response to the chaos and uncertainty of this moment, and how do you think about that theatrically? It was very prescient of Jeffrey to program this.

I think the reason this one keeps coming back is that it is an allegory, so it has those deep biblical roots and kind of archaeological references. It’s a very profound play to rehearse, because those epic questions come up as you work: Is humanity resilient? It’s a really dystopian look at the American experiment, and I think that’s what we’re all kind of waking up to. We assumed we would be inheritors of this great ideal, and now we realize how completely fragile it is.

There are great things in the play, and there are really frustrating things in the play. As with many great theatrical artifacts, you sort of wish you could take it apart and recombine it somehow. Sometimes I think we should give ourselves permission to do important plays even if they don’t really work.

Paula Vogel

“The Skin of Our Teeth” is the first play that the playwright (“Indecent”) ever saw, at her public high school in Maryland in the 1960s. A self-described “huge fanatic about Thornton Wilder,” she regards it as an example of near perfection and said it has been deeply influential on emerging writers over the past 40 years. Ms. Vogel, a Pulitzer Prize winner, considers the play — with its reverence for books and great thinkers, represented by Mr. Antrobus’s cherished personal library — a defense of Western humanism.

In my life, I’ve only seen two productions of it. One of the difficulties is that commercial and mainstream American drama has eschewed Wilder’s more global, abstract, philosophical voice for a kind of nitty-gritty naturalism, which doesn’t critique American society the same way that Wilder does. What I think happens is that there is a critical reprimand for choosing mythic elements and allegorical elements in American theater.

It’s an extraordinary time to be producing this play. We’re in this moment in time where we are thinking again very apocalyptically. A, we’re having extreme climate change; B, we’re having floods; C, we’re having refugees; and D, we’re actually facing the extinction of animals on our planet, and then hanging over us is the perpetual warfare. Everything in the play is pretty much upon us.

Obviously he’s writing on the brink of huge apocalypse, of World War II and Hitler, and he’s saying: “Let’s look at the resistance. Let’s look at the fact that we are going to get through this, and let’s look at what we need to get through it. What we need are our books.”

Arin Arbus

Ms. Arbus first encountered “The Skin of Our Teeth” in 2002, when the nation was still reeling from 9/11, and immediately wanted to direct it. “I thought, If I don’t do it soon, it just won’t be relevant anymore,” she said, and laughed with what sounded like ruefulness. She agrees with Wilder that the play comes alive in times of crisis, but she believes it is staged as rarely as it is partly because of its complex requirements, including a large cast and the need to balance multiple theatrical styles while leaving room for Wilder’s humor.

One of the challenges and the thrills of it is the slippery style of the play: We go kind of without transition from a Brechtian theater, in which the emotional climax of the scene is broken and commented upon, into absurdist drama with lines like “Have you milked the mammoth?” into this dark domestic family tragedy. Unlocking that is hard.

He was writing it as the world was descending into chaos. I think everybody was wondering: “Will we get through this? And if we do, what then? Will we learn anything? Will we grow or change or do it better the next time?” Although the characters do grow and they survive, they are not transformed. Evil — quote-unquote evil — remains within the nation and within the family and within the home.

Things keep falling apart, and these characters have to go through it over and over and over and over again. That’s what it’s about. The characters are continually hitting rock bottom and then finding a way — and it’s usually with the help of other people — to have the hope to move forward, despite the catastrophic situation that is facing them in that immediate moment.

Bartlett Sher

The Tony-winning director, whose “Oslo” opens on Broadway this spring, has immersed himself twice in the Wilder play: first as an assistant to the director Robert Woodruff on a Guthrie Theater production in Minneapolis in 1990, then on his own Intiman Theater staging in Seattle in 2007. He cast the deaf actor Howie Seago in the role of Mr. Antrobus — in part, Mr. Sher said, to add “another layer of Joycean logic” to the play. He has great affection for Wilder, for both his experimental nature and his capacious heart, but that didn’t make staging the play any easier.

It’s a hard, hard, hard, hard show. It’s all based on “Finnegans Wake.” He was reaching for a kind of narrative in the structure that he put together that’s incredibly interesting but which I’m not sure he was totally successful at accomplishing. It’s one of those things that everybody’s really drawn to, how much they can’t wait to do it, and then they find out how hard it’s going to be.

It has a comforting and profound view of time. It makes you think of time over a very long arc. Right now we’re all freaking out and exploding over the particular kind of time that 2017 appears to be. But if you cycle way back, you think: “Well, yes, we’re going through an incredibly bumpy period in the republic, but it’s not impossible that the institutions will survive and come out reinvigorated.”

The primary job of interpreting the classics — absolutely primary job — is to discover the immediate significance of the work in the time you’re doing it. It’s interesting that Arin is doing it now, because I tend to think these works come around when you need them. It may be one of those things where this particular time requires a good “Skin of Our Teeth” to help make sense of it.

Doonesbury — Kids these days.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Court 3, Trump 0

The short version of the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals is that the Government can’t ban people from coming into the country based on the principle of “because we say so.”

A US appeals court has rejected President Donald Trump’s attempt to reinstate his ban on visitors from seven mainly Muslim countries.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals said it would not block a lower-court ruling that halted the order.

Mr Trump responded with an angry tweet saying national security was at risk and there would be a legal challenge.

But the unanimous 3-0 ruling said the government had not proved the terror threat justified the ban.

“The government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States,” the ruling said.

It also rejected the argument that the president had sole discretion to set immigration policy.

“Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the executive order, the government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all,” said the ruling. “We disagree, as explained above.”

Donald Trump’s lawyers did not make their case. In fact, according to three Ninth Circuit judges, they didn’t even really try to make their case. Rather than explaining why the temporary travel ban was needed, the administration argued that the president’s authority on immigration was so sweeping that they didn’t have to explain why the order was necessary.

According to the court, the government was unable to say why Mr Trump’s ban addressed a pressing national security threat that a temporary stay of the order would worsen. The lawyers for the challenging states, on the other hand, convinced the judges that re-imposing the order at this point would create further chaos by infringing on the due process rights of those on US soil, regardless of their immigration status.

By issuing a unanimous, unsigned opinion, the judges avoid accusations of partisan bias, as one of the three was a Republican appointee.

Mr Trump tweeted a sharp “SEE YOU IN COURT” following the decision.

The case will most likely go to the Supreme Court, and it will take a vote of five of the justices to overturn the lower court ruling.  Since there are only eight justices on the court — four liberal and four conservatives — chances aren’t too good that Trump will prevail.  In fact, that’s one of the reasons the court ruled to uphold the lower court: the Government did not prove that it would likely prevail.

In the spirit of our fearless leader, “NEENER NEENER.”

Short Takes

Appeals court rules unanimously against Trump’s executive order on immigration.

It’s a no-no: Conway gets schooled on hawking Ivanka merchandise.

Heavy winter storm cancels thousands of flights in the Northeast.

Russian airstrike kills Turkish soldiers.

Aretha Franklin announces her retirement.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Monday, February 6, 2017

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Next Step

Restricting immigrants from entering the country was Step 1.  Step 2 is blocking legal immigrants already here from getting jobs and then deporting them because they can’t find work.

The Trump administration is considering a plan to weed out would-be immigrants who are likely to require public assistance, as well as to deport — when possible — immigrants already living in the United States who depend on taxpayer help, according to a draft executive order obtained by The Washington Post.

[…]

The order weighs how to make the country’s immigration program “more merit based,” calls for site visits at companies that employ foreign workers, and tasks the Department of Homeland Security with producing a report twice a year on the total number of foreign-born people — not just nonimmigrant visa holders — who are authorized to work in the United States.

It also instructs DHS and the State Department to submit a report on “the steps they are taking to combat the birth tourism phenomenon,” meaning instances in which noncitizens come to the U.S. to have children who in turn gain citizenship, a popular conservative refrain but one that is dismissed by immigration experts as a relatively minor problem.

Together, the orders would aim to give U.S. citizens priority in the job market by preventing immigrants from taking jobs and by pushing some immigrants out of jobs.

I wonder if the Department of Homeland Security’s report will include the current Mrs. Trump, who happens to be a foreign-born person holding down a job that should have been held by a U.S.-born person.

Short Takes

Trump picks Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court.

Senate Democrats boycott two cabinet hearings, delaying vote.

California legislature considers statewide “sanctuary” law.

Homeland Security chief says he knew Trump immigrant ban was coming.

Trump state visit to Britain “difficult” for the Queen.

Israel not happy over Iran missile test.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017

Fellow Travelers

No one who was paying any attention to the presidential campaign can say that they are surprised now that Trump is following through on his boasts and threats about what he would do when he became president.  The border wall, the Muslim ban, the reinstatement of the Keystone XL and DAPL pipelines, the backing out of TPP, the actions against Obamacare; it was all shouted from the rostrums across the country, and anyone who thought he would change his way of doing things — fast and without thinking about the consequences — just wasn’t paying attention.

He bragged that things would be different now, that he would shake things up so that even the rituals that every president goes through that require little thought, such as signing a proclamation for Holocaust Remembrance Day, were going to be done his way, not the old way.  So there was no mention of Jews dying in the camps because, as the White House noted, “everybody suffered.”

So it’s also no surprise that there has been a backlash to each of these actions and to the Trump regime in general.  We knew that it would spark dissent.  What we didn’t know and what seems to have caught the Trump minions by surprise is the volume, the mass, and the intensity of the rebellion and resistance.  The marches in the cities on the day after the inauguration were off the charts, and the immediate reaction by protestors at the airports when the ban on travelers from Muslim countries was announced was breathtaking in both scale and intensity.

One other thing that is not a surprise is the craven complicity of the Republican leadership.

Facing intense criticism and dramatic news coverage of chaos and protests at airports worldwide, several congressional Republicans on Saturday questioned President Trump’s order to halt admission to the United States by refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) were not among them.

Ryan was among the first lawmakers on Friday to back Trump’s order, and his office reiterated his support on Saturday.

“This is not a religious test and it is not a ban on people of any religion,” said spokeswoman AshLee Strong.

No, it’s just a ban on people from countries with a lot of Muslims, which as everyone knows, isn’t really a religion like, say, Christianity, right?  (By the way, someone prominent in the Christian faith once said something about welcoming the stranger, but hey, that was a long time ago.)

It’s also no surprise that the Republicans would demonstrate such complicity towards these actions against immigrants; it’s not like they haven’t shown that hand at every opportunity, along with the rank hypocrisy of complaining about President Obama’s use of executive orders to save some wilderness acreage as “unconstitutional overreach” and stand by in silence as Trump basically stomps his way through the Bill of Rights.  But as long as they get their tax cuts and free rein on regulation reform, who cares about a bunch of brown non-Christians stuck at an airport in Europe.  It’s not like they matter, right?

It’s within living memory that the United States took such an attitude about refugees and immigrants from a continent where war was brewing and people were fleeing, trying to get to our shores and safety.  We shut them out then, sending many of them back to where they came from, their fates sealed.  Eighty years later we remember — at least some of us remember — what happened to them.  But today we have a White House that won’t even mention them by name.

Those who remained silent then were just as complicit in the destruction that followed, and those who remain silent today are no different.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The View From The Hammock

I have a great deal of respect for Garrison Keillor as a writer and story-teller, and aside from his singing — he makes a Gregorian chanter sound like a rapper — I liked his time on “A Prairie Home Companion.”  Now that he has retired he is sharing his insight on the goings-on near and far in much the same way he told of life in Lake Woebegone: anecdotes of plain people and their takes on life wrapped up in a soft comforter of nostalgia and attempted self-deprecation.  He’s the anti-Keith Olbermann.

But his latest column in the Washington Post — “What will be Trump’s legacy?  Who cares?” — comes across as a gentle message to the masses:  don’t worry what will befall us because in the long run presidents don’t matter all that much in our daily lives.

Presidents are royalty and we measure our lives by their reigns, but their effect on the country in general is greatly exaggerated. Take me, for example. Mr. Lyndon Johnson’s Selective Service System more or less governed my 20s, and now that I’m old and shaky, his Medicare is very helpful, but for most of us, presidents are part of the scenery, like the great stone heads on Easter Island. Millions of words have been written about Richard Nixon but his effect on my life was minuscule compared to that of my third-grade teacher Fern Moehlenbrock. Her kindness and cheerfulness grow larger and larger in memory, and Mr. Nixon recedes to the size of a dried pea.

We remember Johnson for his abdominal scar and his syrupy voice, Nixon for his incredible awkwardness and “I am not a crook,” and Gerald Ford for tripping on the airplane stairs coming down. Then came the Georgia Sunday School teacher and the actor and the Ivy League Texan and the Arkansas playboy and the stupefied Dubya reading “The Pet Goat” to a class in Sarasota when the planes hit the twin towers in Manhattan. We remember their voices, as done by comedians. Their so-called legacy is mostly as cartoons. The disasters they caused fell mainly on foreigners. The marble temples erected to worship them are a bad joke.

And now, after eight years of the most graceful and articulate chief since FDR, we get this crude showman with the marble walls and gold faucets. Most of the country dreads him as he slouches toward Washington to be inaugurated. I worry what effect he’ll have on children. Everything Mrs. Moehlenbrock told us — no pushing, no insulting, no lying, no crude talk — Mr. Trump does on a daily basis. But how will he actually affect my life? Not much.

That’s easy for a white Protestant citizen of the Midwest to say, but unless I’m missing something, Mr. Keillor and those like him have nothing to fear from a Trump administration.  He’s old enough to be on Medicaid and Social Security which are under scrutiny by the Republicans in Congress, but I really don’t think that Mr. Keillor is living on a fixed income or has to scratch to come up with his insurance co-pays.  He’s not dining on Meow Mix or splurging by using the favor packet from Top Ramen.  He’s not in danger of losing his dwelling because his landlord won’t rent to a straight white man, and I doubt that in his long career he ever faced workplace discrimination or the threat of being fired simply because he’s straight.  His Scandinavian heritage does not put him in danger of being deported, nor does his adherence to his faith make him a target by roving bands of Confederate flag-waving patriots.

I’m an entrepreneur, a writer. I don’t look to the government for a tax deduction for time spent writing work that got rejected. I’m not looking for legislative protection from foreign authors. Some people buy Dostoevsky’s books who might otherwise have bought mine: tough noogies. If I threatened to move to Mexico, no big deal.

Except he does have legislative protection from those who would steal his work and pass it off as their own, and I’m pretty sure that like me, he belongs to some kind of writers guild that provides him with legal assistance should he need to sue someone.  Kind of like a union.

The government that matters to me is local. I will always remember the day 14 years ago in St. Paul, Minn., when my daughter went into convulsions and I picked up the phone and in six minutes the rescue squad was in our living room, five uniforms looking after my girl and one uniform explaining to me about febrile convulsions. If you were in the midst of this crisis, Donald J. Trump would be the last person on earth you’d want to see come through the door. He would tell you all about how he won Michigan and bring in a podiatrist and give you a coupon toward one of his steaks. It’s going to be a long four years, people. Get back in touch with old friends. Take up hiking. Read history. But not books about Germany in the 1930s — it’ll only make you uneasy.

Mr. Keillor embodies the genteel side of the mindset of the Trump-voting Obamacare volunteer: government close to home is wonderful, but the further you get away the more they resemble alien occupiers imposing their will by decree.  But they don’t seem to bother him; they’re a minor inconvenience like a fly buzzing around his head while he snoozes in the hammock.

Must be nice.

Friday, September 23, 2016