Suggested Solutions

The language of infestation inevitably suggests the “solution” of extermination.

– Bret Stephens, “Trump’s Rhetoric and Conservative Denial” (8-8-2019)

That’s the fundamental con at the heart of Donald Trump. He says: “I’m going to hurt these people and I’m going to help you.” And he can deliver on the first part, but he’s done just about nothing on the second.

– Chris Hayes “Trump Can’t Help, So He Hurts” (8-8-2019)

This week’s featured post is “Republican Whataboutism Gets More Desperate“.

This week everybody was talking about guns

Facing criticism about the harmony between his anti-immigrant rhetoric and the manifestos of white-supremacist mass-murderers (discussed in more detail in the featured post), even President Trump wants to avoid the appearance of blocking action to limit gun violence. So he vaguely says he is for “intelligent” and “meaningful” background checks, and perhaps some measures to keep guns away from the mentally ill (though he relaxed such measures shortly after he took office). But he also tweeted that the NRA’s “very strong views” would be “fully represented and respected“. He made similar noises after the Parkland shooting and did nothing.

Mitch McConnell refused to interrupt the Senate’s recess to act on bills the House already passed, but promised that the Senate will “discuss” guns when it returns in September.

What we can’t do is fail to pass something. The urgency of this is not lost on any of us.

But it’s not clear what “something” might be, or if he will feel the same urgency after the heat dies down a little, as it presumably will by the time Congress reconvenes.

In general, Republicans want to blame our gun-violence problem on anything but guns: video games, mental illness, the lack of prayer in schools, and so on. But other countries have all that stuff and don’t have weekly mass shootings like we do. The difference is that we have lots and lots of guns.

Guess what? Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that. Her goal is to reduce gun deaths by 80%.

Warren is going beyond some of the more commonly discussed ideas, such as stricter background checks or a ban on assault weapons. Her plan calls for creating a federal licensing system, limiting the number of firearms someone could buy, raising the minimum age to 21 for purchasing a gun, holding gun manufacturers liable (and, in some cases, even holding gun industry CEOs personally liable).

She also wants to raise taxes for gun manufacturers (from 10% to 30% on guns and from 11% to 50% on ammunition).

Additionally, Warren’s plan calls for $100 million annual investment into gun violence research. She points out that the frequency of automobile deaths in the United States declined with widespread safety measures, such as seat belts and air bags. With the same approach, she says, her goal of an 80% reduction in gun-related deaths could be achieved.

The satirical site McSweeney’s: “God Has Heard Your Thoughts and Prayers and He Thinks They Are Fucking Bullshit“.

Hi. God here. I am contacting you in response to your prayers regarding the most recent and totally horrific mass shooting in a college/ high school/ elementary school/ bar/ nightclub/ park/ shopping mall/ concert/ movie theater/ parking lot/ church/ mosque/ synagogue. I have listened to your prayers, America, and I have come to the conclusion that they are cowardly, pointless, and shameful. Your prayers are not helping the victims or their families. Helping potential and actual gun violence victims is a bridge you could have crossed a long time ago, and you chose not to. You pray in order not to feel culpable in horrendous acts of violence. You pray in order to feel good. And for this, I say: fuck you.

and ICE raids

Wednesday, ICE raided seven different sites — mostly poultry processing plants — in Mississippi, arresting 680 people as undocumented immigrants. Owners and managers of the plants have not been arrested, and Time says “They might never be. They typically aren’t.”

The raids coincided with the first day of school

leaving friends, neighbors and, in some instances, strangers to temporarily care for children who did not know whether they would see their parents again, according to CNN affiliate WJTV.

Neither school officials nor local social-service agencies had any advance warning. ThinkProgress:

The morning raids at workplaces created confusion at schools around the state later in the day, as the children of people arrested were reportedly left uncertain where to go and what to do when their parents did not arrive to pick them up at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post fleshed out reports of undocumented immigrants employed by the Trump Organization.

President Trump “doesn’t want undocumented people in the country,” said one worker, Jorge Castro, a 55-year-old immigrant from Ecuador without legal status who left the company in April after nine years. “But at his properties, he still has them.”

Many Trump Organization properties use the same in-house construction company: Mobile Payroll Construction LLC.

In January, Eric Trump … said the company was instituting E-Verify, a voluntary federal program that allows employers to check the employment eligibility of new hires, “on all of our properties as soon as possible.” And the company began auditing the legal status of its existing employees at its golf courses, firing at least 18.

But nothing changed on the Trump construction crew, according to current and former employees.

A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization said Mobile Payroll Construction is enrolled in E-Verify for any new hires. The company is still not listed in the public E-Verify database, which was last updated July 1.

And the story isn’t that tricky immigrants fooled Trump supervisors.

[Edmundo] Morocho said he was one of those laborers. He joined the crew of roughly 15 people in 2000. He said he earned $15 an hour, working Monday through Saturday.

“Nobody had papers,” Morocho said.

In fact, Morocho recalled, [Trump supervisor Frank] Sanzo instructed the crew to buy fake Social Security numbers and green cards in New York so they would have something to put in the Trump Organization files. Morocho said he bought his papers for $50 in 2002.

“Frank said, ‘You can go buy a Social in Queens. They sell them in Queens. Then come back to work. It’s no problem,’ ” Morocho said. “He knew.”

The Post has interviewed 43 undocumented workers who have worked on at least eight Trump properties.

That report (and others like it going back some while) raise an obvious question: Why doesn’t ICE ever investigate or raid a Trump property?

Acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner Mark Morgan doesn’t want to answer that question, saying only that the public doesn’t know what investigations have been done or are ongoing.

Vox called attention to an issue in the background of the immigration debate: At times like this, when the unemployment rate is so low, we don’t have enough low-skilled workers.

There were more than 2.1 million open positions for low-skilled workers in March, but only 1.4 million people without college degrees looking for work.

and Trump’s visit to two grieving cities

The main thing that came out of Trump’s swing through Dayton and El Paso Wednesday was new evidence of what a poor excuse for a human being he is. This isn’t a partisan issue. You don’t have to be liberal or conservative to know how to act when people are hurting.

I wish I could remember who captioned that Trump photo: “Staff finds missing mental patient.”

We have a video of Trump talking to the medical staff inside an El Paso hospital. He says appropriately presidential things for a minute or so — what a great job they did and how proud the country is of them — and then he starts lying about how big the crowd was at his El Paso rally in February, and how much smaller Beto’s crowd was. 22 people are dead, and his delicate ego won’t let him go more than a minute without falsely building himself up and bragging about his popularity.

Trump himself tweeted out a video of his day that was prepared by the White House staff. It splices together scenes of Trump grinning broadly, surrounded by adoring people. (I’m reminded of the parody video The Daily Show did during the 2016 campaign. “Everybody loves me,” Black Trump says.) If you watch it, be sure to turn on the audio: The background music would be appropriate for an Avengers movie. It’s a video about Trump the Super-Hero, not the victims or the first responders or the strength of the community.

The clincher is the photo Melania tweeted of Trump smiling while she holds a baby whose parents were both killed in the shooting. Thumbs-up for you, little guy. You’re an orphan, but you’ll always be able to say you met the great Donald Trump.

and Biden’s ups and downs

Wednesday, Joe Biden gave a powerful speech [video, text] calling Trump out for his championing of white supremacist themes, and calling on the nation to prove that we are better than Trump thinks we are.

We’re living through a rare moment in this nation’s history where our president isn’t up to the moment, where our president lacks the moral authority to lead, where our president has more in common with George Wallace than he does with George Washington.

And he managed to strike the right balance between the greatness and the tragedy of America: that this nation represents a powerful vision, but has never fully lived up to it. Each generation must try to get closer than the previous one.

The most powerful idea in the history of the world, I think beats in the heart of the people of this country. It beats in all of us. No matter your race, your ethnicity, no matter your gender identity, your sexual orientation, no matter your faith, it beats in the hearts of the rich and poor alike, it unites America whether your ancestors were native to these shores, or they were brought here and forcibly enslaved, or they’re immigrants with generations back, like my family from Ireland or those coming today looking to build a better life for their families.

The American creed that were all created equal was written long ago, but the genius of every generation of Americans has open it wider and wider and wider to include those who have been excluded in a previous generation. That’s why it’s never gathered any dust in our history books. It’s still alive today, more than 200 years after its inception.

This kind of speech was what I had in mind last week when I wrote “Campaigning in a Traumatized Nation“. Democratic candidates need to recognize that the reason to vote Trump out isn’t just that he has the wrong policies and they have better ones. It goes deeper than that, and Biden talking about “the battle for the soul of this nation” is on the right track.

Unfortunately, Biden broke his momentum with a series of flubs: He said he was VP during the Parkland shooting. Like Trump, he got the name of one of the mass-shooting cities wrong. Trying to say, “Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as wealthy kids”, he said “white” instead of “wealthy”. He meant to repeat a line from his speech, “We choose truth over lies”, but this time it came out: “We choose truth over facts.

This set him up for Trump (who mangles his words even more often than Biden does) to say that Biden has “lost his fastball“.

I don’t want to run down Joe Biden. He’s the current Democratic front-runner, and I’m prepared to vote for him if he’s nominated. None of these misstatements suggest to me that he’s senile. It’s always been hard for Joe to get the right words out, and (as those of us who are aging understand) misplacing a word here or there is a long way from dementia. (I’m actually more alarmed by the word salads Trump so regularly serves up. Biden usually realizes when something didn’t come out right, while Trump seems to believe he’s making sense.)

But these sorts of mistakes raise the concern that Biden won’t provide the right contrast to Trump. The debates might look like two confused old men, each screwing up in his own way.

I understand many Democrats’ anxiety that Warren (who I think is much sharper than Biden) might be too liberal to attract the suburban Republicans who flipped in 2018, (though I also appreciate the counter-argument that a more radical message might raise turnout among younger and more alienated voters). But if you want a centrist, candidates like Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker are very sharp. Going down the stretch, I would feel more confidence in either of them than in Biden.

and you also might be interested in …

Jeffrey Epstein apparently committed suicide by hanging himself in prison Saturday. In late July he was found unconscious in his cell with marks on his neck, so you’d think prison officials would have been on the lookout for a suicide attempt. His death raises questions about whether we will ever know the full extent of his trafficking of underage girls, who else might have been involved, or how exactly he wrangled a sweetheart deal with federal prosecutors the last time he was arrested.

As you’d expect, conspiracy theories are rampant: Powerful people (Trump if you’re liberal, Bill Clinton if you’re conservative) didn’t want him telling what he knows about them, and so on. It’s natural to wonder, and to insist authorities provide some answers about how this happened. But at the same time we have to admit that (at this point) none of us actually know anything.

Of course, that doesn’t stop Trump from retweeting a conspiracy theory.

Chris Hayes makes an important point: When Trump arrests immigrant parents without giving a thought to what will happen to their kids, or deports a diabetic man to die in Iraq, or inflicts some other cruelty on people his base dislikes … does that actually help any of his supporters? Hayes thinks not.

That’s the fundamental con at the heart of Donald Trump. He says: “I’m going to hurt these people and I’m going to help you.” And he can deliver on the first part, but he’s done just about nothing on the second.

Miners and factory workers benefit hardly at all from the recent growth in the economy, and farmers are suffering from Trump’s trade wars, but corporations and the very rich enjoy a big tax cut. Undocumented migrant workers get arrested, but not the owners who hired them. (Trump even commuted the sentence of one major employer-of-the-undocumented who was convicted of money laundering during the Obama years.)

That’s the deal: You in Lordstown, you’re not going to get to keep your job. But instead, you’re going to get real acts of savage cruelty against some struggling families down in Mississippi, while Trump stuffs fatcats full of cash and parties with them in the Hamptons.

And meanwhile, all the structural inequalities in America, the great hollowing out of the industrial core and rural America, and the declining life expectancies for the first time since World War II, the 70,000 people we’re losing every year to opioids — all that will go on. Because Trump and his party and his donors could not possibly care less about all of that. “But look over here at the people I’m hurting, because that’s all you’re going to get.”

Two weeks ago, I suggested “Enough!” as the Democrats’ best anti-Trump slogan, and at least one Sift reader ordered some “Enough.” bumperstickers from Cafe Press. Looking at it, I think the period works better than the exclamation point I suggested.

This week Time used it to refer to mass shootings.

This also is a very clever anti-Trump sticker.

McSweeney’s again: The NYT announces that “In order to keep our editorial page completely balanced, we are hiring more dipshits.

Here at the New York Times, we believe that all sides of the story should be tolerated and explored, from white supremacists being actually kinda cool if you think about it to people who believe that saying college campuses should be less PC is somehow an interesting use of 1,000 words. That’s why we’re expanding our editorial staff to include more dipshits. Because everyone, no matter how intellectually lazy their conservatism, deserves a column in our newspaper.

For the most part, American voters believe in democracy. But more and more, Republican legislatures do not.

And so we have situations like the one in Florida, where in 2018 voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum allowing felons (other than murderers and rapists) to regain their voting rights after they serve their sentences. Prior to that, a felony resulted in permanent disenfranchisement, and more than 10% of the population was disenfranchised. That 10% was disproportionately poor and black.

But now the Republican legislature and narrowly elected Republican governor Ron DeSantis have largely undone that expansion of democracy. The NYT reports:

The law, which took effect July 1, requires people with a felony conviction to pay off all costs, fines, fees and any restitution arising from their conviction before they are eligible to register to vote.

As the lawmakers surely knew when they wrote the law, they would be re-disenfranchising a large number of people who just had their rights restored. Only about one in five Floridians with criminal records have fully paid their financial obligations, according to an estimate by an expert in voting and elections at the University of Florida, who analyzed data from 48 of Florida’s 67 counties.

The 4/5ths who re-lose their rights are, of course, the poorest ones. The effect is similar to a poll tax.

The burden of these fines and fees falls heavier on black voters, who are poorer; more likely to be unemployed; and more likely to be arrested, charged and convicted. Before voters approved Amendment 4, one in five black Floridians of voting age were barred from voting because of a criminal conviction — twice the rate of whites.

… Florida Republicans, like their counterparts in other states and in Washington, D.C., are becoming increasingly comfortable with the perks of minority rule, like the ability to disregard what the majority of voters demand. They appear to know that when you can’t win on your ideas, you win by undermining democracy.

This is not just minority rule, but minority rule tipped towards whites. By passing laws like these, Republicans become the party of white supremacy in a very literal sense.

Here we see the kinds of young people who form “Team Mitch”, having their picture taken groping and choking a cardboard cut-out of Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the annual “Fancy Farm” political picnic in Kentucky. (The original caption: “Break me off a piece of that.”) McConnell denies they are campaign staff, but they seem to be volunteers; a different photo with many of the same young men appears on the official Team Mitch Instagram account. In that photo they’re holding giant headshots of Brett Kavanaugh, who I imagine was much the same at that age.

Kashmir is a Muslim-majority region that India regards as belonging to it, but Pakistan also claims parts of. It is remote and mountainous, and has mainly symbolic value to the two rival countries.

For decades India has tried to minimize tensions by allowing Kashmir a large amount of autonomy. But the Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi has changed that policy, making Kashmir a federal territory more directly under national rule. Kashmiris don’t like this change, but it’s unclear exactly how they’ll resist it.

Salman Rushdie‘s family is Kashmiri, though he was born in Mumbai. His novel Shalimar the Clown centers on Kashmir, and how external rivalries corrupt an idyllic land.

and let’s close with some perfect timing

The Moon decides to take a break by resting in a radio telescope dish.

Republican Whataboutism Gets More Desperate

Trump has been promoting many of the same white-supremacist themes that are found in mass-shooter manifestos. That can’t be excused or explained, so his cultists need to divert your attention.

Whataboutism is the tactic of responding to criticism of a politician you like by asserting (often falsely [1]) some equivalent wrongdoing by someone on the other side. (Examples: responding to mention of one of Trump’s 10,000 lies with “What about when Obama said you could keep your health insurance?” or to Trump’s birtherism by claiming Hillary Clinton started it.) Whataboutism has long been a tactic favored by conservatives, but Trump has taken it to a new level: It’s hard to come up with an example of him addressing a criticism any other way. He never explains or apologizes, but instead launches some new accusation against someone else.

David Roberts points out the general moral immaturity of a whatabout response

One thing to note is the bizarre implicit assumption that if responsibility is equal on both sides, then … we’re fine. We’re even. Move on. In other words, it’s not the damage done, or the principle violated, that concerns [WaPo columnist Marc Thiessen], it’s *blame*. We need not strive to be good as long as we are no worse than the other side. It’s the moral reasoning of a [10-year-old], focused exclusively on avoiding responsibility or sanction.

Gonna be lots of right-wing whataboutism focused on antifa and environmental extremists in coming weeks. [Conservatives] need to head off the growing consensus that [right-wing] terrorism is a unique problem.

This week saw two prominent attempts at whataboutism, both aimed at diverting attention from Trump’s role in promoting the false claims that inspired the El Paso shooting and have inspired other acts of white-supremacist terrorism.

  • What about the liberal views of the Dayton shooter?
  • What about Rep. Joaquin Castro revealing the names of Trump donors in his district?

Dayton. Roberts was specifically responding to the Thiessen column “If Trump is Responsible for El Paso, Democrats are Responsible for Dayton“.

But if Democrats want to play politics with mass murder, it works both ways. Because the man who carried out another mass shooting 13 hours later in Dayton, Ohio, seems to have been a left-wing radical whose social media posts echoed Democrats’ hate-filled attacks on the president and U.S. immigration officials.

The difference between the two cases is pretty obvious: The El Paso shooter justified his rampage in a manifesto that used Trumpist rhetoric about the “invasion” of our southern border. [2] His massacre took place near that border, and targeted Hispanics under the assumption that they were the “invaders”. Similarly last October, the man who slaughtered 11 Jews at a synagogue in Pittsburgh believed Jews were organizing the immigrant “invasion” caravans that Trump had been making the focus of his midterm-election messaging, and the MAGA bomber targeted people he saw as Trump’s enemies.

A window of the MAGA bomber’s van.

But so far no one has found any connection between the Dayton shooter’s left-wing views and his crimes. If the Dayton shooter had shot at “the president and immigration officials”, that would be comparable. In future, if someone follows up his retweets of Elizabeth Warren statements by, say, shooting some of the bankers or drug company CEOs Warren criticizes, that also would parallel the El Paso shooting (and we could expect Warren to issue a statement telling her supporters not to be violent). But the Dayton shooter did nothing of the kind.

In the wake of the El Paso shooting, Hispanics might legitimately fear further attacks from copycat killers; but fear of a copycat Dayton shooting afflicts anybody who goes out in public rather than some group criticized by Democrats.

Picturing what a comparable liberal shooting would look like just emphasizes the Trump connection to El Paso.

“How do you stop these people? You can’t,” Trump lamented at a May rally in Panama City Beach, Fla. Someone in the crowd yelled back one idea: “Shoot them.” The audience of thousands cheered and Trump smiled. Shrugging off the suggestion, he quipped, “Only in the Panhandle can you get away with that statement.”

Trump wasn’t horrified by the suggestion that someone might shoot Mexican border-crossers, and did not say it would be wrong. Instead he talked about what his followers could “get away with”, as if it’s natural to want to shoot Hispanics, but politically incorrect to say so out loud. If the El Paso shooter was listening to that exchange, it’s fair to assume that he was not discouraged from his plans.

“Hate has no place in our country!”

You have to go back to 2017 to find any kind of legitimate liberal parallel: the shooting of Republican Congressman Steve Scalise by someone who once volunteered for Bernie Sanders. Unlike Trump, who denounced the El Paso shooting in general terms (in one of his read-from-the-teleprompter statements that look as insincere as a hostage video) without acknowledging any connection to it, Sanders did the responsible thing:

I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. I am sickened by this despicable act. Let me be as clear as I can be: Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values.

Trump, on the other hand, undercut even his general denunciation of the shooting by implying that the shooter might have had a point: Limiting immigration should be part of the response. It’s as if Sanders had proposed that Republicans respond to the Scalise shooting by ending their attempts to repeal ObamaCare.

Trump also undercut his anti-white-supremacy statement by reverting to the both-sides rhetoric he used after Charlottesville: He’s against not just white supremacy, but “any other kind of supremacy“. (Both Trevor Noah and Seth Myers wondered what “other kind of supremacy” Trump might have had in mind. The Bourne Supremacy?) He’s also against “any group of hate”, and singled out the amorphous anti-fascist group Antifa, as if hating fascism is similar to hating Hispanics or Jews, and as if the Antifa body count (0) bears any comparison to the many dozens killed recently by white supremacists. Matt Bors makes the point with a cartoon.

Shaming Trump donors. The second whataboutist controversy started with a tweet on Monday: San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro listed the names of 44 San Antonians who had given the maximum allowable personal donation to Trump’s re-election campaign, and commented

Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders.’

He got the names from publicly available FEC records; you could have looked them up yourself had you been so inclined.  And he used those names for the purpose that the disclosure laws intended: So that the public knows who’s bankrolling a political campaign.

Castro was clearly trying to shame the people he listed, and you might imagine Castro’s Twitter followers, especially Hispanic ones, deciding not to do business with big Trump donors: If money I give these people might flow through to ads that threaten me, maybe I’ll deal with somebody else. (This logic is similar to why so many LGBTQ people are reluctant to eat at Chick-fil-A. It’s also why #CancelSoulCycle has been trending after word got out that owner Stephen Ross was hosting a multi-million-dollar Trump fundraiser in the Hamptons.)

But nothing in Castro’s tweet suggests violence against these donors, and in fact there is no established pattern of violence against Trump donors. But conservatives needed to divert public attention from the violence Trump incites by accusing some Democrat of inciting violence too — because, as David Roberts pointed out, that would make it all OK from their grade-school moral perspective — and Castro was what they had to work with.

So Donald Trump Jr. went on Fox & Friends to compare Castro’s list of Trump donors to a “hit list” that the Dayton shooter had kept in high school. (As far as I know, none of the people on that list were targeted in the Dayton shooting. So even if you buy the idea that there’s a comparison, we’re talking about a list of fantasy targets, not actual ones.) Ted Cruz accused Castro of “doxxing” his constituents. (Falsely. [3]) House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted:

Targeting and harassing Americans because of their political beliefs is shameful and dangerous.

And I suppose that is true if you assume that someone has been targeted and harassed, rather than just called out for sponsoring insults against their neighbors.

So the whatabout here is equating a direct connection to several real-world mass murders with a fantasy about what some Castro-follower might do, even though none of them have actually ever done such a thing, and there are no examples of similar crimes.

What does it mean? Whataboutism isn’t new, of course. (What about Hillary’s emails?) But new whatabouts point out where conservatives believe they’re vulnerable. And the less convincing the whatabouts are, the more desperate the need for them must be.

If you meet whataboutism in the wild — in face-to-face conversation or in social media — it’s important not to get distracted by it. [4] Call it out for what it is (that meme at the top of the page is kind of handy) and restate the point the whataboutist is trying to divert you from. In this case, that’s Trump’s role in promoting the rhetoric of white-supremacist terrorism.

[1] Since the point of whataboutism is to derail a criticism rather than refute it, a false assertion often works even better than a true one, because the discussion then careens off into evidence that the assertion is false. Suddenly we’re rehashing the details of what Obama or Clinton did or didn’t do, while the original criticism of Trump scrolls off the page.

The assumption behind refuting the false whataboutism is that the Trumpist will be embarrassed to be caught saying something untrue, and so will stop repeating the false statement. But the essence of Trumpism is that shame is for losers, so refutation is pointless.

[2] A wrinkle in this argument is that the El Paso shooter seems to have worried that his actions might reflect badly on Trump. So he made sure to state that his views predated Trump’s candidacy.

the media will probably call me a white supremacist anyway and blame Trump’s rhetoric. The media is infamous for fake news.

But his concern for Trump’s image belies his point, and whether or not his murderous rage against the Hispanic “invaders” predates Trump’s rhetoric is irrelevant. Nobody is saying that Trump invented white supremacy or anti-Hispanic racism. Rather, he (along with many, many conservative opinion-makers) has promoted and mainstreamed ideas that have been floating around in the white-supremacist and neo-Nazi underground for decades.

Trump’s rhetoric is a Nazi gateway drug. After you get used to the notions that Central American refugees are really “invaders”, that immigrants are spreading crime and disease, that white Christians are victims, that people of color who criticize America should “go back where they came from”, and that political correctness is a far more serious problem than racism — all core Trump points — then when you chase a link to the Daily Stormer or some other Nazi site, 90% of what you read sounds perfectly normal.

So, for example, if you marinate long enough in TrumpWorld, and then start to wonder how these illiterate Guatemalan peasants are organizing their invasion of the US, the neo-Nazi answer — Jews like George Soros are behind it all — jumps out at you like a revelation.

[3] True doxxing reveals personal contact information like a home address or personal phone number, and typically violates an assumed boundary (like when someone attaches a name, address, and phone number to someone else’s Twitter handle). But donors to political campaigns know that their names are being recorded for the public record. Suzanne Nossel explains:

It’s fair to question whether Mr. Castro’s tweet was prudent or decorous. But to refer to it as doxxing or online harassment is inaccurate, and sows confusion over what online abuse actually looks like.

CNN adds:

Richard Hasen, an expert on election law at the University of California at Irvine, said neither the boycott calls [against SoulCycle] nor Castro tweet appears to cross the line into the “unconstitutional harassment” of donors. “Being called a bad name on Twitter is not the kind of harassment the Supreme Court was talking about” in allowing exemptions [from disclosures] for people who face a real threat of harassment, he said.

Republicans can’t have it both ways here. They want to allow unlimited political donations because “money is speech”. But when you speak in the public square, people know who you are. At the very least, an ad whose donors you can’t track down should end with “The sponsors of this message have chosen to remain anonymous” so that we can assume the worst about them.

[4] Don’t do the kind of lengthy explanation I’ve done here; this was for educational purposes only. Having seen a couple of whataboutisms dissected in detail should make it easier for you to spot new ones.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week I want to look at the common discussion-diversion technique called Whataboutism, where a criticism of one (usually conservative) politician gets derailed by a competing (and often bogus) claim against someone on the other side. (“What about Hillary’s emails?” is the most recognizable example.) So I look at this week’s two biggest whatabouts in detail: “What about the liberal views of the Dayton shooter?” and “What about Rep. Castro outing the Trump donors in his district?”

That post is just about done and should be out around 9 EDT.

The weekly summary covers the growing clamor to do something about gun violence, the big ICE raids, Trump’s bizarre behavior in Dayton and El Paso, Joe Biden’s up-and-down week, the Epstein suicide (which I have little to say about because I don’t know anything), and a few other things. (I’m still looking for a closing.) That should be out before noon.

Desperate Fear

Back of the writhing, yelling, cruel-eyed demons who break, destroy, maim and lynch and burn at the stake, is a knot, large or small, of normal human beings, and these human beings at heart are desperately afraid of something. Of what? Of many things, but usually of losing their jobs, being declassed, degraded, or actually disgraced, of losing their hopes, their savings, their plans for their children, of the actual pangs of hunger, of dirt, of crime.

– W. E. B. DuBois (1935)
quoted in Jon Meacham’s The Soul of America (2019)

This week’s featured post is “Campaigning in a Traumatized Nation“.

This week everybody was talking about the Democratic debates

As I said in more detail in the featured post, I found this round of debates hard to watch. CNN’s moderators valued conflict above ideas, and the candidates were only rarely able to rise above that agenda. Particularly on the first night, round after round amounted to “Here’s a Republican talking point. Would any of you obscure centrist candidates like to pick it up and club the progressives with it?”

I’m not sure why Joe Biden can’t just say: “Men of my generation have seen enormous changes in our lifetimes, and those of us who have been paying attention have had to change our ideas about a lot of things.” I don’t know why he thinks he has to defend positions he wouldn’t take today.

and two mass shootings

It’s ironic that just last week, Ilhan Omar was taking heat for an interview in which she said that “if fear was the driving force behind policies to keep Americans safe” (a condition that was edited out of the viral video) “we should be profiling, monitoring and creating policies to fight the radicalization of white men.”

Saturday the nation saw yet another example of what she was talking about: a 21-year-old white man from a Dallas suburb opened fire in an El Paso WalMart, killing 20 and wounding 26. Minutes before, a white-supremacist manifesto (assumed to be his) appeared online, citing the “Hispanic invasion” of Texas.

They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.

Sunday in Dayton, another man killed nine people and wounded 27 in an attack that lasted on about 30 seconds. The gunman had an AR-15 with a 100-round magazine. (Is there any justification for a 100-round magazine being legal?) So far we don’t know his motive.

Mitch McConnell’s twitter response:

The entire nation is horrified by today’s senseless violence in El Paso. Elaine’s and my prayers go out to the victims of this terrible violence, their families and friends, and the brave first responders who charged into harm’s way.

This tweet demonstrates so much wrong-headedness.

  • This violence is not “senseless”; it appears to have had the very definite purpose of killing Hispanics, and is a direct response to the “invasion” rhetoric coming from McConnell’s party and president. Republicans used to be horrified that Obama refused to “name the enemy” as “radical Islamic terrorism“. When are they going to say the words “white supremacist terrorism”? When are they going to stop amplifying that enemy’s rhetoric?
  • Once again, Republicans respond to gun violence with “prayers” rather than legislation. But why should God help a country that is so unwilling to help itself?

One Republican who did say the words is Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana. He tweeted:

I deployed to Afghanistan as a response to radical Islamic terrorism. We now face a different enemy that has also emerged from the shadows but demands the same focus and determination to root out and destroy. #WhiteSupremacistTerrorism should be named, targeted and defeated.

Trump played his usual game, issuing a statement that said various right things, and then trying to cash in.

We cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain. Likewise for those so seriously wounded. We can never forget them, and those many who came before them. Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!

He looks to be supporting background checks, a very popular and painless remedy that Republicans have blocked in the past. But what he’s really saying is that he might be willing to support checks as part of a package that also included the immigration provisions that he really wants. He’s holding background checks hostage.

If you actually support something, you support it on its own. You don’t expect a pay-off.

Both President Trump and top House Republican Kevin McCarthy politicized the tragedy to use it against violent video games. This is a popular GOP/NRA talking point, because (let’s face it) the GOP is dominated by older people who never play video games. The point is absurd on its face, because the Netherlands and South Korea (which have more game players but fewer guns) don’t have our mass-murder problem. The graph below is a little hard to read, but the dot all by itself at the top is the US, while the outliers at the bottom-right are South Korea and the Netherlands. Canada, the country most culturally similar to the US, has slightly higher video-game spending, but way fewer gun murders.

and the Ratcliffe nomination

The country dodged a bullet when Texas Congressman John Ratcliffe’s nomination as Director of National Intelligence got pulled. But there are probably more bullets coming.

The law creating the position says:

Any individual nominated for appointment as Director of National Intelligence shall have extensive national security expertise.

But this is the Trump administration, so of course Ratcliffe had nothing of the kind. He auditioned for the DNI position during the Robert Mueller hearing by advancing the idea that Volume II of Mueller’s report, which listed the times when Trump may have obstructed justice, should never have been written, and was in fact illegal. So Ratcliffe has what Trump is seeking in a high-profile job candidate: He looks good on TV and is willing to spout nonsense in Trump’s defense.

Unfortunately, he started with lukewarm support from Republican senators like Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr, and then the media discovered that Ratcliffe’s already thin claims of relevant experience were inflated. Trump tweeted the nomination’s withdrawal, while complaining that Ratcliffe had been treated “very unfairly“.

I’m not hoping for a better nominee, though, because that’s not what Trump’s looking for. Tuesday he told reporters:

We need somebody strong that can really rein it in because as I think you’ve all learned the intelligence agencies have run amok. They run amok.

“Run amok”, in this case, means to tell him things he doesn’t want to hear, like that Russia is still interfering in our elections, MBS killed a Washington Post reporter, Kim Jong Un is not going to denuclearize, climate change is a national security threat, and so forth.

By law, Deputy DNI Sue Gordon, a qualified intelligence professional, assumes the DNI role until the Senate approves a replacement. But this is the Trump administration, so the law may not matter. Trump reports that Gordon is being “considered” for the acting DNI job.

It’s important to notice what’s happening here.

When Trump was naming his original cabinet, there was a sense that some roles were too serious for the kind of stooges he was inclined to nominate elsewhere. Maybe it didn’t matter so much that Ben Carson knew nothing about urban housing and Rick Perry didn’t even know what his department did. Maybe Betsy DeVos’ main qualifications to oversee American education were big donations to Republicans and an abiding hatred of public schools. Maybe Scott Pruitt (EPA) and Tom Price (HHS) were bringing scandals with them into their new jobs. But some positions were serious, and they needed serious people in them — even in the Trump administration.

And so that first cabinet had James Mattis as Secretary of Defense, John Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security, and Dan Coats as Director of National Intelligence — because even Donald Trump had to acknowledge that national security was important and demanded serious people at the top.

At the time, Paul Waldman proclaimed it “the worst cabinet in American history”, and summed up its members as:

a combination of ethical problems, inexperience, hostility to the missions of the departments its members are being called to lead, and plain old ignorance that is simply unprecedented

None of us imagined we’d look back on that cabinet with nostalgia. But now we do. Because Trump has decided that his whims and hunches are all that really matters and has been reshaping the government accordingly. Trump doesn’t want be surrounded by people who make him face reality and tell him he can’t do things he wants to do. He doesn’t want a science advisor to tell him climate change is real and demands action, a DHS secretary to tell him he has to obey the law, an FBI director to tell him Russia helped make him president, or an economist to tell him that his tariffs won’t work.

If you want a clear example of why Trump needs a DNI who will push him in the general direction of reality, consider this tweet from Friday:

Chariman Kim has a great and beautiful vision for his country, and only the United States, with me as President, can make that vision come true.

Trump continues not to admit that Russia helped him and is continuing to help him. Asked Thursday whether he mentioned the issue to Vladimir Putin in the wake of the clear alarm bells in Robert Mueller’s testimony, Trump treated the whole idea as an absurdity: “You don’t really believe this. Do you believe this?

Jeff Sessions may have wanted to make America more like Alabama, but he was not the threat to the rule of law that Bill Barr is. When Trump instructed him to quash legitimate investigations and start bogus ones, Sessions refused. Unlike Barr, Sessions saw himself as the chief legal officer of the United States, not the personal attorney of Donald Trump.

Mattis has been replaced at Defense by Mark Esper, who was named by The Hill as one of the top lobbyists of 2016. One of his first acts was to interfere in a big corporate contract, apparently as part of Trump’s grudge against Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, whose Amazon subsidiary looked likely to get a big piece.

Do you even know who’s in charge of DHS right now, as it runs concentration camps on our border? It’s Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, who has served since Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in April. Trump has not submitted a nominee to the Senate.

and the trade war

Trump unexpectedly announced new tariffs on Chinese goods Thursday. China retaliated by letting its currency drop, which could destabilize a bunch of trading relationships around the globe. The Chinese government also suspended imports of American agricultural goods. Markets around the world are plunging today.

and Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell is up for reelection next year. It’s looking like he might face some vigorous opposition this time.

In addition to his own race, Mitch is likely to be the face of the Republican Party in every Senate race in the country. One of the attacks against McConnell is the nickname “Moscow Mitch” which he has earned by blocking all efforts to make our elections more secure from Russian interference.

He apparently hates that nickname, so of course everyone is going to back off and stop using it.

and you also might be interested in …

The Trump administration lost another court case: A district court judge in Washington invalidated the administration’s rule making immigrants ineligible for asylum if they cross the border somewhere other than a designated entry port.

The judge’s order makes what seems to me like a compelling argument. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 says:

Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien’s status may apply for asylum

The Trump administration argued that its new rule did prevent people from applying for asylum; it just made them ineligible to receive it. The judge wasn’t buying that distinction.

In practice, the new rule was often coupled with a refusal to process asylum claims at ports of entry, essentially shutting off the possibility of claiming asylum in the US, which is a treaty obligation.

With Trump bashing cities like Baltimore, 24/7 Wall Street’s list of the 25 worst places to live in America became topical again. It ranked counties according to an index based on poverty rate, bachelors degree attainment rate, and life expectancy. No urban counties make the list.

Nearly every county on this list falls into one of three categories: counties in Appalachian coal country, Southern counties along or near the Mississippi River, and those that lie within Native American reservations.

I could imagine quibbling with the criteria, maybe by adding some measure of violent crime. And at first I wondered about making bachelors degrees such a big component — until I tried to imagine living in a place like McDowell County, WV (#4 on the list), where only 4.9% have bachelors degrees. Picture that: There must be some teachers in the public schools. The federal government has to have some kind of presence. There has to be a doctor or two somewhere. Who else?

Amanda Marcotte, responding to an Atlantic article about Trump supporters who are “tired of being called racists”:

Time and again, the argument Trump supporters make against being called “racist” basically boils down to saying they’re fine with black people as long as they maintain a subservient, apologetic, inferior position.

Glaciers extend into the ocean, and it turns out that the underwater melting is much more extreme than previously thought.

The GOP’s only black congressman is retiring.

Here’s something you didn’t know, because you’re not watching the right televangelists: The Impossible Burger is part of a “Luciferian” plot. The point is to “change God’s creation” (because normal hamburgers just happen, without any human intervention), and the ultimate goal is “to change the DNA of humans … to create a race of soulless creatures”. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

The Raw Data podcast “Kinetic Effects” is well worth listening to. It discusses how Russian disinformation campaigns work, including interference in the 2016 election. It concludes with this illuminating exchange.

Mike Osborne (host): What’s the one thing you want people to know about disinformation?

Kate Starbird (expert): This is such a hard one. But I think the most important thing is not that we become cynics or skeptics to the Nth degree. I think the most important thing is for us to start identifying whom we can trust, rather than backing away and stop trusting everybody.

Mike Osborne: The answer I thought you were going to give is that we are all vulnerable, that none of us are immune from disinformation.

Kate Starbird: Yeah, I’ve been saying that a lot. And I hate to leave people with that, because I think that almost feeds into the goals of disinformation, which are to have us back away, to have us not know that we can trust information, and back away from the political sphere, get back on our heels. And the society that doesn’t know where it can go for trusted information is a society that’s easily controlled. It’s more important for us to find people and sources and voices that we can trust, than for us to stop trusting everything.

The new chair of the Florida Board of Education said this in 2008, when he was vice chair of a county school board:

As a person of faith, I strongly oppose any study of evolution as fact at all. I’m purely in favor of it staying a theory and only a theory. I won’t support any evolution being taught as fact at all in any of our schools.

and let’s close with something sweet

While looking for the list of worst counties mentioned above, I ran into a much more appealing list: The best ice cream parlor in every state.

Campaigning in a Traumatized Nation

Trump has damaged our country in ways too deep to fix with an executive order or an act of Congress. The campaign against him needs to reflect that somehow.

Two rounds of Democratic presidential debates are behind us now, and everyone I know was dissatisfied with them. We’re all casting about, looking for somewhere to assign blame. There are plenty of places to look.

  • Maybe it was the overcrowding. Spreading twenty candidates over two nights didn’t give any one of them a chance to put forward a coherent vision of what the country needs.
  • Maybe it was the moderators. Both CNN and MSNBC wanted to see conflict rather than thoughtful discussion, so questions often ignored the forest of beliefs all the candidates share, and focused instead on a few contentious trees of dubious significance.
  • Maybe it was the candidates, none of whom managed to overcome the format, the time limits, and the competing voices to deliver the clarion call we wanted to hear. The heavens did not part, and no ray of light illuminated the Chosen One.

All that is true, and yet I think my disappointment has another cause. Candidates standing behind lecterns, arguing about funding mechanisms and timelines and the meaning of whatever one or another of them did or didn’t do decades ago — it all seemed so ordinary. It’s exactly what Democrats would be doing if it were 1976 and we were hoping to replace Gerald Ford, a nice conscientious guy who happened to be wrong about a few things.

It’s not that I’m disappointed with the policy proposals of any particular candidate. But any set of policies seems inadequate as an answer to the Trump phenomenon.

My regular readers know that I think Trump has terrible policies. On climate change, for example, he seems to be working to bring on disaster as fast as possible. His trade wars are stupid. He loves all the world’s bad guys (Putin, Xi, Kim, MBS, Duterte, Bolsonaro …) and does his best to piss off all the good guys (Trudeau, Macron, Merkel …). His immigration/asylum policies are largely illegal, not to mention intentionally cruel. He’s been trying for years to take health care away from millions.

And yet, the real impact of Trump strikes much deeper than any of that. He both reflects and exacerbates something horribly wrong in our country. All forms of racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism have become more acceptable on his watch. Lying has gone off the scale. All sense of fair play has vanished from our politics. Countless norms and practices that were supposed to protect us against corruption and tyranny have been scrapped. We used to worry about how lobbyists would influence government officials, but now we just appoint lobbyists to high office and eliminate the middlemen.

Raising the minimum wage or canceling student debt isn’t going to touch that.

I thought George W. Bush was a terrible president, certainly the worst of my lifetime up to that point. And yet, a change of policies seemed adequate to put him behind us. If Obama could have succeeded not just in avoiding the Depression Bush had set us up for, but also in ending Bush’s wars, closing Guantanamo, and reversing the tax cuts that had put our nation in such perilous fiscal shape, the negative legacy of the Bush years would have been almost entirely sealed off. Wrong-headed mismanagement had been the problem, and good management could fix it.

That’s not true this time. Something deep and dark is happening to our country. If we are fortunate enough to elect a Democrat in 2020, the new president will have to deal with a traumatized nation.

Bush told a few big lies, but Trump has damaged the very notion that we can find common truth. Any fact he doesn’t want to face is “fake news”. Any criticism is met with wave after wave of conspiracy theories against whomever has had the effrontery to call him to account. All inconvenient expertise is painted as corrupt, and countered with opinions “I heard” or “a lot of people are saying”, even if those opinions contradict each other.

Trump doesn’t just oppose anyone who looks into his actions, he dismisses their right to do so. Congress has no business overseeing his administration at all. The courts owe him deference that no other president has received. Investigating his misdeeds is “treason”.

America has always debated where the common good might be found, but Trump destroys the entire idea of the common good. He does not speak at all to the 54% of the electorate who voted for someone else. He stereotypes entire races, religions, and ethnicities, offering them as scapegoats for whatever afflicts his followers. If you are the wrong color or speak the wrong language, you can either support him or “go back where you came from”, even if you are a citizen, even if you were born here, even if the people of your district have overwhelmingly elected you to represent them in Congress.

And it’s not just him. He has a following. People don’t just like him or his policies, they like the fact that he insults and abuses other Americans. He has done little or nothing to help most of the people who voted for him, but they love how mean he is to the people they resent. The Republican Party as a whole now doesn’t even pretend to favor democracy. Elections are simply about winning, and it doesn’t matter whether you win via massive amounts of corporate cash, by making it hard for people to vote, by gerrymandering districts so that you retain power in spite of being opposed by a majority of voters, or even with help from foreign enemies.

If Democrats win in 2020, they can change a lot of those policies: restrain corporate political influence, end gerrymandering, guarantee the right to vote, and so on. But the Republican willingness to subvert democracy will still be there, as well as the belief that some people’s votes should count more than others, or that a loss is not really legitimate if it is based on votes from someone other than white Christians.

The crisis in this country goes way beyond the usual policy discussions, to the point that debating how fast to phase in universal health care or whether crossing the border without a visa should be a civil or criminal offense … it almost mocks the sense of trauma I feel, and that I think a lot of people share.

That’s why many of the most memorable lines of the Democratic debates have nothing to do with policy. When Kirsten Gillibrand said her first presidential act would be to “Clorox the Oval Office“, she was speaking to that sense of a deeper wrongness than can be fixed by an executive order. The White House needs an exorcism, not just a new resident.

But the candidate who most often points to the deeper trauma is the most unlikely candidate: Marianne Williamson. She has no qualifications for a high executive office and her policy agenda has a lot of holes, but she speaks the language of spiritual transformation rather than ordinary politics. In an otherwise critical article, Tara Isabella Burton sums her up like this:

Williamson, a self-help spiritualist (and sometime adviser to Oprah Winfrey), preaches a gospel of “love” and “oneness,” blending a chipper New Age sensibility with progressive politics. In the Democratic debate Tuesday, she condemned the “dark psychic force” of hatred that she said Trump has unleashed, saying it could be combated only by “something emotional and psychological” — which only she could bring forth — accompanied by a dose of “deep truth-telling” on the subject of race. She’s called for a “moral and spiritual awakening” in the United States.

NYT columnist David Brooks claims that she “knows how to beat Trump” via an “uprising of decency”.

Trump is a cultural revolutionary, not a policy revolutionary. He operates and is subtly changing America at a much deeper level. He’s operating at the level of dominance and submission, at the level of the person where fear stalks and contempt emerges.

He’s redefining what you can say and how a leader can act. He’s reasserting an old version of what sort of masculinity deserves to be followed and obeyed. In Freudian terms, he’s operating on the level of the id. In Thomistic terms, he is instigating a degradation of America’s soul.

We are all subtly corrupted while this guy is our leader. And throughout this campaign he will make himself and his values the center of conversation. Every day he will stage a little drama that is meant to redefine who we are, what values we lift up and who we hate.

The Democrats have not risen to the largeness of this moment.

I haven’t risen to the largeness of the moment either. But I sense the need, and I’m struggling to figure out what it would mean to address it.

Remember 1980, when conservatives were not just hurting politically, but felt that America was slipping away from them? Vietnam, Watergate, double-digit inflation, bankrupt cities, gas shortages, rising divorce rates … they also felt a sense of crisis that went beyond policy. From this remove, we tend to remember the policy agenda of the Reagan administration: low taxes, deregulation, strong defense, free trade. But 1980 was also the high point of the Moral Majority, which called the country back to the old-time religion of fundamentalist Christianity.

1980 wasn’t just about political change. It was about spiritual transformation. That’s how it changed the country in ways that we’re still dealing with today.

The Left also has an old-time religion, but it’s not the liberal Christianity Pete Buttigieg wants to invoke, or any form of institutional religion. It’s the hippie idealism whose wisdom found its way into countless songs: All you need is love. Everybody come together, try to love one another. We’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden. Give peace a chance.

There’s a power there, and I’m not sure how to tap it. But I hope somebody actually qualified to be president figures it out soon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Two more mass shootings this weekend, one of them apparently committed by someone who believed Trump’s talk about an “invasion” on our southern border. When you use war rhetoric, you shouldn’t be surprised if someone starts shooting.

And the trade war with China heated up. Trump announced more tariffs — this time on consumer goods made in China, so you’re likely to notice price increases in stores — and Beijing responded by letting its currency drop. Both moves sent global markets into a tailspin.

I found an insightful podcast on disinformation. McConnell hates his well-earned “Moscow Mitch” nickname. And I’ll close this week with a list of the best places to get ice cream in each state.

But I also wanted to talk about the second round of Democratic presidential debates, which I found so disappointing that it was hard to keep watching. There are a lot of details to criticize — the crowded stage, the format, the questions, and so on — but it took me a while to get to the bottom of what was really bothering me: A debate about policy proposals makes it seem like this is a normal election, when the country is in a very abnormal situation.

One of the mysteries of the Democratic field is Marianne Williamson, who not only has no qualifications for the job, but occasionally wigs off into invocations of the power of Love. Pundits have spilled a lot of ink trying to explain her attraction, but I wonder if it’s as simple as this: She’s the one candidate who makes it clear that this election is about something deeper than a policy disagreement. Trump has traumatized America, and the next president is going to have address that trauma somehow. A new health plan and a new immigration policy — while welcome — will not be nearly enough.

I don’t have the answer here (and I’m not recommending people vote for Williamson), but I want to raise the question in “Campaigning in a Traumatized Nation”. I’m not sure exactly when I’ll have that out, but probably not before 10 EDT. I’ll try to post the weekly summary by noon.

Fulfilling the Dream

What I represent is an America that still allows people to fulfill that American dream. … What I wanted people to know about my election is that this dream isn’t closed off.

Ilhan Omar

This week’s featured posts are “A New ICE Policy Endangers Everybody” and “Reset: Investigations Post Mueller“.

This week everybody was talking about Bob Mueller

Most of my reaction to Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday is in the featured post.

Mueller’s warning about Russian interference in our elections — that it’s real and they’re still doing it — made no impression on Mitch McConnell, a.k.a. “Moscow Mitch”, who killed two election-security bills that had passed the House: One would give states extra money to beef up the security of their election systems and insist on paper ballots (which can be recounted if something goes wrong with the voting machines); and the other would require candidates to notify the FBI if they are offered help by a foreign country.

Republicans are trying to portray these as partisan proposals, because they got almost no Republican votes in the House. But there’s nothing partisan about the content of the bills, unless Republicans believe they can’t win fair elections. For the same reason, McConnell killed H. R. 1, which would ban gerrymandering, eliminate anonymous political ads, and make many other admirable changes in our elections.

and “expedited removal”

This is the subject of “A New ICE Policy Endangers Everybody“.

and this week’s outburst of racism

Last week the Squad, this week Elijah Cummings and Baltimore. Maybe Trump’s purpose is to cut off discussion of Bob Mueller, but if this is just his 2020 strategy — to turn the racism up to 11 — I think he’s starting too early. This is going to get really old by the time we vote.

Most of the time, the media treats Trump’s constant attacks on communities of color as bad in some abstract moral sense. But occasionally someone takes it personally.

Victor Blackwell’s response demonstrates why it’s important for the media to include a wide range of voices. White commentators from professional-class suburbs can tut-tut as much as they like about insults like this, but their words don’t have the power of someone who feels the sting personally.

Blackwell makes a point that you should note, even if you don’t feel like watching the full 2:42: Infested is a dehumanizing term that Trump reserves for communities of color. Whenever Trump refers to a place as being “infested” with something (drugs, rats, crime, etc.), invariably that place has a non-white majority. West Virginia might be poor, and it might be ground-zero of the opioid problem, but Trump would never call it “drug-infested”, because white people live there.

[CORRECTION. Jon Greenberg at Politifact emailed a link I had forgotten: In a 2017 phone call with the president of Mexico, Trump referred to New Hampshire as “a drug-infested den“. In some ways it doesn’t really refute Blackwell’s point, because the remark wasn’t intended for the public. (The call’s transcript was leaked to the Washington Post.) So I should probably revise the statement above to say that “whenever Trump refers in public“.]

Seth Mandel makes a similar point about Trump’s clash with ex-Republican Rep. Justin Amash.

See Trump didn’t go after Amash’s district in their dustup, which is like 80% white. That’s a bit of a tell.

This tweet also raises the notion that it’s weird for a President to “go after” any part of America. I’m sure there are meth-head-infested hell-holes in rural Alabama, but Obama never demonized them, or argued that their representatives shouldn’t criticize him until they fixed their districts.

A number of white Baltimorians also responded to Trump’s attack on their city. Director John Waters pointed to the cowardice of insulting people via Twitter. “Come on over to that neighborhood and see if you have the nerve to say it in person!” (That’s humorous, because Trump is a Twitter warrior. Can you imagine him having the courage to insult Colin Kaepernick or LeBron James face-to-face?)

And David Simon, creator of HBO’s Baltimore-centered “The Wire”, called Trump “a simplistic, racist moron”.

There’s an argument about how to respond to Trump’s appeals to racism.

Tim Wise describes what he learned from David Duke’s campaigns for governor and senator in Louisiana.

if a racist’s political opponent avoids the subject of race and tries instead to appeal to voters with proposals on health coverage and tax reform, that normalizes the racist, whether it’s Duke, Trump or someone else, by treating them like any other candidate, and treating the election at hand as if it’s merely a debate between two legitimate, contrasting public policy visions.

To win an election where the issue of race is front-and-center, anti-racists must make it clear to voters that when they cast their ballots, they are making a moral choice about the kind of people they want to be and the kind of nation in which they want to live.

But Frank Bruni disagrees:

We used all those words in 2016 — racist, demagogue, fascist — and he won. Voters saw indelible examples of this same behavior, and he won. The [North Carolina] rally wasn’t a new Trump, just a bloated one. And the coming election isn’t a referendum on his character, which voters have or haven’t made their peace with. Pointing at him and shouting the direst words from the darkest thesaurus will do limited if any good.

Stop talking so much about the America that he’s destroying and save that oxygen for the America that Democrats want to create.

I wonder if the answer isn’t to borrow an idea from the Serbian resistance to Milosevic: very simple slogans that became nationwide graffiti, like “It’s time” and “He’s finished”. Maybe the right anti-Trump message doesn’t have to detail anything about his racism, sexism, bullying, trolling, authoritarianism, or general boorishness. Just: “Enough!”. Everyone who sees it can decide for themselves what they’ve had enough of. Feel free to steal my version or make a better one of your own.

and you also might be interested in …

Another mass shooting yesterday, this time at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. If even these sorts of fun civic events aren’t safe any more, it says something terrible about our country.

The next round of Democratic presidential debates are tomorrow and Wednesday on CNN. Again, there are 10 candidates each night. The first night is headlined by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on stage the second night.

The first night, I’ll be watching what Warren and Sanders do. On the one hand, they agree on a lot, so they could support each other’s points. On the other hand, there’s probably only room for one of them to make a serious run, so they could try to knock each other out.

On the second night, Joe Biden is the interesting one. The first debate showed that he can’t just coast; he has to put forward ideas and jostle with the other candidates. How does he plan to do that?

Friday, the Commerce Department released its GDP estimates for the second quarter. GDP growth was down to 2.1%, and the growth rate for 2018 as a whole was revised down from 3% to 2.5%. This is far from terrible, but it means that the economy is doing roughly the same under Trump as it did under Obama.

Unemployment rates are lower now because it’s later in the economic cycle; the economy has had more time to create jobs since the Great Recession. If you look at the graph of the unemployment rate since the recession, you can’t pick out any difference between Trump and Obama.

Matt Yglesias elaborates:

Growth under Trump has continued, but there’s no discernible Trump acceleration. What’s more, the data indicates that the growth we have been enjoying has come largely from traditional fiscal stimulus — under Trump, Republicans have stopped caring about budget deficits and spending has gone up while taxes have gone down — rather than from any supply-side magic or boost in investment.

In other words: The Trump tax cut may have stimulated the economy by raising the deficit, but the other stuff it was supposed to accomplish still hasn’t happened. (Business investment, for example, was actually down in the second quarter.) Exports, meanwhile, are a drag on the economy, as Trump’s trade war takes its toll.

Again, this isn’t awful performance any more than Obama’s was. It just points out that we’re getting nothing in exchange for having Trump as president. Nothing in exchange for what we’re giving up in terms of democracy, the environment, race relations, and our national dignity.

The Supreme Court has stayed the injunction of a lower court, and will allow Trump to expropriate $2.5 billion from the Defense budget to start building his wall. This is not a final ruling on the merits of the case, which is proceeding along with other cases.

The Boeing 737 Max is what happens when manufacturers are allowed to perform their own safety assessments.

Boeing needed the approval process on the Max to go swiftly. Months behind its rival Airbus, the company was racing to finish the plane, a more fuel-efficient version of its best-selling 737.

The regulator’s hands-off approach was pivotal. At crucial moments in the Max’s development, the agency operated in the background, mainly monitoring Boeing’s progress and checking paperwork. The nation’s largest aerospace manufacturer, Boeing was treated as a client, with F.A.A. officials making decisions based on the company’s deadlines and budget.

The two crashes that caused the planes to be grounded were caused by a software system [MCAS] that the FAA never examined closely. When MCAS was changed late in the process, making it activate more frequently and make bigger adjustments,

the company never submitted an updated safety assessment of those changes to the agency. … Under the impression the system was insignificant, officials didn’t require Boeing to tell pilots about MCAS. When the company asked to remove mention of MCAS from the pilot’s manual, the agency agreed.

A common libertarian argument says that a corporation’s reputation for safety is so valuable in the market that government oversight isn’t necessary. If that principle held anywhere, it would hold in a corporation like Boeing. But the argument assumes that the full import of decisions comes into play at all times. In actual corporations, though, individual decision-makers often are under pressure to cut corners and hope.

One thing Trump ran on in 2016 was that he would protect and even revive America’s coal industry. (“They want to be miners, but their jobs have been taken away and we’re going to bring them back, folks.”) Obama, he claimed, had been fighting a “war on coal”, regulating the industry out of business. Trump would put a stop to that war.

Well, the Trump administration has definitely rolled back regulations, valuing the dirtiest form of fossil fuel above the environment, and especially above combating climate change. But it turns out that over-regulation wasn’t really the problem: Coal companies are continuing to go bankrupt, with six bankruptcies since October.

Adam Ozimek explains how Trump-think works in these situations:

West Virginia coal miners, big news: we’re cracking down on immigrants. No longer will you live under the crushing burden of the 1.6% of your population that is foreign born.

The NYT wonders why Rep. Seth Moulton keeps running for president despite polling at asterisk levels. Those of us who live in his district wonder the same thing.

It was 109 degrees in Paris on Thursday, but I’m sure it doesn’t mean anything. Just keep on doing whatever you’ve been doing.

Last month, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said Europe’s five hottest summers since 1500 had all occurred in the 21st century – in 2002, 2003, 2010, 2016 and 2018.

Monthly records were now falling five times as often as they would in a stable climate, the institute said, adding that this was “a consequence of global warming caused by the increasing greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil and gas”.

The Washington Post let a former student editor at Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University describe the oppressive atmosphere he had to live under.

A video of Rep. Ilhan Omar that has been edited to make her sound anti-white went viral inside the conservative bubble. It was shared by Senator Marco Rubio, who apparently doesn’t feel any obligation to verify the stuff he tweets. Here’s the original 10-minute Omar interview, which includes the quote at the top of the page.

In case you’re wondering what was left out in the edited version, it’s the hypothetical nature of her comment that police should be profiling and monitoring white men. They edited out the “if fear was the driving force behind policies to keep Americans safe”. She wasn’t trying to threaten white men (as the edited version implies); her point was that policies like Trump’s Muslim ban have more to do with bigotry than with fear of terrorism. And this much is true: More terrorist attacks in the US are carried out by white supremacists than by jihadists.

and let’s close with somebody else’s problem

Now that Boris Johnson is giving Trump competition in the wild-haired loose cannon division of the head-of-state Olympics, and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit looms, this Tracey Uhlman piece advertising “Paddy Passports” — EU-member Irish passports for British folk who still want to travel in Europe — is relevant again.

Reset: Investigations Post Mueller

Bob Mueller testified to two congressional committees Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee in the morning and the Intelligence Committee in the afternoon. [full transcript] For weeks it has felt as if everything related to impeachment and investigation has been on hold, waiting for Mueller’s testimony. Now Mueller is done: He finished his investigation, wrote his report, and testified about it in public. Mueller time is over; those of us who want Trump to be investigated and/or impeached won’t get any more help from him.

So let’s think about where we are and what we know. There are two sides to the investigation: the Russia side and the Trump side.

What Russia did. The Russia side of the picture is becoming fairly clear: The Putin government was trying to get Trump elected, and it succeeded.

Russian operatives hacked the DNC and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, and then used WikiLeaks to orchestrate the release of the stolen emails at a pace and in a manner designed to keep Clinton constantly on defense. In parallel, Russia ran a sophisticated disinformation operation on social media with two main purposes: suppressing the black vote and preventing Bernie Sanders’ supporters from reconciling with Clinton. (Coincidentally, those were also goals of the Trump campaign.)

This was far more than the “couple of Facebook ads” in Jared Kushner’s disparaging claim. For example, the Russians created the fake “Blacktivist” identity, which had half a million Facebook followers. At one point the fake @TEN_GOP Twitter account had ten times more Twitter followers than the actual Tennessee Republican Party. Altogether there were more than 470 such groups. They helped propagate fake news stories like “WikiLeaks confirms Hillary sold weapons to ISIS” and “FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide”. (The Russians weren’t responsible for the entire fake-news ecosystem, but they helped.) The impact of fake news [1] on the election was huge.

There is still no evidence that they actively reached into voting machines and changed vote totals, but that’s not for lack of trying. Reportedly, Russia tried to penetrate election systems in all 50 states. According to the Senate Intelligence Committee, “Russian cyberactors were in a position to delete or change voter data” in the Illinois voter database. Whether they used that capability or not, the possibility has big implications for the future: If Russia wanted to, say, suppress the Hispanic vote in Florida, why not just delete the registrations of some or all voters with Hispanic names? They wouldn’t have to be inside the voting machines to swing an election.

Did the Russian activities make a difference? Yeah, probably. Without them, it’s likely Trump would not be president.

What Trump’s people did. From the beginning of the Trump/Russia investigation, I’ve had two questions about the Trump campaign and Trump transition team:

  • Why did Trump’s people have so many interactions with Russian officials, Russian oligarchs, and other people connected to Vladimir Putin?
  • When they were asked about those interactions, why did they all lie?

Those two questions have formed my standard of judgment ever since: If I ever felt like I could confidently answer them, I would believe we had gotten to the bottom of things.

I don’t think we have good answers to those questions even now.

I can imagine a relatively innocent answer for the first one: The Russians were trying to infiltrate the campaign, so they repeatedly contacted Trump’s people. But that answer just makes the second question more difficult, because then Trump’s people could have given perfectly innocent answers, like: “I wondered about that at the time. It seemed so weird that these Russians kept wanting to talk to me.” It would have been so easy to say: “Yeah, I talked to the guy, but I never figured out exactly what he wanted. I had a bad feeling about it, though, so I didn’t see him again.” Instead, they either made false denials, manufactured false cover stories, or developed a convenient amnesia around all things Russian.

Why? Innocent people don’t act that way.

Trump and his defenders have not offered an answer of any kind about the lying, and instead have done everything possible to distract us the question. All the wild conspiracy theories about the Steele dossier, the “angry Democrats” in Mueller’s office, Mueller’s supposed “conflicts”, the “witch hunt”, and so forth — it all has nothing to do with the two basic questions: Why meet with so many Russians? Why lie about it?

We still don’t know.

Obstruction of justice. One reason we don’t know more about those questions is that President Trump obstructed the investigation. This is pretty clear if you read the Mueller report: Volume 2 examines ten instances that might be obstruction, and finds all three elements of the definition of obstruction in seven of them. [2]

Two of the seven instances stand out: telling White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, and witness-tampering with Paul Manafort. The first stands out because it is the clearest: McGahn refused because he knew at the time he was being asked to obstruct justice. (Trump apparently knew also; why else would he order McGahn to lie about it later?)

The second stands out because it might have had the biggest impact: Manafort was Trump’s campaign chairman, and was also feeding campaign information to a Russian intelligence operative. Honest testimony from Manafort might have told us exactly what Russia wanted to know, and maybe even what it did with that information. At one point, Manafort agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, but ultimately he lied to investigators and may have spied on Mueller for Trump.

If Manafort did that out of love, that’s one thing. But if he did it expecting that Trump will pardon him before leaving office, that’s witness tampering. Whyever he did it, Manafort closed the door on our best chance to know what really happened. [3]

Mueller’s report and testimony. Attorney General Barr did an amazing job of obfuscating Mueller’s written report: He delayed releasing the redacted version for several weeks, and in the meantime left us with the impression that the investigation had found nothing significant. Trump started summarizing Mueller’s conclusion as “No collusion, no obstruction” — which was false, but not provably false until later. “No collusion” was just a lie, and “no obstruction” was the conclusion Barr had been hired to announce; it was not Mueller’s conclusion.

Mueller’s actual conclusion about obstruction is subtle and easy to exaggerate in either direction. Department of Justice guidelines would not have allowed him to indict Trump while in office. Given that guidance, he concluded that it would be irresponsible to write a report saying that Trump obstructed justice, since there would be no trial in which Trump could dispute that claim. If, on the other hand, the facts allowed him to dismiss the obstruction claims, reporting that would be within his mandate.

Mueller was unable to dismiss the claims of obstruction, but he intentionally avoided making a charging decision. I read him as saying that someone who does have charging ability — either Congress now or a U.S. attorney after Trump leaves office — should look at the evidence he has assembled and make a charging decision. [4]

So it’s possible to quote Mueller and imply either that he is asserting or denying that Trump obstructed justice. Neither is quite true.

Media response. That kind of nuance doesn’t play well on TV, and so Mueller’s testimony this week didn’t produce the pivotal moment Democrats were looking for. He was asked to directly contradict several Trump talking points and did. (He testified that his investigation was not a witch hunt, Russian interference was not a hoax, his report did not exonerate Trump, etc. He also agreed that Trump’s written testimony was “generally” incomplete and untruthful.) But he did not tell the Judiciary Committee to start impeachment proceedings, or explain clearly to the American public why they should.

In addition to Mueller’s lawyerly reticence to exceed his role or speculate beyond what he could prove, he also appeared to have aged since the last time he had testified to Congress. He seemed tired and at times confused. He chose not to fight with Republican congressmen who put forward a variety of conspiracy theories that no one outside the Fox News bubble has heard of.

In short, he is not the man to rally the nation against its corrupt ruler.

For the most part, pundits judged Mueller’s testimony like a reality TV show. Jennifer Rubin critiqued the response:

I worry that we — the media, voters, Congress — are dangerously unserious when it comes to preservation of our democracy. To spend hours of airtime and write hundreds of print and online reports pontificating about the “optics” of Mueller’s performance — when he confirmed that President Trump accepted help from a hostile foreign power and lied about it, that he lied when he claimed exoneration, that he was not completely truthful in written answers, that he could be prosecuted after leaving office and that he misled Americans by calling the investigation a hoax — tells me that we have become untrustworthy guardians of democracy.

The “failure” is not of a prosecutor who found the facts but might be ill equipped to make the political case, but instead, of a country that won’t read his report and a media obsessed with scoring contests rather than focusing on the damning facts at issue.

What now? The burden now rests in two places: on House Democrats and on the general public.

The Judiciary Committee is continuing to seek information, and the Trump administration is continuing to stonewall it. In a court filing Friday, the Committee asked to receive evidence collected by Mueller’s grand jury. The filing implies that the Committee is already conducting a preliminary impeachment investigation.

the House must have access to all the relevant facts [regarding the president’s conduct] and consider whether to exercise its full Article I powers, including a constitutional power of the utmost gravity—approvals of articles of impeachment.

Unfortunately, the mills are grinding very slowly. The Committee still has not filed suit to enforce its subpoena of Dan McGahn, for example. That case might take months to wind its way up to the Supreme Court, and then we’ll see just how partisan this Court is: In numerous cases (like the Muslim ban) it has refused to look into possible illicit hidden motives of the executive branch. The case to block this subpoena is based on claims about the illicit hidden motives of the legislative branch. Will the Supremes rule that they are empowered to second-guess a Democratic Congress in ways that they can’t second-guess Republican president? That would be a striking message that the rule of law is essentially dead.

The other way this progresses is if the people rise up and demand impeachment, the way that people have risen up in Puerto Rico or Hong Kong. But will we?

[1] This is “fake news” in the original sense: posts designed to resemble news sites, but based on pure flights of fantasy. Trump later stole the term and now uses it to refer to any report he doesn’t like. But it once had an important meaning.

One striking feature of the Mueller report is how often a story that Trump labeled “fake news” was actually true.

[2] In addition, Trump refused to testify in person, and his lawyers threatened a subpoena fight that would have delayed the investigation for months or maybe years. Mueller eventually submitted a small number of tightly constrained questions, which Trump (or his lawyers) answered in writing. Nearly all his answers were some version of “I don’t remember.” Trump’s testimony, then, was neither incriminating nor exculpatory, because there was no real information in it.

[3] This is the difference between Trump’s “no collusion” mantra, and what Mueller really reported: that he could not assemble sufficient evidence to charge anyone in the Trump campaign with criminal conspiracy. Rather than “No collusion, no obstruction”, the real story might be “insufficient evidence of conspiracy, because obstruction succeeded”.

[4] About 700 former federal prosecutors have read Mueller’s report and said that they would charge Trump with obstruction, based on the evidence Mueller cites.

A New ICE Policy Endangers Everybody

If you’re mistaken for somebody without the right to a hearing, who do you complain to?

Tuesday, the Trump administration expanded the concept of “expedited removal” to apply to “immigrants who can’t provide documentation that they’re in the United States legally and that they’ve been physically present here for at least two years”.

Expedited removal was created in 1996, and since 2004 it has mostly been used to quickly deport people apprehended while crossing the border illegally or within two weeks of entering the country. For years it allowed immigration officials to remove immigrants without a hearing or a review of their case if they were apprehended within 100 miles of the border.

What’s “expedited” about the process is that there’s no hearing before an impartial judge. Instead, you only get to talk to people who answer to Trump.

It will allow the Department of Homeland Security to deport people without having to place them in detention facilities for weeks or months while their cases are sorted out.

It’s not that cases will “get sorted out” faster, but that the system just won’t bother to sort them out at all. If you look suspicious (i.e., Hispanic) and don’t have believable documents on you, you could be gone just like that. (An exercise to try at home: If you were plucked off the street unexpectedly, how would you prove to DHS that you have been in the United States for the last two years?)

This raises a problem I often called attention to during the Bush administration: Whenever you eliminate due process for ANYBODY, you create a hole in the system that the rest of us could fall through. Back in the Bush war-on-terror days, the hole was to be declared an “enemy combatant”. Nobody outside the executive branch needed to be involved in that declaration, and once it was made, you had virtually no rights, not even the right to present evidence that the government had made a mistake. [Details here.]

The same principle applies to expedited removal. Our immigration officials have made a lot of mistakes, and now we’re eliminating one of the major ways mistakes get caught and corrected.

Consider, for example, 18-year-old native-born Hispanic-American Francisco Erwin Galicia. He spent more than three weeks in ICE detention because he couldn’t get ICE to believe his documents were genuine. If the new policy had been in place when he was picked up, he could have been whisked out of the country without ever seeing a judge.

Forget the specifics of immigration for a moment and just imagine any group of people who have no rights. (That’s exactly what Francisco says he was told when he insisted he had a right to a phone call to notify his mother. “You don’t have rights to anything.” He also didn’t have the right to a shower or decent food. He lost 26 pounds in 23 days.) If you get mistaken as one of those people, what can you do? The person they think you are doesn’t have to the right to tell a judge that you aren’t that person.

Even if you do get to see a judge, you might not correct the mistake if you don’t have an attorney to argue your case. Davino Watson was 23 when he was released from prison on a cocaine charge. ICE picked up him immediately and started deportation proceedings. Despite lacking a high school education, Watson correctly argued that he became a citizen at 17 when his Jamaican father was naturalized. He showed ICE officials his father’s naturalization papers.

ICE investigated his claim by not calling the number Watson gave them and instead contacting the wrong man (Hopeton Livingston Watson of Connecticut rather than Hopeton Ulando Watson of New York). The Hopeton Watson they talked to was not a citizen and did not have a son, so deportation procedures continued. Watson was held for 3 1/2 years before he was released. The $82,500 in damages that a court awarded him was reversed by an appeals court, because the two-year statute of limitations ran out while he was being held without access to a lawyer who would know stuff like that.

And in March, the Border Patrol held a 9-year-old American citizen for 32 hours because she gave “inconsistent information”, as 9-year-olds are prone to do once you’ve scared the crap out of them.

See the pattern? There are more such stories.

And those, I presume, are just honest mistakes made by over-zealous agents. What if someday an administration starts making such decisions in bad faith, and in massive numbers, without any judicial oversight? You might get deported simply because the current government finds your presence inconvenient.

It’s a simple principle: Denying anybody’s rights endangers everybody’s rights.

The Monday Morning Teaser

So Bob Mueller testified, and neither side was totally happy with what he said. He repeated key findings from his report, directly contradicting Trump’s claims on many points. But he did not make the impression on public opinion that Democrats wanted. He spoke in precise legal terms rather than viral sound bites. He looked old, tired, and at times confused. On the subject of impeachment, probably not many minds were changed.

Where does that leave us? Lots of debates had been put on hold while we waited for Mueller, and he didn’t resolve them for us. I’ll discuss where we are now in “Reset: Impeachment Post Mueller”. That still needs a lot of work, but I hope to have it out before noon EDT.

In the meantime, you can look at “A New ICE Policy Endangers Everyone”, which should be out shortly. The Trump administration has broadened “expedited removal” to include not just people captured crossing the border, but anyone who can’t prove they’ve been in the country for at least two years. Now a much larger class of people can be deported purely on the say-so of DHS officials, without any judicial oversight.

This brings me back to an old topic from the Bush administration: Whenever you define a process in which some group of people have no right to a hearing, you create a hole in the system that anyone could fall through. (In the Bush days, the hole was labeled “enemy combatant”.) ICE makes mistakes — sometimes really horrible mistakes. And if it classes you with the people who have no right to a hearing, there’s no way for you to fix that mistake before you wind up on a plane to Guatemala.

I’ll try to have the weekly summary out by 1. It includes Trump’s latest racist distraction (attacking Baltimore), what the new GDP numbers mean, the European heat wave, and a few other things.