The immigration debate has always carried with it an undertone of racism. I’m not attributing this to everyone who holds the position, but there’s a sense in which [opposition to] immigration is driven by a deep anxiety about the browning of America. That “how will we stem the tide?”, that “this is no longer a white nation.” … What Trump did yesterday was to make explicit the racist undertone of this debate.

– Eddie Glaude, speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” (1-12-2018).

This week’s featured post is “The Real Immigration Issue“.

On MLK Day, I always like to link to a piece I wrote in 2013 to warn conservatives against cherrypicking King’s quotes. The real Martin Luther King was a radical: “MLK: Sanitized for Their Protection“.

This week everybody was talking about shithole countries

(More about this in the featured post.) Even in a presidency full of jaw-dropping moments, Trump’s statement about “shithole countries” was extreme.

Trump made the remarks Thursday during a meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office in which they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan deal on the status of undocumented young U.S. immigrants, The Washington Post reported.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to people in the room, including Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.). Trump then reportedly suggested that the United States instead should bring in more immigrants from countries such as Norway.

The most appalling thing here is not Trump — at least not any more; it’s not news that he’s a racist, or that he expresses himself crudely, or that his presidency is a constant embarrassment to the United States of America — it’s how few conservative or Republican voices speak out against him, even when he is so clearly in the wrong. For example, most members of his council of evangelical advisors made no comment, and the ones who did were supportive, like Baptist mega-church pastor Robert Jeffress:

“I support his views 100 percent, even though as a pastor I can’t use that language.” The United States, Jeffress said, has every right to restrict immigration according to whatever criteria it establishes, including race or other qualifications. “The country has the right to establish what would benefit our nation the most,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything racist about it at all.”

You read that right: Explicitly screening immigrants according to race would not be racist. What rabbit hole have we gone down here?

Jeffress was not alone in seeing a problem of bad language rather than evil intentions. Others saw only Trump’s style, which is just different from what previous presidents have led us to expect. Fox News’ Jesse Watters:

This is how the forgotten men and women in America talk at the bar. This is how Trump relates to people.

There’s a core of truth there, but Watters is leaving out something important: This is how racists talk at the bar, and how Trump relates to racists.

James Fallows imagines if previous presidents had acted like Trump.

Suppose, contrary to known (to me) fact, Eisenhower had said to Senators in WH meeting during Little Rock school deseg controversy, “why are these n****s so pushy and demanding?” Suppose that legislators meeting JFK, LBJ, or even Nixon at WH during nonstop 1960s civil-rights tensions had heard a sitting president refer to black neighborhoods as shitholes or used code word ‘Nigra.’ Those comments would *certainly* have “connected with the base” in states that were fighting de-segregation. They would have reflected what “a lot of people were thinking.”

But I don’t think you’d have found (or would find, if you went back and looked) *mainstream* news outlets that would explain away, from a sitting president, outright racist language. This kind of “connecting with the base” rationalization is a new thing, and bad. Every civilization has ugly elements, which leaders are supposed to help their society rise above rather than egg on.

The one positive thing to come out of this: The mainstream media debate over whether it is proper to describe Trump’s remarks or Trump himself as “racist” seems to be over: They are and he is.

At first the White House didn’t even deny Trump’s comment. Its initial statement said that “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people.” Eventually, Trump got around to denying it sort of, and a few of the Republicans in the room backed him up. The striking thing to me, though, is that most of the people in the room were Republicans, and only a handful of them defended their president. Lindsey Graham didn’t specifically quote Trump, but more-or-less backed up the published accounts of the meeting.

I’ll give the last word on this to the Nazi website, The Daily Stormer, as quoted by The Hill:

This is encouraging and refreshing, as it indicates Trump is more or less on the same page as us with regards to race and immigration.

and the Hawaiian false alarm

I can’t decide whether the explanation is totally believable or totally unbelievable:

Around 8:05 a.m., the Hawaii emergency employee initiated the internal test, according to a timeline released by the state. From a drop-down menu on a computer program, he saw two options: “Test missile alert” and “Missile alert.” He was supposed to choose the former; as much of the world now knows, he chose the latter, an initiation of a real-life missile alert.

Couldn’t somebody have designed in one of those “Are you sure you want to do this?” boxes? If there’s a Doomsday Device somewhere, I hope its user interface is more forgiving.


A more detailed message scrolled across television screens in Hawaii, suggesting, “If you are indoors, stay indoors. If you are outdoors, seek immediate shelter in a building. Remain indoors well away from windows. If you are driving, pull safely to the side of the road and seek shelter in a building or lay on the floor.”

The false warning sparked a wave of panic as thousands of people, many assuming they had only minutes to live, scrambled to seek shelter and say their final goodbyes to loved ones. The situation was exacerbated by a 38-minute gap between the initial alert and a subsequent wireless alert stating the missile warning was a mistake.

and DACA

The “shithole countries” remark came during a meeting in which Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham were presenting a bipartisan compromise to avoid deporting the Dreamers, now that the program through which President Obama had protected them (DACA) has been ended by President Trump. Trump rejected their proposal, but so far there isn’t any other plausible plan out there.

DACA is one of many issues in a larger negotiation aimed at avoiding a government shutdown, which is otherwise is scheduled for Friday. The “shithole” meeting came two days after a televised meeting with lawmakers of both parties, in which Trump at various times put forward all possible positions.

538’s Perry Bacon thinks he knows what the ultimate compromise has to look like:

Even with the divides in both parties, the potential outlines of a bipartisan deal on immigration are obvious: some kind of permanent legal status and path to citizenship for Dreamers but with limits on their ability to sponsor relatives who also want legal status; an expansion of the physical barriers between the United States and Mexico; and the hiring of some additional border agents and other immigration enforcement personnel.

Meanwhile a court delayed the end of DACA by ordering the administration to keep renewing permits while the court rules on the legality of Trump’s order.

and Oprah 2020

Oprah’s speech at the Golden Globes, which I also linked to last week, started speculation about whether she wants to be president. That, in turn, sparked much pro-and-con arguing among Democrats. Some Democrats like the idea of challenging Trump with a better outsider: more famous, more accomplished, smarter, more articulate, more in touch with ordinary Americans, and just generally a better human being. Others hate the idea of nominating an inexperienced celebrity: Government is a serious profession, and calls for people who know what they’re doing; the fact that the Republican electorate decided to be irresponsible in 2016 is no reason for us to be irresponsible too.

Count me in the middle here. I get the attraction of Oprah 2020. If I could custom-design a Democratic candidate to run against Trump, I think a charismatic black woman who already has a following among whites might be a good start. I’m surprised that there might be one available.

The question is how much we should be willing to give up to get those features. I’m willing to give up a little, but not a lot. Specifically, I would run Candidate Oprah through the same tests as any other candidate. She’ll have to articulate a vision, show mastery of the issues, and lay out some detailed programs before I’d consider voting for her. (In 2016, Trump did have a vision — a reprehensible one — but he never demonstrated an understanding of issues or programs. He still hasn’t.)

Her lack of government experience is a factor, but not a decisive one for me. Over the centuries, the Presidency has grown to be such a big job that in fact no one is qualified for it, not even someone as smart and experienced as Hillary Clinton. Our system requires us to vote for an individual, but in practical terms we are always electing a team. While it’s true that Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing, the larger problem is that Team Trump also doesn’t know what it’s doing, and even when it does, Trump won’t leave his subordinates alone to do what they know how to do. (That’s a big piece of the lesson from Fire and Fury.) That’s why, for example, the administration keeps putting out executive orders that the courts overturn, and issuing directives that the generals refuse to implement. It’s also why there still is no Trump healthcare plan.

So Oprah’s inexperience would cause me to look more skeptically at Team Oprah, but I’m willing to be convinced if collectively they stand for something I can support and demonstrate varieties of expertise that Oprah lacks as an individual.

A lot of the anti-Oprah writers point to the pseudoscience that her TV show frequently promoted. Again, I see that as an issue, but not an insurmountable one: Her TV show was intended to engage people’s interest with ideas they weren’t seeing elsewhere, not to establish government policy. So I would be watching her campaign to see if similar tendencies emerged. Candidate Oprah would of course be asked about politically relevant science issues, and her answers should be critically examined. But if the answers she gives as a candidate stand up to scrutiny, if (unlike Trump) she shows appropriate humility and appreciates that she needs to lean on expert advice, I wouldn’t hold against her the stuff she promoted as an entertainer.

but you should pay attention to gerrymandering

A variety of cases are making their way up the ladder of federal courts. TPM has a good explanation of where they are and what they mean. The Texas case is about racial gerrymandering to limit the influence of Hispanic voters. But the North Carolina case opens a new front by directly confronting partisan gerrymanders, whether they are racially motivated or not. (As we increasingly have a party for whites and a party for non-whites, it’s hard to tell the difference.)

In 2012, Republicans won just 49 percent of the statewide vote but snagged nine of 13 House seats. Two years later, with 54 percent of the vote, they won 10 of 13 seats.

and you also might be interested in …

Trump continues to threaten to pull out of President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, but not to do it. Our side of the deal involves waiving sanctions against Iran, which the President needs to do every 120 days. Trump waived the sanctions again, but warned that this is the last time.

He continues to promise his base that he will get a new deal that is tougher on Iran. But no one else seems to think this is likely. In fact, Obama’s deal does important stuff:

Under the agreement, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98%, and reduce by about two-thirds the number of its gas centrifuges for 13 years. For the next 15 years, Iran will only enrich uranium up to 3.67%. Iran also agreed not to build any new heavy-water facilities for the same period of time. Uranium-enrichment activities will be limited to a single facility using first-generation centrifuges for 10 years. Other facilities will be converted to avoid proliferation risks.

None of our allies involved in the deal have expressed an interest in pulling out. The European Union’s chief foreign affairs representative, Federica Mogherini, said on Thursday:

The deal is working, it is delivering on its main goal which means keeping the Iranian nuclear program in check and under close surveillance. Iran is fully complying with the commitments made under the agreement.

Thanks to a Trump pardon, Joe Arpaio isn’t in jail. So why shouldn’t he be a senator? If you want background, I suggest Rolling Stone’s 2012 article “The Long, Lawless Ride of Sheriff Joe Arpaio“. Arpaio represents not “law and order”, but blatant bigotry acting in defiance of law and order.

Fascinating case in New Hampshire: The Border Patrol found marijuana by conducting no-probable-cause searches that would be illegal under New Hampshire law, and would also be illegal under federal law anyplace that wasn’t within 100 miles of a border. They turned the weed over to local police in Woodstock, NH, who charged the possessors with a crime. A state court now has to determine whether the evidence is admissible.

At stake is the possibility that American freedoms might seriously erode within a 100-mile band around the border. Already the Border Patrol can set up random checkpoints anywhere in that 100-mile band and ask for your ID. (I know a naturalized U.S. citizen from the U.K. who was stopped on an interstate highway in Vermont. He wasn’t driving, so he didn’t think he needed to be carrying his driver’s license. But his British accent created a problem that took some time to clear up.) It’s one thing to be asked to ID yourself and answer some questions when you cross the border. But if you just live near a border, you can be going about your everyday business and suddenly find yourself under search. If anything they find can be turned over to local police for prosecution … that doesn’t sound much like America, does it?

and let’s close with one last dance

iHeartRadio put together a celebration of performers who died in 2017, assembling clips of them dancing.

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  • Jim  On January 15, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    There is racism coursing through this immigration debate; but the real driver of opposition to a compromise solution on immigration is political partisanship. New citizens, particularly brown-skinned ones are presumed to be Democrats by Republican partisans like McConnell and Ryan. They continue in a pathetic pattern of belief that the only way they can enact their radical economic agenda is to limit the Democrats ability to achieve electoral majorities. Opposing immigration of future Democrats is a form of conniving voter suppression, as well as an expression of racist sentiment.

  • Larry Benjamin  On January 15, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    Chain migration was originally instituted to deliberately allow relatives of U.S. residents to immigrate. Trump’s own mother emigrated from Scotland under chain migration, as her sister already was here. However, now that brown people are coming in, suddenly chain migration presents a threat to American culture and identity. So this is just another aspect of the real immigration debate identified in the other post today.

  • John Pharo  On January 15, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    I know there’s always too much going on these days for you to cover it all, but there are a couple important things I don’t see here that I want to mention.

    1) The Trump administration allowing states to impose work requirements for Medicaid. I think Kentucky has already applied to do so, but I’m otherwise not really sure how this is supposed to work.

    2) As of tomorrow, Phil Murphy and Ralph Northam will both be sworn in as new Democratic governors in New Jersey and Virginia. This, along with the new Democratic trifecta in Washington, could lead to some important policy victories in those states, especially with respect to voting rights and the Medicaid expansion. There’s a great article in the Washington Post today on Murphy’s ambitious liberal agenda. In the midst of all the terrible actions of the Trump admin, I like to be reminded how much better things can be when we elect Democrats.

    • Anonymous  On January 19, 2018 at 7:13 pm

      Perhaps you would be interested in the “Subscribe to a better congress” group. You make a recurring monthly contribution. They collect everyone’s money and distribute it directly to the campaigns of the Democrats running for congress (not to the state Democratic parties – directly to the candidates).

      You can choose to have your contribution divided evenly among all the Democrats running (every congressional district and the one third of the Senate that is up for re-election this year), or among the 187 that had the hardest time raising funds in the last election cycle.

      More info here:

  • adamsmith1922  On January 15, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    Reblogged this on The Inquiring Mind and commented:
    Found this summation of the week helped. Hope you agree.

  • Marty  On January 15, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    The nuclear waning being a test thing is totally believable. Furthermore, those “are you sure you want to do this” boxes don’t work well, after all the user topically thinks, “of course I want to test this thing” and clicks yes.

  • Abby Hafer  On January 15, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    “The country has the right to establish what would benefit our nation the most,” Jeffress said. Do you see what he did there? He deliberately confused what we have the *right* to do, and what we *should* do. Repubs do this routinely regarding freedom of speech. That is, they have a Nazi rally, or bring in a vile speaker like Milo Y, and excuse it by saying that they have freedom of speech. It’s rather like saying that you smoke cigarettes because they’re legal. Having the right to do something is different from it’s being a good thing to do. So Jeffress is deliberately avoiding dealing with the racial animus by saying that the US has the “right” to make whatever immigration policy that it wants to.

  • jh  On January 17, 2018 at 9:49 am

    I agree. You can see this in other services and laws as well. Social security was wonderful… until black people became eligible for it. Welfare was wonderful… until black people became eligible for it. We can also see it in the racially driven drug policy where alcohol is legal but marijuana is considered a substance with no redeeming quality. (Or opium for that matter when the US hated the Chinese.)

    I get that conservatives don’t want to talk about race. Let’s face it – conservative = white american, probably christian. They arrange society and our language to benefit themselves. Therefore, they prefer limited definitions of racism that amount to “racist = white hood + burning crosses” rather than a more expansive, substantive definition. Or, they re-define minority actions. Cliven Bundy was standing up for the common American against the evil US government when pointing a gun at a federal agent. Colin Kaepernick was an ungrateful football player who hates America when he kneels.

    What I really loathe about conservatives is this – their manufactured ignorance. If people really were that stupid that they didn’t get the gist, we would still be living in caves and eating raw food because making fire was too intellectually challenging.

  • Alan MacRobert  On January 18, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) nailed it re Trump’s preference for white immigrants: “Being from Norway is not a skill.”

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