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.

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  • Brian Douglas  On August 12, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    Like many if not most Democrats, I’ll vote for whoever becomes the nominee. As a more moderate Democrat, I share many of Biden’s views but am uneasy that a 78 year old could be inaugurated in Jan 2021. Personally, I favor Klobuchar but she has yet to catch fire in the polls – maybe a good showing at the Iowa caucus can give her a bit of a lift.

  • Anonymous  On August 13, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    The “Enough” bumper sticker doesn’t indicate what the person has had “enough” of.

    • weeklysift  On August 15, 2019 at 8:51 am

      In some ways that’s the point. If enough people do it, it would become clear that it’s an anti-Trump bumpersticker. And listing all the various outrages one by one somehow misses the point. I don’t want to go through them again. Just, enough.

      • Anonymous  On August 15, 2019 at 9:29 pm

        Without anything, it could mean “enough mass shootings,” rather than “enough of Trump.”

  • James  On August 15, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    Noticed People Magazine (Time Warner) also had “Enough” cover

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