Immigration and Xenophobia

Trump’s Tweets Today Are The Most Unhinged And SELF-Destructive (And It’s Only 10:00 AM)

God knows why they just don’t take his phone away. Or give him a fake phone with a fake Twitter account.

This is how bad it has gotten: Trump’s own advisers have gone on television and stated that Trump’s tweets are not his policy.  Well, who knows? How can we tell? Would Trump agree with that?

Even this morning, Kellyanne Conway said that the media is obsessed with Trump’s tweets, implying that people should not place emphasis on them.  But that is in contradiction from what others in the White House – and Trump himself — have said:

“This obsession with covering everything he says on Twitter and very little what he does as president …” Conway said during that interview.

“That’s his preferred method of communication with the American people,” said Craig Melvin, the show’s co-host.

“That’s not true,” Conway interjected.

“Well, he hasn’t given an interview in three weeks, so lately it has been his preferred method,” Melvin replied.

Even setting aside that three-week modification, Melvin is correct that the administration has touted Twitter as being more important than media coverage. After Trump won the presidency in November, he and his team were asked if he would stop tweeting so much as president. The answer? No — because the media can’t be trusted.

Shortly after the election, Trump spoke with CBS’s Leslie Stahl, telling her how he planned to moderate his Twitter use once he was sworn in.

“I’m going to do very restrained, if I use it at all, I’m going to do very restrained,” he said. “I find it tremendous. It’s a modern form of communication. There should be nothing you should be ashamed of. It’s — it’s where it’s at.”

By January, his description of his Twitter habit was a bit less enthusiastic.

“Look, I don’t like tweeting. I have other things I could be doing. But I get very dishonest media, very dishonest press. And it’s my only way that I can counteract,” Trump told Reuters in January. That’s the theme: The media is the enemy, so Trump will tweet to the people directly.

On ABC’s “This Week” in January, incoming press secretary Sean Spicer made that same case.

And more to the point, even if his tweets are not policy, they sometimes contradict policy.  And that makes for headaches for Trump’s team.

Today being a prime example. Let’s start with his first four tweets of the day (which apparently were made while watching Morning Joe on MSNBC):

Let’s start with the first tweet at the bottom, where he calls “it” a “travel ban” and a “watered down, politically correct” version of his original executive order which banned all travel from 7 mostly-Muslim nations. Arguably, Trump is showing his intent to disfavor Muslims by the executive order, a point that has doomed the executive orders in court so far. In court briefs, DOJ lawyers have said the orders are “religion-neutral” in operation, drawing “distinctions among countries based on national-security risks identified by Congress and the Executive Branch, not religion, and applies evenhandedly in the six designated countries.”

There is also a glaring problem: the revised travel ban was authored by Trump’s administration and signed by Trump himself — the Justice Department’s role is merely defending its legality.  Why is he taking umbrage with the Justice Department?

In any event, his tweets this morning on the subject of the travel ban hurt his already weak case.

Next up on this morning’s hit parade, this:

Again, he was watching Fox & Friends and they were apparently talking about vacancies.  Odd that he would blame the Democrats, since they do not control the Senate (who has to improve Ambassadors and other certain posts).

Almost two months ago, Politico did a story on why this is taking so long, and it has nothing to do with the Democrats:

Hundreds of key jobs across the federal government remain vacant as a result of an overworked White House personnel office that is frustrating Cabinet secretaries and hampering President Donald Trump’s ability to carry out his ambitious legislative agenda.

The process is bogged down as a result of micromanaging by the president and senior staff, turf wars between the West Wing and Cabinet secretaries and a largely inexperienced and overworked staff, say more than a dozen sources including administration insiders, lobbyists, lawyers and Republican strategists.

Trump personally oversees the hiring process for agency staff by insisting on combing through a binder full of names each week and likes to sign off on each one, according to two people with knowledge of the administration’s hiring process. Also weighing in on the names — and not always agreeing on final picks — are leaders of sometimes warring factions, including chief of staff Reince Priebus, senior strategist Steve Bannon, Cabinet secretaries and, sometimes, the White House’s top lawyer, Don McGahn.

“It’s like a medieval court,” said one person advising potential nominees through the confirmation process. “The White House meets once a week to go over personnel in some attempt to create uniformity, but in this White House, you just have to smile at that. … It’s hard to impose uniformity among the White House’s different coalitions.”

The only uniformity is that potential hires must show fealty to the president. One person close to the White House said a sense of “paranoia” has taken over amid fears that disloyal hires might undercut Trump’s agenda or leak to the press.

Another reason they are having a hard time getting positions filled? People don’t want to serve under Trump. especially with a special counsel investigation and FBI probe hanging over the White House.

Even if it were true that Dems were somehow slowing up the confirmation process, that doesn’t explain the vacancies. From the LA Times:

What’s the effect? Just eight of 120 State Department posts, including ambassadorships, that require Senate confirmation have been filled, according to the Partnership for Public Service. As a result, foreign officials and diplomats struggle to find someone to discuss trade and security issues with.

We have officially entered hurricane season with no head of NOAA and no head of FEMA.

And in the Pentagon, Trump has filled only five of the 53 top jobs – the slowest pace for nominations and confirmations in over half a century. No Army Secretary. No Navy Secretary.

The hold-up, insiders say, is Trump’s insistence on absolute loyalty… to him.

The Washington Post has a wonderful database tracker page to keep up with Trump’s lack of progress on filling key positions.

And finally, Trump’s final tweet of the morning (we hope):

This is Trump engaging in an attack against London mayor Sadiq Khan (a Muslim) when Khan said that is “no reason to be alarmed”. Trump attacked that quote, complaining that London had just had a terrorist attack, and they should be freaking out (I guess).

What happened here? Trump watched Fox News, which had truncated the quote and changed its meaning:

But Mr Trump’s criticism is based on a quotation entirely removed from its context. He appears to be confused about what happened in part because Fox News repeated the same short quote but without the full remarks from the mayor of London.

What Mr Khan actually said was that there is no reason to be alarmed about the increased police presence on the streets after the attack.

“My message to Londoners and visitors to our great city is to be calm and vigilant today,” Mr Khan said. “You will see an increased police presence today, including armed officers and uniformed officers.

“There is no reason to be alarmed by this. We are the safest global city in the world. You saw last night as a consequence of our planning, our preparation, the rehearsals that take place, the swift response from the emergency services tackling the terrorists and also helping the injured.”

There is no reason to be alarmed by this… with “this” referring to the increased police presence.

Rather than admit he was misquoting Khan, Trump doubled down… on the mayor of a city just attacked by terrorists.

Could it be because this particular mayor is Muslim?

Today could have been a good day for Trump — he intended to announce an infrastructure bill (which Dems could get behind). But he squandered it with these Tweets.  With Comey testifying in a few days, Trump does not have many more chances to have “good days”.

Day 116. Jeopardized.

1/ Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian diplomats during their Oval Office meeting last week, which has jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. Trump’s decision to disclose information risks cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. A US official said Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.” Trump’s disclosures are not illegal as he has the power to declassify almost anything. But sharing the information without the express permission of the ally who provided it represents a major breach of espionage etiquette, and could jeopardize a crucial intelligence-sharing relationship. (Washington Post / New York Times)

2/ Trump is considering a “huge reboot” that could take out everyone from Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, to counsel Don McGahn and Sean Spicer. Trump is irritated with several Cabinet members and “frustrated, and angry at everyone.” (Axios)

3/ Senate Republicans are looking at steep cuts to Medicaid that could drop millions of people from coverage and reduce programs for the poor. Under pressure to balance the budget, Republicans are considering slashing more than $400 billion in spending on food stamps, welfare, and even veterans’ benefits through a process to evade Democratic filibusters in the Senate. If the Medicaid cutbacks get passed by both chambers, it could significantly scale back the federal-state insurance program that covers 73 million low-income or disabled Americans and shift significant costs onto hospitals and states. (Politico / Wall Street Journal)

4/ James Clapper said that US institutions are under assault from Trump and warned that federal checks and balances are eroding. Former Director of National Intelligence called on the other branches of the federal government to step up in their roles as a check on the executive. (CNN / Associated Press)

  • Republicans and Democrats agree that if Trump has tapes, he’ll need to turn them over to Congress. Lawmakers from both parties said any White House recordings must be preserved for congressional review and that “it’s probably inevitable” that they would be subpoenaed. (Washington Post)

5/ North Korea successfully test-fired a new type of ballistic missile, signaling an advance in their development of an intercontinental ballistic missile program. North Korea said the new “medium long-range” missile is capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead, warning that the United States’ military bases in the Pacific were within its range. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Reuters / Associated Press)

  • Putin warns against “intimidating” North Korea after its latest missile launch. Putin called for a peaceful solution to the ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula and said that Russia is “categorically against the expansion of the club of nuclear states.” (CNN)

6/ The 9th Circuit Court will hear the travel ban appeal, again. A three-judge panel will hear a challenge to a Hawaii judge’s decision to halt travel ban 2.0. Lawyers at the Justice Department must convince at least two of the judges to ignore Trump’s record of campaign calls to ban Muslims from entering the US. (CNN)

7/ Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will brief the full Senate on Thursday about the firing of James Comey. The briefing is classified and will take place in the regular secure room in the Capitol Visitors Center. (CNN / Washington Post)

8/ The Supreme Court rejected an appeal to reinstate North Carolina’s voter identification law, which a lower court said targeted African-Americans “with almost surgical precision.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. issued a statement noting that there was a dispute about who represented the state in the case and that nothing should be read into the court’s decision to decline to hear it. (Associated Press / Politico / New York Times)

9/ The Dakota Access pipeline has its first leak. The $3.8bn oil pipeline is not yet fully operational, but managed to spill 84 gallons of crude oil. (The Guardian)

10/ White Nationalist Richard Spencer led a torch-bearing group protesting the sale of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Virginia. The group chanted “You will not replace us.” Spencer added: “What brings us together is that we are white, we are a people, we will not be replaced.” (NPR / Washington Post)

11/ Trump thinks that exercising too much uses up the body’s “finite” energy. Trump mostly gave up athletics after college because he “believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted.” (Washington Post)

12/ Comey said he’d be willing to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, but wants it to be in public. Comey originally declined an invitation from the committee to be interviewed in a closed-door hearing. (New York Times)

13/ Syria is using a crematorium to hide executions, the State Department said. The US believes Syria’s “building of a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place in Saydnaya prison.” A State Department official said the regime could be killing as many as 50 detainees a day. (CNN / BuzzFeed News / Washington Post)

14/ Senate Republicans are breaking away from Trump as they try to forge a more traditional Republican agenda and protect their political fortunes. Republican senators are drafting a health care bill with little White House input and pushing back on Trump’s impending budget request. Many high-ranking Republicans have said they will not support any move by Trump to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement. (New York Times)

poll/ 29% approve of Trump’s firing of James Comey. Trump’s job-approval rating stands at 39%. (NBC News)

Trump Loses In Federal Court…. Again…. This Time on Sanctuary Cities

A federal district court ruling yesterday bars President Trump from withholding funds from jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal agencies to deport undocumented immigrants, marking his second setback in court on immigration.  The first setback, of course, was his Muslim ban.

Before I get to the substance of this post, first things first:

No, it wasn’t the Ninth Circuit that ruled against Donald — it was a federal district court — one level down.  Yes, the court is within the Ninth Circuit, but it isn’t the ACTUAL Ninth Circuit court itself.  So the next stop isn’t the Supreme Court, it’s the Ninth Circuit.

Also, it wasn’t JUST the Ninth Circuit that ruled against Trump’s Muslim ban; it was a federal district court in Maryland.  And Massachusetts, I believe, as well.

*Sigh*.  He apparently thinks you sue a circuit court when you don’t like a decision.

Look, the opinion was a no-brainer.

Trump’s order, signed Jan. 25, threatened to cut off funding from local governments that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities. Santa Clara County and the city of San Francisco challenged the order, arguing, among other things, that the president doesn’t have the power to withhold federal money.

They’re right. He doesn’t.

The 49-page ruling focused largely on an all-too-familiar theme for this administration: the consequences of bragging and bluster by Trump and top administration officials.

Just like the judges who ruled on Trump’s travel ban, Judge Orrick homed in on the vast discrepancies between what government lawyers defending the sanctuary cities order argued in court and what administration officials said about it in public.

In court, the government tried to make the case that the order doesn’t actually do anything, at least not at the moment, because the administration has yet to define what exactly a sanctuary city is or threaten any particular jurisdiction with a loss of funds.  It was their way of convincing the judge to toss out the lawsuit on the grounds that no city or county has yet suffered any harm.

The problem with that approach is that administration officials boasted about how the order would force sanctuary cities to their knees, singling out particular places.  So, in court, the Trump lawyers argued that it was essentially an empty shell even though it was portrayed in news conferences, briefings and television interviews as a powerful tool to protect the public from dangerous undocumented immigrants being shielded by wayward cities and counties.

Fine,said, Judge Orrick. If the order is powerless, then surely you won’t mind if I impose this injunction which prevents you from actually doing anything. So that’s what he did.

I somehow don’t think Trump was briefed about that, because he is treating it as a loss.  Which it IS, but it’s just what his lawyers argued.

According to Orrick, the government contended that the order was merely an example of Trump using the “bully pulpit” to “highlight a changed approach to immigration enforcement” — in essence, something much more benign than what Trump and company had described.

The argument was lost on the judge, who ridiculed the government’s position as “schizophrenic.”

“If there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments,” Orrick wrote.

“Is the Order merely a rhetorical device,” he added, “or a ‘weapon’ to defund the Counties and those who have implemented a different law enforcement strategy than the Government currently believes is desirable?”

The ruling continued: “The statements of the President, his press secretary and the Attorney General belie the Government’s argument in the briefing that the Order does not change the law. They have repeatedly indicated an intent to defund sanctuary jurisdictions in compliance with the Executive Order.”

Here is the decision.  If you do nothing else, read the last paragraph.

In Other News, The Travel Ban

As we watch Attorney General Jeff Sessions not remember, then remember, but only sort of kind of remember whether or not he talked with the Russians around the same time they were hacking into the DNC, and as we learn about more and more meetings between the Trump campaign team and the Russians even though they all denied those meetings, there are other things happening, including the Trump White House’s revamping of the travel ban, which failed so gloriously a few weeks ago.

The question is, why is the new revised ban taking so long? And the answer is: there isn’t any credible national security rationale for it. Unlike on the campaign trail, when you’re governing, you actually have to have justification for what you’re proposing, or you often run into trouble.

Last night,Rachel Maddow revealed a second Department of Homeland Security document which further undercuts the substantive case for Trump’s ban, which would restrict entry into the country by refugees and migrants from select Muslim-majority countries. The new internal Department of Homeland Security document that reached this key judgment:

We assess that most foreign-born, US-based violent extremists likely radicalized several years after their entry to the United States, limiting the ability of screening and vetting officials to prevent their entry because of national security concerns.

So… remember when Trump on the campaign trail asked that we stop all Muslims from coming into the country until we can assess “what’s going on”?

Well, we now know what’s going on.  They are not coming IN radicalized; they (and by “they”, I mean a teeny tiny fraction of them) are becoming radicalized AFTER they get here, probably because of assholes like Trump who are bigots.

Anyway, the hard-to-find full document is here:

Redstate’s Patterico’s Analysis of the 9th Circuit Decision Against Trump

Don’t normally quote from the conservative Redstate blog, and I rarely agree with Patterico (the author) on anything.  But this analysis is so good — so spot on — that I am reprinting it in full:

As you have no doubt heard, the Ninth Circuit today issued an opinion upholding the District Court’s TRO halting much of Trump’s order on immigration. This post analyzes the decision, which can be read here. Throughout, I’ll grade my own previous predictionsabout the ruling.

My overall impression is that this is a sound legal ruling — and that Donald Trump is personally to blame for it. By allowing Steve Bannon & Co. to write the order in a sloppy and overbroad manner, and further allowing them to decide that it applied to green card holders, Trump issued an the order that was bound to fail.

Perusing Twitter tonight, I see that many people who support the policy behind the order (as I do), but who have not followed the legal arguments closely, are saying this is just another leftist Ninth Circuit decision. But the order is a unanimous “per curiam” (through the court) ruling. It was joined by a judge appointed by George W. Bush who, at oral argument, expressed skepticism towards the idea that the order was motivated by religious bias, and seemed receptive to the argument that these countries might pose a threat.

The Twitter lawyers point out that this was not a ruling on the merits — and that’s right . . . but the merits still factored into the decision. A subtle point — brought up in the oral argument but missed by many observers — is that once the District Court entered the injunction, the burden shifted to the Government to show on appeal that it was likely to win in the trial court. The Court held that the Government had failed to make that showing. This portion of the ruling, then, does relate to the merits. The Court also held that the Government failed to show irreparable injury, since the TRO put the U.S. back in the same state of affairs that had existed for years.

According to the opinion, the executive order’s principal potential flaw was that it may have deprived a substantial number of people of due process, in three ways (the following paragraph describes the states’ arguments, which the Government failed to rebut for purposes of this appeal):

First, section 3(c) denies re-entry to certain lawful permanent residents and non-immigrant visaholders without constitutionally sufficient notice and an opportunity to respond. Second, section 3(c) prohibits certain lawful permanent residents and non-immigrant visaholders from exercising their separate and independent constitutionally protected liberty interests in travelling abroad and thereafter re-entering the United States. Third, section 5 contravenes the procedures provided by federal statute for refugees seeking asylum and related relief in the United States.

The decision to interpret the order as applying to lawful permanent residents was reportedly made by Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. This was clearly the most troubling aspect of the order to the judges — as well as the aspect of the order that stood out to most objective observers as the dumbest part of the order. As I said in my analysis of the oral argument: “I think even Judge Clifton would be on board with staying the executive order to the extent it applies to LPRs [lawful permanent residents].” What I didn’t predict outright was that Judge Clifton would find this enough to join an opinion upholding the entire TRO; I had expected that he would file a concurring opinion agreeing that the TRO was appropriate as applied to LPRs, but only as to LPRs.

The Government argued that the issue of the application of the executive order to LPRs was moot, because the White House counsel had interpreted the order as not covering LPRs. But the court was not convinced, noting that the White House counsel is not the President — and, since the Administration had given so many contradictory statements on this point, nobody can be certain that they won’t apply it to green card holders again:

[I]n light of the Government’s shifting interpretations of the Executive Order, we cannot say that the current interpretation by White House counsel, even if authoritative and binding, will persist past the immediate stage of these proceedings

Basically, the court said the order is clearly illegal in denying re-entry to LPRs and non-immigrant visa holders, and they aren’t going to rewrite the order (or let the White House counsel rewrite it) to conform to the law. That’s the President’s job. The court said that the Government’s different proposals for limiting the scope of the TRO still resulted in potential due process violations.

The lack of due process for LPRs was the central aspect of the opinion, and it was completely avoidable. The fault lies with Donald Trump.

As to the argument that Trump was targeting Muslims, the Court’s language seemed carefully crafted to maintain the unanimous nature of the opinion. I predicted there were two votes for a finding of possible religious discrimination, based on Trump’s repeated statements during the campaign that he wanted a Muslim ban — but Judge Clifton was clearly skeptical of this claim. The Court dealt with this by saying: “The States’ claims raise serious allegations and present significant constitutional questions” (language clearly inserted by Judges Canby and Friedland) but refused to use this as a ground to uphold the TRO, instead reserving the issue for later, after further litigation in the District Court (an evident concession to Judge Clifton to get him on board with this opinion).

This means that Donald Trump’s mouthing off about a Muslim ban wasn’t the reason for today’s decision — but it could still have legal consequences down the line.

In other aspects more of interest to lawyers than others, the court (as predicted) found standing based on the states’ proprietary interests, and treated the injunction as an appealable preliminary injunction rather than a TRO proper, because of the length of the briefing schedule. (These are also aspects I predicted correctly based on the oral arguments.)

In summary, this is a solid legal opinion and I don’t see it being reversed by the Ninth Circuit en banc or by the U.S. Supreme Court. The judges did their jobs and they did them well. They won’t get a lot of credit for this from political partisans, but they’ll get it from me.

Yup.

Redstate by the way is now a conservative blog in exile. In a world of Brietbarts and Infowars, it remains a bastion of logical reasoned conservatism.  It is a credible opposition to the progressivism that I espouse — with emphasis on the word “credible”.

Here, for posterity’s sake, is the full opinion:

The Kinda Crazy, Somewhat Uplifting, Complete Unprecedented Weekend Of Trump

On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order that bans some refugees and immigrants from entering the US.

It hits ‘pause’ on Syrian refugees coming into the US. And also temporarily shuts the door on citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Initially, the ban even applied to people with valid visas or green cards. Over the weekend, at least 100 travelers were detained at airports across the country. Including an Iraqi man who once worked as an interpreter for the US gov. So the ACLU sued the White House. And a federal judge blocked anyone who was being held at US airports from being deported. Thousands of people protested across the country, especially at airports.

That the ban may be unconstitutional because it could violate religious freedoms. See: prioritizing letting in Christian refugees coming from places like Syria. Plus, some experts say the order won’t help protect the US, since people from these banned countries aren’t the ones who have carried out deadly attacks in America in recent years. And some people — including GOP lawmakers — say Trump’s move might end up helping terrorist groups recruit more members in the future.

The ban still stands. But the White House has backtracked juussst a little bit. Yesterday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said that green card holders aren’t affected by the ban. Meanwhile, more than a dozen Attorneys General are saying ‘see you in court, Mr. President.’

America is a country built by immigrants and religious freedom is a constitutional right. Even though Trump said yesterday that the US has always been the “land of the free,” his moves have some people worried that the founding principles of the US could be at risk.

The ban is arbitrary, which is a nice way of saying it has no basis in reality.  Nationals of the seven countries singled out by Trump have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015.

Zero.

Six Iranians, six Sudanese, two Somalis, two Iraqis, and one Yemeni have been convicted of attempting or executing terrorist attacks on U.S. soil during that time period — so we HAVE been catching them.

And more than that, it actually CREATES a security risk…

Oh, but that wasn’t all.

(1) Reince Priebus issued a statement that the omission of Jews from the statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day was deliberate and is not regretted.

(2) Rudy Giuliani told Fox News that the intent of yesterday’s order was very much a ban on Muslims, described in those words, and he was among the people Trump asked how they could find a way to do this legally.

(3) CNN has a detailed story (heavily sourced) about the process by which this ban was created and announced. Notable in this is that the DHS’ lawyers objected to the order, specifically its exclusion of green card holders, as illegal, and also pressed for there to be a grace period so that people currently out of the country wouldn’t be stranded — and they were personally overruled by Bannon and Stephen Miller. Also notable is that career DHS staff, up to and including the head of Customs & Border Patrol, were kept entirely out of the loop until the order was signed.

(4) The Guardian is reporting (heavily sourced) that the “mass resignations”of nearly all senior staff at the State Department on Thursday were not, in fact, resignations, but a purge ordered by the White House. As the diagram below (by Emily Roslin v Praze) shows, this leaves almost nobody in the entire senior staff of the State Department at this point.

The seniormost staff of the Department of State. Blue X’s are unfilled positions; red X’s are positions which were purged. Note that the “filled” positions are not actually confirmed yet.

As the Guardian points out, this has an important and likely not accidental effect: it leaves the State Department entirely unstaffed during these critical first weeks, when orders like the Muslim ban (which they would normally resist) are coming down.

The article points out another point worth highlighting: “In the past, the state department has been asked to set up early foreign contacts for an incoming administration. This time however it has been bypassed, and Trump’s immediate circle of Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus are making their own calls.”

(5) Yesterday witnessed a reorganization of the National Security Council: Bannon and Priebus now have permanent seats on the Principals’ Committee; the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have both been demoted to only attending meetings where they are told that their expertise is relevant; the Secretary of Energy and the US representative to the UN were kicked off the committee altogether (in defiance of the authorizing statute, incidentally).

All of this is objectively horrific, but there are some silver linings, most notably, the public protests.  They sprang quickly, they sprang fast, and they were huge!  it felt almost like Arab Spring.  And it makes the Trump White House very out of touch, as well as corrupt.

You do have to wonder how Steve Bannon is expected to continue to shine in Trump’s eyes.  He has not delivered the adoring masses to Trump, as shown by the inauguration size, as well as the size of the protests.  Photo ops about great executive orders turn into catastrophe.  It’s a constant state of damage control over there.  Trump’s vanity and idiocy are sufficient that it may take him some time to realize this. But once he does, it’s bedtime for Bannon, who will be defenestrated without ceremony.

Well, actually, the machinations of Bannon may have brought ONE person out: Six people were killed last night in a terrorist attack on a Quebec City mosque.

Right wing blogs and media instantly jumped to the conclusion that Islamists were responsible for the shootings, as they always do. But today we’re learning more about the sole suspect in this terrible attack: he’s a far right anti-immigration fan of Donald Trump and French fascist leader Marine Le Pen.  This guy:

A Win Against The Pipeline

In a rare win for progressives, the Secretary of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reportedly told Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Archambault that the current route for the Dakota Access pipeline will be denied.

According to MSNBC, the Corps of Engineers will conduct an environmental study to see how the pipeline can be rerouted to lessen any potential environmental impact. However, the pipeline will not cross the Missouri River under Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Reservation.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell released a statement Sunday afternoon in support of the decision.

“The thoughtful approach established by the Army today ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts, as envisioned by NEPA,” Jewell said in the statement.

“The Army’s announcement underscores that tribal rights reserved in treaties and federal law, as well as Nation-to-Nation consultation with tribal leaders, are essential components of the analysis to be undertaken in the environmental impact statement going forward.”

The protesters had been facing a Monday deadline to vacate their encampment near Cannon Ball, ND.

“We will not fight tonight, we will dance!” Rami Bald Eagle, Cheyenne River Lakota Tribal Leader shared the great news, with much celebration breaking out among the people.

Thousands of U.S. Veterans have boots on the ground at the Standing Rock Protest, many more than expected. Tim King, former editor of Salem-News.com, is there and heard the announcement.

U.S. military Veterans have been standing “out front” for a couple of days with more of their brothers and sisters-in-arms arriving daily. No, they do not have weapons.

The bitter cold has not chilled the passion behind stopping the pipeline. The many members of “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock,” brought supplies such as gas masks, earplugs and body armor, to stand firm as a unit to protect protesters from the police and their rubber bullets.

But instead, tonight they dance. It looks like the Americans have won, after all.

Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II reacted to the announcement, calling it a sign that President Barack Obama “is listening.”

“We are encouraged and know that the peaceful prayer and demonstration at Standing Rock have powerfully brought to light the unjust narrative suffered by tribal nations and Native Americans across the country,” Archambault said. “We call on all water protectors, as we have from the beginning, to join our voices in prayer and to share our opposition to this pipeline peacefully. The whole world is watching and where they see prayerful, peaceful resistance, they join us.”

Water protectors have been camped out near the construction site of the pipeline since April and have dogged the pipeline work at every step. More than 400 people have been arrested as they stood their ground against pepper spray, mace, rubber bullets and sound cannons, among other violent methods.

Photo Op

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Hey!  Look!  It’s President-Elect Donald Trump!  And who is with him?  Why, that’s Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.  This was yesterday as they were meeting at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster NJ.

I wonder what that was all about. Kris Kobach is a central figure in the nativist movement and the architect of Arizona’s notorious “papers please” law.

Oh wait.  What’s our boy Kris holding?

Can we zoom in on that?

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Closer?  Turn 90 degrees clock– uh, can you sharpen that up a ,little?

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Huh.

Looks like some kind of plan…..

The document is arranged in a numbered format. The first point reads, “Bar the Entry of Potential Terrorists.”

The document calls for updating and reintroducing the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. The program was implemented in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but largely suspended in 2011.

“All aliens from high-risk areas are tracked,” the document reads.

The document then calls for “extreme vetting questions” for “high-risk aliens”; echoing Trump’s campaign rhetoric. High-risk aliens would be questioned about support for Sharia law (Islamic religious law), jihad, the equality of men and women and the U.S. Constitution.

The document also asks for reducing the intake of Syrian refugees to zero.

The rest of the page is either partially or totally obscured by Kobach’s hand and arm. When the photograph was taken, Kobach was standing outside with Trump – it is highly unlikely Kobach wasn’t aware he was being photographed.

The document contains obscured references to the arrest and removal of illegal aliens, “386 miles of existing actual wall,” the post-9/11 PATRIOT Act, and voter rolls. “Draft amendments to National Voter —” can also be seen, perhaps a reference to the National Voter Registration Act.

Good to know.

“It Was Better In The Original German”

Many people are saying that last night’s “Immigration Policy” speech by Trump in Phoenix Arizona was historical.  I’m one of those people.  Just WHY it was historical is a point of contention.

To me, the speech was historical because it contained the 21st century version of some of the worst ills of the world’s past.  Divisiveness and demagoguery.  Mad red0faced ranting.  I really felt like this was somewhere in Germany in 1939.

The country has heard this nationalistic refrains before.

4402908928_28e26ca884

nativist

Trump spun a dystopian tale that painted all immigrants as people to be feared, people to be rounded up and hauled out of this country.

He said immigrants would need an “ideological certification” that confirms they “share our values.”  I mean… fuck, that’s some scary Big Brother shit.

He again approvingly referenced President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s deportation program “Operation Wetback,” a cruel and deadly disaster from the 1950s, suggesting that Trump’s version of that program would be even tougher.

The crowd cheered.

He claimed there are 2 million “criminal aliens” in America and then said, preposterously, “Day one, my first hour in office – those people are gone!”

Saying that some think the word “deport” is not politically correct, Trump mocked: “You can call it whatever the hell you want, they’re gone.”

Loud. Spewing insults and absurd claims. Red-faced and nationalistic. It was Trump as we know him to be.

It was a hate speech. You could see the hands of Steve Bannon, who runs the far-right “news” site Breitbart and is now CEO of Trump’s campaign, all over it, as if Trump was barfing out the comments section under one of the site’s white nationalist screeds.

Moderate Republicans who have been praying daily for their nominee to grow into a plausible candidate had to be sickened by what they saw Wednesday night.

That wasn’t a speech on immigration policy, as the campaign had promised. That was Donald Trump thumbing his nose at the establishment and at all the pundits who suggested he was “softening” his stance on immigration.

That was an angry man catering to a base that shares his anger, a base that mistakenly believes it constitutes an electoral majority.

Trump’s swoop from supposed statesman in Mexico to manic hate-monger in Arizona was jarring. Truly.

How bad was it?  High-profile Hispanic supporters of Donald Trump have pulled or are considering pulling their support after last night’s raging speech:

Jacob Monty, a member of Trump’s National Hispanic Advisory Council, has resigned, and Alfonso Aguilar, the president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said in an interview that he is “inclined” to pull his support.

“I was a strong supporter of Donald Trump when I believed he was going to address the immigration problem realistically and compassionately,” said Monty, a Houston attorney who has aggressively made the Latino case for Trump. “What I heard today was not realistic and not compassionate.”

He withdrew from the board following Trump’s speech in Phoenix, which was heavy on calls for border security and emphasized that all immigrants in the country illegally were subject to deportation.

We need to start talking — not about the damage that a Trump presidency would do to this country — but about the damage Trump’s candidacy is doing to this country.  Some media outlets are trying to break down Trump’s with all sorts of seriousness, and — for fear of looking biased — are afraid to do what needs to be done: an outright condemnation of Trump’s words.  This wasn’t policy — it was hate.  As the New York Times editors noted today:

To mock him for emptiness is almost too easy. But the fear and loathing that he has tapped into, that so easily won him the nomination, are real. . .  Tornadoes are hollow at the center, too, and they do a lot of damage.

Indeed.  This is a blood soaked white nationalist politics that has caught fire with a significant minority of the electorate. There’s no reason to imagine that changes before November.  Or after.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

With Trump in control of the golden door, that lamp goes dark.

Trump’s South Of The Border Gambit

All eyes on Trump today.

It’s a day when he is set to give his big immigration speech, which should help to clarify his muddled position.  He used to be for the wall and mass deportation, but in the past few days, he’s hinted at NOT mass deporting 11 million “illegals” (as he calls them) — which is impossible anyway.  He has suggested touchback provisions (they leave and then come right back, except we leave the “bad ones” out) or something else… everything has been suggested except what the majority of Americans are in favor of… a path to citizenship (or amnesty).  His on-TV surrogates insist — with no credibility — that Trump is not changing from his hardline position, even as he indicates that he is indeed softening.  The whole thing is an exercise in ambiguity, just enough to satisfy his base but also appear to appease people with Trumpian doubts.

That speech is tonight.

But the BIG news — one that his advisers are saying is a potential “gamechanger” — is Trump’s visit to Mexico today.  This was prepared within the last 24 hours.  President Peña Nieto of Mexico had invited both campaigns to visit.  Trump took up the offer.

I, along with many others, consider this to be high risk, high reward.  And to be honest, I’m not sure what is going on.  Trump and Nieto will meet privately and talk.  Both will say something about their meeting…. and…. that’s it?

What do is a “win” here for Trump?  Unless he comes back with a check for $200 billion earmarked for “the wall”, I don’t see what he has to gain.  Maybe some in the Trump campaign thinks it raises his stature, particularly on a day when he is giving a speech on immigration.  I don’t see how though.  Trump has been bashing Mexico for over a year. I mean, here’s the statement that literally launched Trump’s campaign — 218 words into his first speech:

“When Mexico sends their people …  They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Trump later added:

“What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.”

So, it seems, visiting Mexico would lower his stature if you believe in Trump.

Maybe the Trump campaign thinks it is like a “Nixon goes to China” thing.  Except Trump isn’t Nixon and Mexico is (unlike China in the 1970s) an ally and trade partner.  And Trump’s advisers are certainly no Kissingers.  But Trump DOES think Mexico is the enemy.

It’s just hard to see what Trump gets out of this.

More importantly, you have to wonder about Nieto’s motives.  He probably didn’t think it would work out this way.  He invited both candidates; he expected only Clinton would respond (if anybody).  That plan backfired — that’s my guess.

Still, is is happening. Nieto is very unpopular in Mexico.  Polling at 23% favorability, he is in the midst of a plagiarism and corruption scandal.  Meeting with Trump, who is also hated by Mexicans for obvious reasons, seems to be a stupid move, UNLESS Nieto has something up his sleeve.  Peña Nieto has every reason to play the tough guy and earn Trump’s wrath. Everyone in Mexico hates Trump, so standing up to him, or even embarrassing him, would be a political win.

But the same might be true of Trump. His base would certainly go wild at the prospect of Trump having a beef with the president of Mexico. The last thing they want is a cordial get together that suggests some kind of future rapprochement. And if Trump plays it right, a meeting that could be spun as an insult to America might even help him with swing voters.

Then again, maybe Trump desperately wants Peña Nieto’s respect, and wants this meeting to demonstrate that he’s not just a bomb thrower who can’t be trusted with international relations.

Because the whole endeavor is fraught with unpredictability, Josh Marshall has what seems like the most sensible take — “Can Trump Be This Stupid? Not A Trick Question”:

It’s a general rule of politics not to enter into unpredictable situations or cede control of an event or happening to someone who wants to hurt you. President Nieto definitely does not want Donald Trump to become President. He probably assumes he won’t become president, simply by reading the polls. President Nieto is himself quite unpopular at the moment. But no one is more unpopular than Donald Trump. Trump is reviled. Toadying to Trump would be extremely bad politics; standing up to him, good politics…

Remember that the central force of Trump’s political brand is dominance politics. Trump commands, people obey. Trump strikes, victims suffer. It will be extremely difficult for him to manage anything like this in the Mexican capital. He comes with a weak hand, no leverage and the look of a loser. All Peña Nieto needs to say is no.

Again, when you’re in a campaign under constant scrutiny you do your best to control every situation, reduce the risk of unpredictable, embarrassing or damaging events. You try not to cede control to others. You especially try not to cede near total control to someone who has every interest in the world in harming you. The maximal version of that ‘big thing you’re not supposed to do’ is precisely what it looks like Trump is doing.

Trump’s Razor helps here. It’s tempting to assume that there’s some angle Trump has here, some plan or understanding with Peña Nieto to make this not as silly a decision as it appears to be. I’m tempted because how could they think this was a good idea? Trump’s Razor tells us to resist this temptation. “The stupidest scenario possible that can be reconciled with the available facts.” I think that’s what we have here. It’s as stupid as it looks. Who knows? Maybe Trump will handle this deftly and it’ll be a huge success. But Trump’s Razor has yet to fail me. So I’m going to stick with it.

It is hard to know what Trump’s thinking is, or if there is any thinking at all. [UPDATE: He is apparently not bringing along his press corps, which is both unprecedented and unusual for a presidential candidate going abroad. Makes the whole trip even stranger]

If I were Peña Nieto, I would meet Trump at the airport, and with the Mexican press pool there, hand Trump one of his Mexico-made Trump shirts, shake his hand, and walk away.

In the meantime, we need to build that wall to keep Trump down there.

Anyway, you look at it — Trump wins this news cycle… perhaps he will wish otherwise.

UPDATE:  Conservative fan fiction

Tweet from former Mexican ambassador to China:

UPDATE #2:  Viewing the outrage in Mexico about this meeting, Josh Marshall is having additional thoughts.

It would be one thing if Pena Nieto had some grand and tightly organized plan to humiliate Trump. But the evidence of the last 24 hours suggests he’s winging it perhaps every bit as much as Trump himself. Having two clumsy political actors together on the same literal and figurative stage in a highly volatile situation is not one geared to good outcomes. It seems to me like you have a good chance that neither player has much of any idea what he’s doing, and Pena Nieto is already under the gun because of the furious reaction to the news that started last night.

This confrontation of panic, confusion and poor planning is magnified by a less noted factor. Organizing a foreign trip for a President or would-be president is a highly complicated affair, especially when you figure in security needs. It never gets done on a day’s notice. We’re now hearing that the US Embassy in Mexico City strongly counseled against the idea. Those folks tend to be quite apolitical and logistics focused. We can’t rule out the possibility that Trump’s entourage shows up at the wrong palace or isn’t able to make it back to Arizona in time for the speech.

Also, Trump is not bringing the press along.

I think, at the end of the day, the actual visit might just turn out to be a big nothingburger.  We won’t know what happened or what was said, allowing both Peña Nieto and Trump to spin what happened today (and its purpose) to each’s political advantage: messages that will be crushed in the next news cycle.

PPP Poll Trolls Trump Voters

A new national PPP poll of likely voters puts Hillary Clinton 5 points ahead of Trump nationally, about on par with other polls of late (especially ones that follow likely, as opposed to registered, voters).

But deep down in their survey results, it seemed they planted an interesting question to Trump supports:

PPP_Release_National_83016.pdf

Well done, PPP.

UPDATE:  Speaking of the PPP poll, Trump retweeted an obvious fake tweet.

PPP

Trump Campaign Appears To Be In Disarray About His Pet Topic: Immigration

Ever since he announced his presidency, Trump has been firm about two things: (1) “We’re going to build a wall” keeping Mexicans out of the U.S. (and Mexico will pay for the wall) and (2)  “We’re going to deport all illegals so fast…..”

In fact, Trump’s stance on immigration may be the only consistent part of his campaign.

Except maybe not.  Something happened, and Trump’s planned speech on Thursday regarding immigration got postponed.

Apparently, the Trump campaign has realized that deporting 3% of people living in America by a “deportation force” (as Trump called it) would make the transportation of Jews in Hitler’s Germany look like a family vacation.  How do you move 11 million people, tearing families in half?  Well, you can’t, and Trump realizes that now (all of a sudden).

So what do we get? On O’Reilly last night Donald Trump essentially said he’d continue President Obama’s deportation policy, which supporters and immigration critics both agree does not slack on deportations one bit. Only Trump says he’d pursue Obama’s policy “perhaps with a lot more energy.”

Trump: “We’re going to obey the existing laws. Now, the existing laws are very strong … What people don’t know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country, Bush the same thing. Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I’m gonna do the same thing.”

Except, of course, people DID know that Obama had deported lots of people.  Donald didn’t.

Newly-minted Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tried to put the best face on it by explaining that crafting good policy takes time. “Immigration is a very complex issue and to get the solutions right, to come out with your specific plan, should not be rushed. He is taking in the wisdom of many different counselors on this issue.”

When Fox’s Megyn Kelly pressed Conway on whether Trump still plans to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US, she said the policy is still “basically the same. First, secure the borders and actually apply and enforce the law. Secondly, you have to deport those who have committed crimes.”

Alas, this is as Trump himself was explaining, basically Obama policy: enforce the current laws and give priority to deporting those who have committed crimes and present a danger to the community.

This is unquestionably why the Thursday immigration policy speech was canceled. The campaign can’t figure what it’s policy is.  He promised to deport all the illegal aliens in one year; now he has to walk all that back and basically embrace the Obama policy.  But that degree of flip-flop is too abrasive and dramatic.  There is no way to do that gracefully, and hence, the campaign is in a bit of a fix.

UPDATE: In response to suggestions that he is toning down is deportation views, Trump disagreed and said: “They are going to be out of this country so fast your head will spin.”

Well, my head is spinning – he’s right about that.

Was Mrs. Trump An “Illegal”?

Nude photos of Mrs. Trump, recently published in the New York Post, raised some questions regarding her immigration status at one time, before she married Donald Trump.  If true, Trump may have literally married an undocumented worker who lied to enter the country under false pretenses and then failed to disclose that lie when later getting a green card and eventually gaining U.S. citizenship.

Poltico catches us up:

While Trump and her husband, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, have said she came to the United States legally, her own statements suggest she first came to the country on a short-term visa that would not have authorized her to work as a model. Trump has also said she came to New York in 1996, but the nude photo shoot places her in the United States in 1995, as does a biography published in February by Slovenian journalists.

The inconsistencies come on top of reports by CBS News and GQ Magazine that Trump falsely claimed to have obtained a college degree in Slovenia but could be more politically damaging because her husband has made opposition to illegal immigration the foundation of his presidential run.

Representatives of the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization did not address detailed questions about the timing and circumstances of Melania Trump’s arrival in the country, but campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks responded to the emailed questions by stating, “Melania followed all applicable laws and is now a proud citizen of the United States.”

Oh, well if the Trump campaign says it, it must be true.

In a January profile in Harper’s Bazaar, Trump said she would return home from New York to renew her visa every few months. “It never crossed my mind to stay here without papers. That is just the person you are,” she said. “You follow the rules. You follow the law. Every few months you need to fly back to Europe and stamp your visa. After a few visas, I applied for a green card and got it in 2001.”

In a February interview with Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump repeated that characterization of her early years in the United States. “I never thought to stay here without papers. I had visa. I travel every few months back to the country to Slovenia to stamp the visa. I came back. I applied for the green card. I applied for the citizenship later on.”

The Trump campaign and Trump Organization representatives did not address questions about the type of visa Trump first used to enter the country, but it has been widely reported that she came here on an H-1B work visa. Writer Mickey Rapkin, who interviewed Melania for a May profile in the luxury lifestyle magazine DuJour, said she confirmed as much to him. “When I interviewed Melania, I mentioned that she’d come to New York on that H-1B visa, and she nodded in agreement,” Rapkin wrote in an email to POLITICO.

Trump’s tale of returning to Europe for periodic visa renewals is inconsistent with her holding an H-1B visa at all times she was living in New York — even if it was the lesser-known H-1B visa specifically designed for models — said multiple immigration attorneys and experts. An H-1B visa can be valid for three years and can be extended up to six years — sometimes longer — and would not require renewals in Europe every few months. If, as she has said, Trump came to New York in 1996 and obtained a green card in 2001, she likely would not have had to return to Europe even once to renew an H-1B.

Instead, Trump’s description of her periodic renewals in Europe are more consistent with someone traveling on a B-1 Temporary Business Visitor or B-2 Tourist Visa, which typically last only up to six months and do not permit employment.

If someone were to enter the United States on one of those visas with the intention of working, it could constitute visa fraud, according to Andrew Greenfield, a partner at the Washington office of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, a firm that specializes in immigration law.

Does this matter now?  Apparently so:

Visa fraud would call into question a green card application and subsequent citizenship application, said immigration lawyers — thus raising questions about Melania Trump’s legal status, even today, despite her marriage to a U.S. citizen.

I don’t think we have heard the last of this.

UPDATE:  As I was writing this….

That’s nice, but it doesn’t address what she was doing in 1995.

What Atrios Said

This is great:

WHEN TEXAS SECEDES….

The conversation with Uncle Sam will be something like:

You aren’t going to close your military bases, are you? Well, yes.
You aren’t going to close the borders and enact border checks, are you? Well, yes.
You aren’t going to require visas for Texan patriots to visit the US, are you? Quite possibly.
You aren’t going to end all of those transfer payments you make? Hell yes.
What about the Social Security owed to our residents? Interesting question, isn’t it.
There aren’t going to be tariffs between our nations, are there? Everything is negotiable.
My child just married an American. Will he be able to live in the US? That’s complicated…

etc.

Trump Supporters Are Really Really Ugly

On Thursday evening, New York Times Washington editor, Jonathan Weisman tweeted out a link to a Robert Kagan editorial in the Washington Post. Kagan’s editorial explained the relationship between what’s happening with Trump and fascism.

It’s a common — and common sense — argument, i.e.., that patriotism becomes nationalism becomes fascism, with the rise of a charismatic figure with no regard for laws or history, and creating an “us vs them” environment. What they have is anger, militancy, and the cult (yes, cult) following of a single strongman leader. What they have is racism, a simplistic nationalism, a concept of governing both domestically and internationally that is based on bullying and threats. What they have is the mindset of children pulling the wings from flies.

As Kagan wrote:

That this tough-guy, get-mad-and-get-even approach has gained him an increasingly large and enthusiastic following has probably surprised Trump as much as anyone else. Trump himself is simply and quite literally an egomaniac. But the phenomenon he has created and now leads has become something larger than him, and something far more dangerous.

Republican politicians marvel at how he has “tapped into” a hitherto unknown swath of the voting public. But what he has tapped into is what the founders most feared when they established the democratic republic: the popular passions unleashed, the “mobocracy.”  …

This phenomenon has arisen in other democratic and quasi-democratic countries over the past century, and it has generally been called “fascism.” Fascist movements, too, had no coherent ideology, no clear set of prescriptions for what ailed society.

So what happened?  The response that Jonathan Weisman received did nothing to dispel the connection between Trump supporters and those of earlier fascist movements.

Check out Weisman’s timeline.  I’ll put a small sample of the vileness below the fold….

Is Trump Knowingly Lying About His Immigration Position?

Mmmmmaybe.

There’s a rumor going around, encouraged in no small part by this article, to the effect that Trump was talking off-the-record with a New York Times reporter, and what he said called into question whether he would stand by his views on immigration:

Trump visited the paper’s Manhattan headquarters on Tuesday, Jan. 5, part of a round of editorial board meetings that — as is traditional — the Democratic candidates for president and some of the Republicans attended. The meetings, conducted partly on the record and partly off the record in a 13th floor conference room, give candidates a chance to make their pitch for the paper’s endorsement.

After a dispute over Trump’s suggestion of tariffs on Chinese goods, the Timesreleased a portion of the recording. But that was from the on-the-record part of the session.

The author of the article, Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith goes on:

Sources familiar with the recording and transcript — which have reached near-mythical status at the Times — tell me that the second sentence is a bit more than speculation. It reflects, instead, something Trump said about the flexibility of his hard-line anti-immigration stance.

So what exactly did Trump say about immigration, about deportations, about the wall? Did he abandon a core promise of his campaign in a private conversation with liberal power brokers in New York?

I wasn’t able to obtain the recording, or the transcript, and don’t know exactly what Trump said. Neither Baquet, Collins, nor various editorial board members I reached would comment on an off-the-record conversation, which the Times essentially said they cannot release without approval from Trump, given the nature of the off-the-record agreement.

Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal told me he would not comment “on what was off the record at our meeting with him.”

The New York Times isn’t going to release the transcript unless Trump says it is okay.  Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have called on Trump to consent to its release:

“If Donald didn’t say that to the New York Times then he deserves to have that cleared up and releasing the tape can clear it up,” Cruz said.

“The alternative is that it is true.”

This put Trump in a bit of a bind, especially if it is true.

I suspect he might argle bargle a little bit, and threaten to sue Ben Smith and/or the New York Times, and surely that will satisfy his current supporters who (as Trump says) wouldn’t care if he killed an old lady.  But as for other potential supporters — which Trump still needs for the general election — this could be very bad for Trump.  It could show that he really is a politician after all — saying what he knows the GOP base wants to hear, but has no intention of doing that.

How does Trump get out of this?  I think the only way is to consent and hope for the best.  Stalling looks bad.

RELATED:  A secret service agent at a Trump rally took down a photographer rather hard.  No surprise — in fact, it was late in coming.  But watch for an increase in this kind of violence.

The Trump Backlash Continues

A $6 billion golf community under construction in Dubai is removing his name from the project. Trump was tossed from a respected business network in Scotland, where the billionaire says he invested more than $300 million in golf courses and other developments. And Lifestyle, a retailer that does business in an enormous marketplace spanning the Middle East, India and Africa, stopped selling Trump branded products. Trump lost his honorary doctorate at Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Scotland.

Trump says that these nations are “caving to political correctness”.

In the national media, Tom Brokaw, the veteran NBC News anchor, has called Trump’s proposal “dangerous,” and likened it to the Holocaust and the Japanese internment. On its front page, The New York Times has said Trump’s idea is “more typically associated with hate groups.” Dan Balz, of The Washington Post, has called Trump’s rhetoric “demagogic,” while BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith has informed staff that it is acceptable to refer to Trump on social media as a “mendacious racist,” because, he said, those are facts.  Thankfully, journalism has moved into the ‘have you no shame’ mode, rather than the typical “he-said she-said”.

Muslim-Americans are speaking out.  The prize goes to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for his Time editorial, which begins:

The terrorist campaign against American ideals is winning. Fear is rampant. Gun sales are soaring. Hate crimes are increasing. Bearded hipsters are beingmistaken for Muslims. And 83 percent of voters believe a large-scale terrorist attack is likely here in the near future. Some Americans are now so afraid that they are willing to trade in the sacred beliefs that define America for some vague promises of security from the very people who are spreading the terror. “Go ahead and burn the Constitution — just don’t hurt me at the mall.” That’s how effective this terrorism is.

I’m not talking about ISIS. I’m talking about Donald Trump.

This is not hyperbole. Not a metaphor. Webster defines terrorism as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal; the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.”

If violence can be an abstraction — and it can; that’s what a threat is — the Trump campaign meets this definition. Thus, Trump is ISIS’s greatest triumph: the perfect Manchurian Candidate who, instead of offering specific and realistic policies, preys on the fears of the public, doing ISIS’s job for them. Even fellow Republican Jeb Bush acknowledged Trump’s goal is “to manipulate people’s angst and fears.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, however, defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” Now, we don’t require by law that our candidates tell the truth. They can retweet (as Trump did) racist “statistics” from a white supremacist fictional organization that claimed 81% of murdered whites are victims of blacks, when the truth is 84% of whites are murdered by whites. They can claim (as Trump did) to have seen on TV thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering on 9/11, even though there is no evidence of this. They can say (as Trump did) Syrian refugees are “pouring” into the country when only 2,000 have come (out of 4.3 million U.N.-registered refugees). Then, when caught lying (as Trump has been over and over), they can do what every belligerent child does: deny, deny, deny.

While Trump is not slaughtering innocent people, he is exploiting such acts of violence to create terror here to coerce support. As I have written before, his acts could be interpreted as hate crimes. He sounds the shrill alarm of impending doomsday even though since 9/11, about 30 Americans a year have been killed in terrorist attacks worldwide — as The Atlanticpointed out, “roughly the same number as are crushed to death each year by collapsing furniture.” Trump’s irresponsible, inflammatory rhetoric and deliberate propagation of misinformation have created a frightened and hostile atmosphere that could embolden people to violence. He’s the swaggering guy in old Westerns buying drinks for everyone in the saloon while whipping them up for a lynching.

About 30,000 foreign fighters have gone into Syria to join ISIS, thousands of them from Europe and at least 250 from the United States. What most of us in these bountiful countries can’t understand is how our young, raised with such opportunity, choose to abandon our values to embrace a culture of pitiless violence. Before going, many of these recruits spend much of their time on social media being brainwashed by propaganda videos. One 23-year-old woman, a devout Christian and Sunday school teacher, was recruited via Skype. The recruiter spent hours with the lonely woman teaching her the rituals of Islam. Maybe that’s because, according to some psychologists, the brain’s default setting is simply to believe because it takes extra work to analyze information.

The same process works for Trump’s supporters. They are impervious to facts or truth because their (understandable) frustration and anger at partisan greed and incompetence have fatigued them out of critical thinking. Like deranged newscaster Howard Beale in Network, they are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore. To express their outrage, they have rallied around a so-called “outsider” with no political experience, no detailed policies, and whacky ideas that subvert the very Constitution that he would be required to swear to uphold. Electing him would be like asking the clown at a child’s birthday party to start juggling chainsaws.

Muhammad Ali hit Trump with this released statement:

I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.

We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda. They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody.

Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.

Even Ted Cruz, who has taken pains to avoid critiquing Trump, remarked at a private fundraiser that he would have problems with Trump as President and having his finger on the button.

None of this, of course, has affected Trump in the polls.  He leads in NH and SC by quite a bit.

Interestingly, there is an article in the New York Times today which reads

Fear of Terrorism Lifts Donald Trump in New York Times/CBS Poll

I am among the many who thinks it should read

Donald Trump Lifts Fear of Terrorism in New York Times/CBS Poll

The San Bernadino shootings (and to a lesser extent, the Paris attacks), of course, started the fear, but Trump is exploiting that fear in a way that even ISIS couldn’t.

On the other hand, not everyone is in Trump’s grip.  He is viewed as strongly negative by the electorate in general.  Here are some graphics from a WSJ/NBC poll released today:

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Again, I think Trump has a ceiling and he’s a media phenomenon, but I don’t think he has a chance in hell to be the GOP nominee.  That’s almost irrelevant though, as his behavior this week is actually damaging to national security.  This is the culmination of years of anti-government right wing radio and TV — an actual honest-to-God fascist candidate who doesn’t see what he advocates as fascism.  In the guise of rejection of political correctness, he rejects the US Constitution and American values.

He’s yuge among white supremacists and crazy people.  The Ku Klux Klan is using Donald Trump as a talking point in its outreach efforts. Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers in part to cope with a Trump traffic spike.

This typifies a Trump fanatic/.  This lady, I am embarrassed to say, is a state representative in New Hampshire:

This is an interesting chapter in American politics, like the McCarthy Era was at one time.  I can’t wait until it is over.

UPDATE: It’s getting ugly too.  Here are Trump protesters being forcefully removed from a Trump event at the Plaza Hotel


UPDATE #2:  The first poll conducted entirely after Trump’s Muslim remarks just came out.  It was conducted by Reuters/Ipsos:

Trump led the pack of candidates seeking the Republican Party’s nomination in the 2016 election with 35 percent of support from Republican voters, the opinion poll released on Friday found, the same lead he held before Monday, when he said Muslim immigrants, students and other travelers should be barred from entering the country.

Most Republican voters said they were not bothered by his remarks, though many said the comments could still hurt Trump’s chances of becoming president. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans, who will pick the party’s nominee for the November 2016 election, said they found Trump’s remarks offensive against 64 percent who did not.

***

Still, in a sign of how Trump’s rhetoric has polarized the electorate, 72 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of voters overall said they were offended by Trump’s comments.

Forty-one percent of Republicans polled said Trump’s remarks could hurt his chances of becoming president; that figure was higher among all respondents.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson came in second among Republicans with 12 percent in the Reuters/Ipsos poll, and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush tied with 10 percent.

Trump May Have Hit The Ceiling

Donald Trump has defied political pundits for months now.  When he first attacked John McCain, the thought was that it would kill him in the polls, but then he went up.  And that’s been the story for over four months now.  He keeps on appealing to the worst-of-the-worst conservative base and his numbers go up.

But many are now saying what I have always said.  Yes, he has a strong base, but he has a low ceiling.  I have put that ceiling on mid-30% of Republicans.  I don’t think he can get much higher than that.

Yesterday, Trump crossed a line.

Donald J. Trump called on Monday for the United States to bar all Muslims from entering the country until the nation’s leaders can “figure out what is going on” after the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., an extraordinary escalation of rhetoric aimed at voters’ fears about members of the Islamic faith.

A prohibition of Muslims – an unprecedented proposal by a leading American presidential candidate, and an idea more typically associated with hate groups – reflects a progression of mistrust that is rooted in ideology as much as politics.

Mr. Trump, who in September declared “I love the Muslims,” turned sharply against them after the Paris terrorist attacks, calling for a database to track Muslims in America and repeating discredited rumors that thousands of Muslims celebrated in New Jersey on 9/11. His poll numbers rose largely as a result, until a setback in Iowa on Monday morning. Hours later Mr. Trump called for the ban, fitting his pattern of making stunning comments when his lead in the Republican presidential field appears in jeopardy.

Saying that “hatred” among many Muslims for Americans is “beyond comprehension,” Mr. Trump said in a statement that the United States needed to confront “where this hatred comes from and why.”

“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” Mr. Trump said.

That was too much, even for Republicans who have avoided taking shots at him.  Every GOP candidate spoke against this.  Jeb Bush called it “unhinged”.  Others called it “unamerican”. The former vice president, Dick Cheney, said Mr. Trump’s proposal “goes against everything we stand for.” And others.

Cruz, who rarely distances himself from Trump, took a small step away, saying “I do not believe the world needs my voice added to that chorus of critics” referencing the large group of Republican and Democratic presidential candidates who have criticized the plan, adding “I commend Donald Trump for standing up and focusing America’s attention on the need to secure our borders.”  But then he tweeted how he will always defend religious liberty.  So… a VERY small step away — small enough to still pat The Donald on the back.

But Cruz stands alone in his weak condemnation.

GOP lawmakers have gone to the House floor telling Trump to drop out of the race.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman (D) tweeted late Monday that he was barring Trump from his city “until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps.”

Some are concerned and saying that, even as a candidate, Trump is a threat to national security.  There’s a lot of truth to this.  Trump’s rhetoric is the best recruitment tool that ISIS could have.

Trump is also getting burned overseas. Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said: “The only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.”

Then there is the media.  The Philly Daily News:

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Trump’s rationalization for this is pretty bizarre.  He keeps using the “what’s going on” phrase:

Here’s something else that’s telling: In an interview with ABC News this morning, Trump repeated various formulations designed to express generalized uncertainty and anxiety, over and over: “What is going on?” “We don’t know what is going on.” “We have to figure things out.” “What the hell is going on.” “We have to figure out what’s going on. Something is happening that’s not good.” “Until our country’s Representatives can figure out what is going on, we have no choice but to do this.”

The details don’t matter in the least. What matters is that Trump is speaking to a basic sense among his supporters that something is going on, thatsomething is wrong. He is willing to admit this and speak to the need to do something about it, even something drastic or “frankly unthinkable.” If that offends the politically correct and corrupt media, which is probably complicit in this American decline in any case, all the better.

Details, indeed, don’t matter. On the radio this morning, I heard a CNN interviewer ask exactly how banning Muslims from entering the country would be done, since religion does not appear on passports.  Trump, obviously speaking off the cuff, said in essence, that the customs people would ask them “Are you Muslim?”

Right.  I see a few flaws in that.approach.  From a practical standpoint (they will lie) and, oh by the way, can it get MORE unconstitutional?  I think not.

Trump compares his policies to Roosevelt’s during WWII, but unfortunately for Trump, most people view Japanese internment as a BAD part of our history.  And Trump is getting compared to Hitler today, more than Roosevelt.

Will it deter Trump die-hards?  Of course not.  CNN and NBC News interviewed a number of Trump supporters in South Carolina, and asked them to react to the new “plan.”.  Here’s what they said:

“I don’t want ’em here. Who knows what they gonna bring into this country? Bombs? ISIS? What?”

“That’s a very prudent idea. I think that he’s done due diligence when he makes that statement. We have to protect our American citizens first.”

“We just let terrorists into this country.”

“Somebody just needs to go in there and take control of this. It’s going rampant, and I’m worried about America. Worried about our safety. They’re getting in. They need to be stopped.”

“I think it’s a good idea. With everything that’s going on in the world right now — it sounds harsh, but reality is reality.”

“I’m a veteran paratrooper. Been in three different campaigns and two different wars. Both Iraq and Afghanistan. And I’ve had too many brothers and sisters lost over there in those two wars to just let them come here free range in our country now. It’s a kick in the face to every veteran there is that’s fought in those wars, to us trying to protect our homeland from them coming in.”

As CNN’s reporter put it: “No one here we spoke with had a problem with the plan.”

It’s too soon to see if this has any effect on his polling numbers.  But given the VERY LOUD outcry, I don’t expect him to go up, as he usually does.  I think this propels him into the ceiling.

Actually, it might be polls that drove this.  According to one poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers, Ted Cruz is on top in Iowa at 24%, followed by Donald Trump (19%), Marco Rubio (17%), and Ben Carson (13%).

The real issue isn’t Trump, but the GOP’s reaction to it.  So far, the party spokesmen have said nothing.  (Reince Pribus simply has said, “I don’t agree”).  But White House press spokesman Josh Earnest said it best:

“The Trump campaign for months now has had a dustbin of history-like quality to it, from the vacuous sloganeering to the outright lie to even the fake hair—the whole carnival barker routine we’ve seen for some time now… The question now is about the rest of the Republican party and whether or not they’re going to be dragged into the dustbin of history with him.”

Trump: Annoy Your Local Police With Your Paranoia

Well, what he said was this today (emphases are mine):

We can’t let it happen anymore. We have to be strong, we have to smart. We have to be fair, we have to be fair to all side. And it’s tough. You know, if you’re Muslim — and there are so many, they’re so great, they’re such good people — but we to be smart, because it’s coming from this area. I mean, there’s something going on. There’s some nastiness, there’s some meanness there. There’s something going on in the mosques and other places. And we have to at least say there’s a problem so we can solve it. We can’t close our eyes.

I don’t know what’s wrong with Obama — he wants to close his eyes and pretend it’s not happening. Why is he so emphatic on not solving the problem? There’s something we don’t know about! There’s something we don’t know about. (Shouts from the audience can be heard, declaring that Obama is a Muslim.)

So, we have to go out — and again, the greatest source for this is our local police. And the really greatest source is all of you, because you have all those eyes. And you see what’s happening. People move into a house a block down the road — you know who’s going in. You can see. And you report them to the local police. You know, it’s too complicated — call the federal government, who do we call? it’s a big bureaucratic mess, nobody knows what they’re doing, okay?

But you people, and me and everybody, you know when somebody moves to an apartment near you, or to a house near you — you’re pretty smart, right? We know if there’s something going on. Report them! Most likely you’ll be wrong, and that’s okay. But let the local police go in and check out [sic], and you’ll get rid of this stuff. That’s the best way. Everybody’s their own cop, in a way — I mean, you gotta do it, you gotta do it.

Holy Christ.  I mean, it will never happen, but what if he actually becomes President?

Anti-Refugee Fearmongering Continues

What Obama Says:

What I say:

Turning our backs on desperate Muslim refugees plays right into ISIS’s hands.  After all, they recruit from a disenfranchised and angry population.  What better to create a disenfranchised and angry population?

Vetting Syrian Refugees: A Governor With Guts

Kudos to Gov. Peter Shumlin

SOUTH BURLINGTON – Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Monday that governors who turn away Syrian refugees are “stomping” on American values.

As of early Monday afternoon, nine Republican governors had said they would attempt to stop the relocation of refugees from Syria because of safety concerns following Friday’s deadly attacks in Paris.

“The governors who are taking those actions are stomping on the qualities that make America great,” Shumlin said at an unrelated news conference Monday morning, “which is reaching out to folks when they’re in trouble and offering them help, not hurting them.”

As of September, the United States had accepted 1,854 refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. The war has displaced about 4 million people.

Shumlin said he believes seven or eight refugees from Syria are being considered for placement through the Refugee Resettlement Program in Vermont, and he believes the state can take more.

“It’s the spirit of all Vermonters to ensure that when you have folks who are drowning, who are dying in pursuit of freedom, that Vermont does its part,” Shumlin said.

Shumlin emphasized what he called the “rigorous” screening process for refugee resettlement.

“We root out folks who should not be accepted,” Shumlin said.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it seems xenophobia is ruling the day with the red-staters.

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) issued an executive order instructing all “departments, budget units, agencies, offices, entities, and officers of the executive branch of the State of Louisiana” to “utilize all lawful means to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the State of Louisiana while this Order is in effect.”

Can they do this?  In a word, no.

The problem for Jindal, Abbott and the other governors opposed to admitting refugees, however, is that there is no lawful means that permits a state government to dictate immigration policy to the president in this way. As the Supreme Court explained in Hines v. Davidowitz, “the supremacy of the national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution.” States do not get to overrule the federal government on matters such as this one.

Just in case there is any doubt, President Obama has explicit statutory authorization to accept foreign refugees into the United States. Under the Refugee Act of 1980, the president may admit refugees who face “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” into the United States, and the president’s power to do so is particularly robust if they determine that an “unforeseen emergency refugee situation” such as the Syrian refugee crisis exists.

The vetting of Syrian refugees to the U.S. (we’re only going to be taking in 10,0000) is arduous:

And entering the U.S. as a refugee is by far the most difficult and complex of all routes in; refugees are the single most vetted population entering the country.

All those seeking to come as refugees must first be registered by the UN Refugee Agency, which identifies the families most in need. UNHCR screens each family, painstakingly documents their family composition and history of flight from Syria, then refers those who best qualify for the U.S. resettlement program on to the federal government.

The U.S.’s own vetting process then kicks in, with the Department of Homeland Security conducting in-person interviews, gathering detailed biographical and biometric data and conducting multiple background checks that include combing through multiple federal agencies’ respective consular, law enforcement, intelligence and national security databases.

Expertly trained officers from the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and multiple intelligence agencies are involved in vetting refugees before they are approved to travel to America. Further screening is also conducted when refugees arrive in the U.S., after their first year here, and if and when they apply for citizenship.

 

The process takes 18 to 24 months, which makes it harder.  For example, the medical screening is only valid for 6 months, so you might have to repeat this process a couple times before all is said and done.

Keep in mind that many countries in Europe will accept a refugee application based simply on a case file.

Here’s one Syrian refugee’s family’s story.

And another from a local family.

UPDATE:  Ben Carson denamds end to federal aid to Syrian refugees (remember, these are people running away from ISIS):

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NUMBERS TO CONSIDER from the Economist

Of the 745,000 refugees resettled in the U.S. since September 11th, only two Iraqis in Kentucky have been arrested on terrorist charges, for aiding al-Qaeda in Iraq.

And that’s it.  NONE — ZERO — NADA — have been arrested for committing domestic terrorism.

UPDATE — Booooo to New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is also challenging Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) for her Senate seat.  She is the first Democrat to express support for halting the flow of refugees.

14-year-Old Kid Named Ahmed Builds A Clock; Gets Arrested For Building A Bomb

This happened in Texas, so…. no surprise.

Ahmed Mohamed — who makes his own radios and repairs his own go-kart — hoped to impress his teachers when he brought a homemade clock to MacArthur High on Monday.

Instead, the school phoned police about Ahmed’s circuit-stuffed pencil case.

So the 14-year-old missed the student council meeting and took a trip in handcuffs to juvenile detention. His clock now sits in an evidence room. Police say they may yet charge him with making a hoax bomb — though they acknowledge he told everyone who would listen that it’s a clock.

In the meantime, Ahmed’s been suspended, his father is upset and the Council on American-Islamic Relations is once again eyeing claims of Islamophobia in Irving.

***

Ahmed’s clock was hardly his most elaborate creation. He said he threw it together in about 20 minutes before bedtime on Sunday: a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display, all strapped inside a case with a tiger hologram on the front.

He showed it to his engineering teacher first thing Monday morning and didn’t get quite the reaction he’d hoped for.

“He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’” Ahmed said. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”

He kept the clock inside his school bag in English class, but the teacher complained when the alarm beeped in the middle of a lesson. Ahmed brought his invention up to show her afterward.

“She was like, it looks like a bomb,” he said.

“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.’”

The teacher kept the clock. When the principal and a police officer pulled Ahmed out of sixth period, he suspected he wouldn’t get it back.

They led Ahmed into a room where four other police officers waited. He said an officer he’d never seen before leaned back in his chair and remarked: “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.”

Ahmed felt suddenly conscious of his brown skin and his name — one of the most common in the Muslim religion. But the police kept him busy with questions.

The bell rang at least twice, he said, while the officers searched his belongings and questioned his intentions. The principal threatened to expel him if he didn’t make a written statement, he said.

“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’” Ahmed said.

“I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”

“He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.’”

Ahmed never claimed his device was anything but a clock, said police spokesman James McLellan. And police have no reason to think it was dangerous. But officers still didn’t believe Ahmed was giving them the whole story.

“We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,” McLellan said. “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”

Asked what broader explanation the boy could have given, the spokesman explained:

“It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car. The concern was, what was this thing built for? Do we take him into custody?”

Police led Ahmed out of MacArthur about 3 p.m., his hands cuffed behind him and an officer on each arm. A few students gaped in the halls. He remembers the shocked expression of his student counselor — the one “who knows I’m a good boy.”

Ahmed was spared the inside of a cell. The police sent him out of the juvenile detention center to meet his parents shortly after taking his fingerprints.

They’re still investigating the case, and Ahmed hasn’t been back to school. His family said the principal suspended him for three days.

Now for the interesting part. Irvine’s mayor is a notorious islamophobe. You would not go too wrong thinking of Frank Gaffney.

Mayor Beth Van Duyne has accused mosque leaders of creating separate laws for Muslims and the City Council voted Thursday to endorse a state bill that Muslims say targets their faith.

***

The mayor stands by her statements, including an interview with former Fox News host Glenn Beck last month, when she said Sheikh and other imams were “bypassing American courts” by offering to mediate disputes among their worshippers according to an Islamic code called Shariah.

The mediation is advertised as voluntary, nonbinding and in harmony with the law.

But it has led Van Duyne to back a bill by state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, that would forbid judges from using foreign law in their rulings.

While the bill does not mention religion, Leach has singled out the Islamic mediation panel as a “problem” it will solve. The wording is largely identical to that in a previous bill pitched by another lawmaker as a way to stop the influence of “large populations of Middle Easterners.”

Ahmed talks about the experience:

Here’s a tweet with a photo:

There is now a twitter account @IStandWithAhmed to show support for Ahmed …. and a trending hashtag #ThingsTexasPoliceThinkAreBombs, e.g.,

ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A 9TH GRADER?  THESE TEXAS POLICE AREN’T

UPDATE: Enter POTUS…

UPDATE: More invitations….

Palin Word Salad: “Speaking American” Edition

Immigrants to the United States should “speak American,” former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin said on Sunday, adding her voice to a controversy triggered by Donald Trump’s criticism of Republican rival Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish.

“Speaking American” is a punchline of a joke to show how stupid we are as Americans.  Yet, when Palin used it, she really meant it.  She actually believes there is a language called “America”.

Obviously, no such language exists, but even if it did, “America” isn’t the United States anyway.  We live in North America.  Mexicans and others live in Central America.  And there is South America.  So basically, anyone in North, Central, or South America who speaks their native tongue IS speaking “American”.

But geographical bigotry aside, Palin added hilarity to insult when she spoke more about this on CNN, and made up an “American” word that doesn’t exist:

Partial transcript: I think Republicans and independents, that is the party of tolerance! It certainly doesn’t matter the color of your skin! And some of the other things that uh, you know, are banted round as being, um, kind of the judging barometer of whether somebody is welcome in the party or not.

Wuuuuuuut?!? That is such lovely Palin salad-ism.

And “banted”?? She means bandied, I suppose.  Heck, she’s speaking American — who can refudiate that?

Jorge Ramos Commits A Heinous Act Of Journalism

So Trump gave another news conference last night that was an exercise in rudeness.

Basically what happened was this:

Jorge Ramos, the Univision anchor and journalist, extensively squabbled with Donald Trump twice in testy exchanges at a news conference before his rally here Tuesday, with a security officer at one point ejecting Ramos from the event.

“Go back to Univision,” Trump told Ramos early in their first back-and-forth. Ramos had attempted to engage with Trump on his positions, though he had not been called upon, standing and lobbing concerns about Trump’s plan at the candidate.

“Sit down. Sit down. Sit down,” Trump said.

***

Ramos did return, but the ensuing exchange was far from polite.

“Here’s the problem with your immigration plan. It’s full of empty promises,” Ramos said, when allowed back into the press room.

He charged that Trump’s agenda to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and to stop giving automatic citizenship to their children born on U.S. soil was unrealistic, but Trump defended his plan as simple and possible. He reminded Ramos of his $500 million lawsuit against Univision and told him, “I have a bigger heart than you do.”

After Trump said Wednesday that Ramos was “ranting and raving like a mad man.”

American journalists are wringing their hands over what Ramos said and did, saying that he was not engaging in journalism, but advocacy.  This is silly, and I agree with Greenwald as to why:

Here we find, yet again, the enforcement of unwritten, very recent, distinctively corporatized rules of supposed “neutrality” and faux objectivity which all Real Journalists must obey, upon pain of being expelled from the profession. A Good Journalist must pretend they have no opinions, feign utter indifference to the outcome of political debates, never take any sides, be utterly devoid of any human connection to or passion for the issues they cover, and most of all, have no role to play whatsoever in opposing even the most extreme injustices.

Thus: you do not call torture “torture” if the U.S. government falsely denies that it is; you do not say that the chronic shooting of unarmed black citizens by the police is a major problem since not everyone agrees that it is; and you do not object when a major presidential candidate stokes dangerous nativist resentments while demanding mass deportation of millions of people. These are the strictures that have utterly neutered American journalism, drained it of its vitality and core purpose, and ensured that it does little other than serve those who wield the greatest power and have the highest interest in preserving the status quo.

What is more noble for a journalist to do: confront a dangerous, powerful billionaire-demagogue spouting hatemongering nonsense about mass deportation, or sitting by quietly and pretending to have no opinions on any of it and that “both sides” are equally deserving of respect and have equal claims to validity? As Ramos put it simply, in what should not even need to be said: “I’m a reporter. My job is to ask questions. What’s ‘totally out of line’ is to eject a reporter from a press conference for asking questions.”

Being neutral and unaggressive is how they get things past journalists.

GOP Hispanic Outreach

Hispanics deserve candidates and a party that will fight for their vote. In working to earn Hispanics’ trust, though, Republicans have to remember that it’s not just about what we say, but how we say it. Our principles are sound, but we have to be thoughtful in how we discuss them. Too often, a candidate’s tone can turn off voters, promote divisiveness, and feed mischaracterizations of our party. So if your tone isn’t welcoming and inclusive, you’re doing it wrong.

***

So, my fellow Republicans, it’s up to us to keep Democrats from taking Hispanic voters for granted. It’s up to Republicans to tell our story and offer a better way. And it’s up to every one of us to engage with Hispanic voters. If you’re not doing that now, get with it.

Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, September 18, 2013.

Priebus, who just today called Trump a “net positive” for Republicans, isn’t the only one to pick up on this.  In 2004, George W. Bush won over 40 percent of the Latino vote. In 2012, Mitt Romney won 27 percent. Many leading Republican pundits (like Karl Rove) say that the Republican Party needs to win more Latino votes if it wants to win back the White House.

So how’s that going?

GOP Hispanic approval

The GOP frontrunner, by 11 points over the second placer, has a net -51 favorable-to-unfavorable.  What is killing The Donald, and by extension the GOP, is the immigration issue, and the almost daily slamming of “Mexican” immigrants.  You may wonder why, since immigrants don’t vote.

That’s true, but there are 3.3 million of these Latino eligible voters — and the majority of them are the children of immigrants. 57 percent of Latinos who’ll be eligible to vote for the first time in 2016, the study finds, have at least one immigrant parent.

By the way, the Dems are doing fine on this.

Democratic Hispanic approval

So obviously, this goes to the conventional wisdom that what is good for the GOP in the primaries is bad for them in the general.  Trump cannot win the Latino vote, and in fact, he may be energizing the Latino vote to come out and vote against him.

UPDATE:  File under “too little too late”….

Advocacy group National Hispanic Media Coalition says it was “quietly” contacted last week by the Trump Organization’s head of strategic development, proposing a peace-making meeting. Politico quotes coalition CEO Alex Nogales regarding three calls the advocacy group has received from the Trump camp—first, one threatening to sue, a second attempting to change what Trump had said about Mexicans and “the third time was ‘Let’s get together to talk so we can solve our differences.’”

Trumps Reaction To Hate Crime — He Hits A New Low

This turns my stomach:

The homeless man was lying on the ground, shaking, when police arrived early Wednesday. His face was soaked, apparently with urine, his nose broken, his chest and arms battered.

Police said two brothers from South Boston ambushed the 58-year-old as he slept outside of a Dorchester MBTA stop, and targeted him because he is Hispanic. One of the brothers said he was inspired in part by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

***

Trump, told of the alleged assault, said “it would be a shame . . . I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”

Those ellipses might mean anything, but one thing is clear — Trump’s pivot from discussion of a hate crime to the passion of those who follow him, is nothing short of sick.  No, Donald Trump isn’t explicitly saying it’s okay to beat people up because of how they look (but at least two men have interpreted it that way).  The correct thing to do is to tell them, and the rest of his followers, that that interpretation is unequivocally wrong.  Instead he frames the abhorrent crim as a moderately regrettable downside of his movement’s “passion.”

UPDATE — Over 24 hours later since he was first asked….

Trump’s Lawyers Found A Loophole In The Fourteenth Amendment

Quote:

But Trump insisted he and his lawyers have found some disturbing holes in the amendment, which unequivocally states that anyone born in the United States is in fact an American citizen.

The Fourteenth Amendment is a few paragraphs long, but I’ll just cut and paste Section One, the relevant section for this discussion.  Actually, only the first sentence is relevant, so I will make that bold.

Amendment XIV
Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

You do not need a law degree to make sense of the first sentence.  If you are born in the United States, you are a citizen of the United States.  That’s what it says.  It’s in English.

Now, this presents a problem for Trump and those who hate the idea of “anchor babies”, i.e., a pregnant Mexican woman takes a step across the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas, drops her baby out, and bam, that new baby is a U.S. citizen — and since it is heartless to separate the baby from the parents, they get to stay too.

Except that isn’t true.  The baby is a citizen.  The parents are not.   They have to jump through legal hurdles which can take as much as 31 years.  So the “anchor” isn’t really much of an anchor.

But even if the concern is about the child and not the parents, the argument of conservatives is this: we didn’t have the anchor baby issue back when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified (July 1868, three years after the end of the civil war).  That clause was in there so that freed slaves would automatically become American citizens.

Yes, that may have been the overriding intent, but who is to say that was the only intent?  After all, whoever wrote the Fourteenth Amendment could have just as easily written, “All those held in indentured servitude prior to this Amendment are now citizens of the United States”.  But it wasn’t written that way.  It was written for going forward.

Besides, how come that argument doesn’t work for the Second Amendment?  Clearly, the founders who wrote the Second Amendment were only familiar with flintlocks, not AK-47s.  Do conservatives really want to go down the “original intent” road?

The New Word For “RINO” (And What It Says About Republicans)

In the early 2000s, just as the wars in the Middle East were ramping up, a new word started appearing in the Internet lexicon: RINO.  It stands for “Republican In Name Only”.  It is an insult hurled from Republicans to any member of the GOP who’s more liberal than a Republican “should be”.  Any politician tagged as a RINO — and many were — virtually became extinct in the GOP over the following decade, as fewer and fewer moderate Republicans got re-elected.

There is a new similar phrase floating about.  It is “cuckservative”.  It’s a play on the words “conservative” and “cuckold”. “Cuckold” in this sense has a sexual connotation:

A cuckold, of course, is a legitimate word for the husband of an adulterous wife — but that doesn’t really do justice to what they’re suggesting here, either. The people who throw this term around are most likely referencing a type of pornography whereby a (usually, white) man is “humiliated” (or ironically thrilled) by being forced to watch his wife having sex with another (usually, black) man. I’m not going to link to this, but feel free to Google it.

Being a combination of those two words, a “cuckservative” is a conservative who sells out his racial heritage — i.e., a race traitor.  Underlying the use of the word — which comes up ion debates about immigration reform, criminal justice reform, etc.– id the notion that whites should only support policies that help whites. The goal is to stir up fear among whites — “Don’t be a cuckservative” — and to encourage more tribalism and polarization.

Over at Salon, Joan Walsh is alarmed by the prevalent use of this word, a word rooted in racism and misogyny:

“Cuckservative” started showing up in my Twitter mentions last week, after I suggested Donald Trump supporters might not be the brightest bulbs. As I clicked around, I came to a shocking conclusion: I’ve been uncharacteristically downplaying the amount of racism and misogyny powering the right today. The spread of the epithet “cuckservative” is a sign that the crudest psycho-sexual insecurity animates the far right….

This is not merely a new way to shout “RINO.” It’s a call to make the GOP an explicitly racist party, devoted to the defense of whites. It’s no accident it’s taken off in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign launch/performance art, where he attacked illegal Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals.”

White nationalist Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute explained Trump’s appeal to Dave Weigel: “a) he is a tougher, superior man than ‘conservatives’ (which isn’t saying much), and b) he seems to grasp the demographic displacement of European-Americans on a visceral level. We see some hope there.”

Rush Limbaugh helped spread the term to the mainstream when he praised Trump like this: “If Trump were your average, ordinary, cuckolded Republican, he would have apologized by now, and he would have begged for forgiveness, and he would have gone away.”

The folks behind the term are also wildly anti-Semitic. Huckabee became a popular target after he claimed President Obama’s Iran deal was “marching Israelis to the ovens.” The guys who bray “cuckservative” hate Obama, of course, but they may hate Israel more.

These are the people that 17 presidential candidates are catering to.  And not one of them as the decency to say enough is enough.

So How’s That Presidential Race Thing Going, Donald?

What a trainwreck:

Macy’s is pulling Donald Trump brand merchandise from its stores after the Republican presidential candidate’s recent controversial remarks created a public uproar.

The department store has come under intense pressure to cut ties with the real estate magnate and businessman after he referred to immigrants from Mexico and other countries “killers and rapists.”

In a statement Wednesday morning, Macy’s said the company “stands for diversity” and that it had no tolerance for discrimination.

“We are disappointed and distressed by recent remarks about immigrants from Mexico. We do not believe the disparaging characterizations portray an accurate picture of the many Mexicans, Mexican Americans and Latinos who have made so many valuable contributions to the success of our nation,” Macy’s said. “In light of statements made by Donald Trump, which are inconsistent with Macy’s values, we have decided to discontinue our business relationship with Mr. Trump and will phase-out the Trump menswear collection, which has been sold at Macy’s since 2004.”

But you want to know what is depressing?  Here’s a graph of the GOP presidential polls (from Pollster – a poll aggregator) for June 2015.  Trump is the obvious red line, and his trajectory upward is in sync with his comments about Mexicans.

CI1xHsrWcAILMcB

Religious Bigots Use First Amendment Protections To Spew Hate…. Again

Another crazed anti-Muslim right winger — this one in Phoenix — is planning to hold a ‘Draw Muhammad’ Contest right in front of the Islamic Community Center.

The organizer of the event, Jon Ritzheimer, has held two protests in Phoenix since the Texas shootings. The chants and slogans at the protests are brash and hateful. Some supporters wear t-shirts that state, “(expletive) Islam.” Ritzheimer says he is using provocative methods to draw attention to a religion he believes at its core promotes violence.

“I want this to be about pushing out the truth about Islam,” said Jon Ritzheimer. “I’ve read the Koran three times… [Sure he has. – ed.] the ones flying the planes into the tower, those are Muslims following the book as it is written.”

A Facebook page dedicated to the event titled “Freedom of Speech Rally Round II” states: “This will be a PEACEFUL protest in front of the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix AZ… Everyone is encouraged to bring American flags and any message that you would like to send to the known acquaintances of the 2 gunmen.”

What this article at KPNX doesn’t mention is that Ritzheimer is actually leading a gang of bikers to stage this protest — and they intend to bring guns.

Ritzheimer anticipates possible problems because of the rally and says people should bring their guns.

“People are also encouraged to utilize (their) second amendment right at this event just (in case) our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack,” the event’s Facebook page says.

Bikers will be there too, according to the post.

600 protester/biker/haters are expected in can properly be called a perfect storm of islamophobia, gun culture, and assholes.

To give you an idea of what kind of person Ritzheimer is, here’s a picture he proudly posted of himself at his Facebook page:

jerk

Empty Threat

John Boehner, at a presser today, warned that if President Obama moves forward with executive action on deportations, Republicans will never, ever, ever act on the legislative immigration reform that Republicans have refused to act on for the last 18 months:

“I’ve made clear to the president that if he acts unilaterally on his own outside of his authority, he will poison the well and there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress,” Boehner told reporters at his first news conference after big GOP gains in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

“When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. And he’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path,” he said.

Shorter Boehner: If Obama doesn’t join us in refusing to lift a finger to address our broken immigration system, there is no chance we will ever lift a finger to address our broken immigration system, is that clear?

No Danger At All

So a bunch of children from Central America are trying to enter this country, and of course, the right wing is throwing fit because 'Merica.

The real issue is whether they are seeking asylum from persecution, in which case we have to, by law, let them into the country.  As opposed to them just being some lazy Spanish types who are trying to cross our borders to vote for Democrats (as the Republicans fear).

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and others have said that the unaccompanied children entering the United States hope to escape gang violence and drug dealers in their native land.

Well, a couple of GOP House members decided to find out for themselves.  Congressman Steve Pearce and a seven-member working group from the U.S. House of Representatives visited Guatemala and Honduras over the weekend.  And guess what?

They came to the conclusion that the reason the kids fled was because of economic reasons.  Here's the article that says so.

And here's the money quote from the article:

Pearce said he and the rest of the House delegation that visited Honduras and Guatemala did not venture from their hotel very often because of the dangers, but the message they received in both countries was consistent: "Send back our children."

Right. It's much too dangerous for God fearing Real Americans to venture out into the streets but little kids are wily and quick and they can slither out of the grasp of the violent criminals who want to kidnap, torture and kill them. Anyway, it's character building.

So send em back.  </sarcasm>

Bi-Culturalism and the Right

It was just last week when RNC chairman Reince Priebus threw a huge fit of fake outrage and got MSNBC president Phil Griffin to apologize and fire a staffer who tweeted "maybe the rightwing will hate it" about that new Cheerios ad with a biracial family. How dare MSNBC imply that the right wing doesn't support bi-culturalism, screamed the wounded right wing.

Flash forward to the Super Bowl, and guess what happens?

The right wing flew into frenzy of racism and nativism about a different Super Bowl ad — the Coca-Cola ad featuring a multi-racial cast singing "America the Beautiful" in many different languages:

The multilingual aspect of the ad drew fire from former Republican Congressman Allen West, who wrote a blog post saying, "If we cannot be proud enough as a country to sing "American the Beautiful" in English in a commercial during the Super Bowl, by a company as American as they come — doggone we are on the road to perdition."

Conservative columnist and Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes tweeted his dislike of the ad, writing, "So was Coca-Cola saying America is beautiful because new immigrants don't learn to speak English?"

For awhile, the hashtag #BoycottCoke trended on Twitter, with some calling for a boycott of the soft drink for daring to desecrate the national anthem by using foreign languages. (It should be pointed out for anyone confused on the matter, that America's actual national anthem is "The Star-Spangled Banner.")

 

And there are gay people in it, too!  (Never mind the fact that America the Beautiful's lyrics were written by a gay woman).

Paul Whitefield atThe Los Angeles Times had the best response:

Frankly, I’m getting more than a little tired of hearing from angry America. I’m also less than fond of knee-jerk America. And when you combine the two with the Internet, you too often get stupid America, which is really annoying.

Face facts, folks: A lot of people came here not speaking English. We like to think that they all quickly learned it. Some did; many didn’t. But, their kids did. And their kids speak English; many probably couldn’t speak the grandparents’ native language if they wanted to.

So get a grip: We’re not being overrun by hordes of Spanish speakers. Just like always, we’re growing a new crop of Americans. They are enriching the country. They are working hard, paying taxes. And they will create future Nobel Prize winners and future presidents and future titans of industry.

In short, they will make America beautiful.

Why The Tea Party Is Against Immigration Reform

In their own words:

 

This is Ken Crow, who used to be president of Tea Party of America until he bungled logistics of a Sarah Palin speech and is now affiliated with Tea Party Community.  He got up and started talking about "well-bred Americans."

Here is some video of what followed, in which he made a straightforward case for racial purity.

The transcript:

From those incredible blood lines of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and John Smith. And all these great Americans, Martin Luther King. These great Americans who built this country. You came from them. And the unique thing about being from that part of the world, when you learn about breeding, you learn that you cannot breed Secretariat to a donkey and expect to win the Kentucky Derby. You guys have incredible DNA and don't forget it.

 

Jan Brewer Is Too Crazy Even For Scalia

In an opinion by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, a 7-2 Supreme Court held this morning that an Arizona law requiring voting officials to reject voter registration forms that are “not accompanied by concrete evidence of citizenship” conflicts with a federal law requiring states to use a uniform voter registration form for federal elections. Scalia once justified an anti-immigrant opinion with a reference to laws excluding “freed blacks” from southern states, and he called the Voting Rights Act a “perpetuation of racial entitlement. So his authorship of this opinion is both unexpected and a sign of the weakness of Arizona’s legal position in defending this law.

How’s That Hispanic Outreach Going, GOP?

Pablo Pantoja has an impressive resume.  He served in Iraq and Afghanistan, on tours with the National Guard.  Since then, he's climbed the ladder of Republican politics.  Most recently, he was the State Director of Florida Hispanic Outreach for the Republican National Committee.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, he became a Democrat.

Why?  Here's an excerpt from his explanation:

Yes, I have changed my political affiliation to the Democratic Party.

It doesn’t take much to see the culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party today. I have wondered before about the seemingly harsh undertones about immigrants and others. Look no further; a well-known organization recently confirms the intolerance of that which seems different or strange to them.

Studies geared towards making – human beings – viewed as less because of their immigrant status to outright unacceptable claims, are at the center of the immigration debate. Without going too deep on everything surrounding immigration today, the more resounding example this past week was reported by several media outlets.

A researcher included as part of a past dissertation his theory that “the totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ.” The researcher reinforces these views by saying “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.”

Although the organization distanced themselves from those assertions, other immigration-related research is still padded with the same racist and eugenics-based innuendo. Some Republican leaders have blandly (if at all) denied and distanced themselves from this but it doesn’t take away from the culture within the ranks of intolerance. The pseudo-apologies appear to be a quick fix to deep-rooted issues in the Republican Party in hopes that it will soon pass and be forgotten.

The complete disregard of those who are in disadvantage is also palpable. We are not looking at an isolated incident of rhetoric or research. Others subscribe to motivating people to action by stating, “In California, a majority of all Hispanic births are illegitimate. That’s a lot of Democratic voters coming.” The discourse that moves the Republican Party is filled with this anti-immigrant movement and overall radicalization that is far removed from reality.  Another quick example beyond the immigration debate happened during CPAC this year when a supporter shouted ““For giving him shelter and food for all those years?” while a moderator explained how Frederick Douglass had written a letter to his slave master saying that he forgave him for “all the things you did to me.” I think you get the idea.

Pantoja was referring to the recent resignation of a co-author who conducted a rather racist immigrant study for the Heritage Foundation.  While most people are genuinely appalled, conservatives can't decide whether the guy is a hero or a bad guy.

Bachmann Too Crazy For GOP?

Is it possible that Michelle Bachmann may have jumped the shark, even with Republicans?

Bachmann has been going around muttering about how Hillary Clinton's Dep. Chief of Staff Huma Abedin is probably in league with Muslim extremists. This is a bit much for even John Boehner:

I don’t know Huma, but from everything I do know of her, she has a sterling character. And I think accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous.

John McCain was more direct, actually exhibiting some of the mavericky-ness that used to be his staple:

"These allegations about Huma and the report from which they are drawn are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American and a loyal public servant," McCain said in a speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday morning.

And Scott Brown even tweeted:

Rep. Bachmann’s accusations about Sec. Clinton aide Huma Abedin are out-of-line. This kind of rhetoric has no place in our public discourse

You think?

Judge Posner Sticks It To Scalia

Posner, as you may know, is generally regarded even by people who disagree with him often as one of America's great legal thinkers.  He was appointed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals by none other than Ronald Reagan shortly thereafter, and has been there ever since, where he has usually enlightened and sometimes maddened just about everybody with his frequent public writings.  So his views are not to be trifled with.

Read the whole thing in Salon.  Here's some key points:

Justice Scalia is famously outspoken. Is that a good thing for a Supreme Court justice to be? Good or bad, it seems correlated with an increasing tendency of justices to engage in celebrity-type extrajudicial activities, such as presiding at mock trials of fictional and historical figures (was Hamlet temporarily insane when he killed Polonius? Should George Custer be posthumously court-martialed for blowing the Battle of the Little Big Horn?). My own view, expressed much better by professor Lawrence Douglas of Amherst, is that such activities give a mistaken impression of what trials are good for. But I would give Justice Sotomayor a pass for appearing on Sesame Street to adjudicate a dispute between two stuffed animals.

But that is to one side of Justice Scalia's opinion.

He is very concerned with the fact that the Obama administration recently announced a program suspending deportation efforts directed at more than1 million illegal immigrants under the age of 30. He quotes President Obama as having said that the program was "the right thing to do." Justice Scalia says that it "boggles the mind" to think that Arizona could be contradicting federal law by enforcing applications of federal immigration law "that the President declines to enforce." He says that the federal government "does not want to enforce the immigration laws as written, and leaves the States' borders unprotected against immigrants whom those laws would exclude." The federal government is "refus[ing] to enforce the Nation's immigration laws."

These are fighting words. The nation is in the midst of a hard-fought presidential election campaign; the outcome is in doubt. Illegal immigration is a campaign issue. It wouldn't surprise me if Justice Scalia's opinion were quoted in campaign ads. The program that appalls Justice Scalia was announced almost two months after the oral argument in the Arizona case. It seems rather a belated development to figure in an opinion in the case.

***********

In his peroration, Justice Scalia says that "Arizona bears the brunt of the country's illegal immigration problem. Its citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrant who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy." Arizona bears the brunt? Arizona is only one of the states that border Mexico, and if it succeeds in excluding illegal immigrants, these other states will bear the brunt, so it is unclear what the net gain to society would have been from Arizona's efforts, now partially invalidated by the Supreme Court. But the suggestion that illegal immigrants in Arizona are invading Americans' property, straining their social services, and even placing their lives in jeopardy is sufficiently inflammatory to call for a citation to some reputable source of such hyperbole. Justice Scalia cites nothing to support it.

I Love Soledad

The Romney campaign thinks they can talk about immigration by not talking about it.  Soledad O’Brien isn’t buying what this guy is selling.  This is typical of the Romney campaign — don't answer, don't stick your neck out, don't say what you would do for president.

 

Campos On Scalia

From Salon, law professor Paul Campos writes about Scalia:

Newt Gingrich has been described as a dumb person’s idea of a smart person. I’ve heard the same remark made about Antonin Scalia, and until today I would have said that was unfair. Scalia has always had a taste for over-the-top rhetorical flourishes, as well as an unnecessarily high opinion of his own intellect, but these weaknesses had to be balanced against … oh never mind, I can’t do this any longer.

Scalia, who 25 years ago had a certain gift for pointing out the blindness and hypocrisy of certain versions of limousine liberalism, has in his old age become an increasingly intolerant and intolerable blowhard: a pompous celebrant of his own virtue and rectitude, a purveyor of intemperate jeremiads against the degeneracy of the age, and now an author of hysterical diatribes against foreign invaders, who threaten all that is holy.

Here’s a passage from his dissent today from the Supreme Court’s decision forbidding the state of Arizona from deciding to “help” the federal government to enforce federal immigration laws that the national government has decided it would be better to under-enforce:

As is often the case, discussion of the dry legalities that are the proper object of our attention suppresses the very human realities that gave rise to the suit. Arizona bears the brunt of the country’s illegal immigration problem. Its citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy. Federal officials have been unable to remedy the problem, and indeed have recently shown that they are unwilling to do so. Thousands of Arizona’s estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants — including not just children but men and women under 30 — are now assured immunity from enforcement, and will be able to compete openly with Arizona citizens for employment.

This quote is in the middle of a longer passage, railing against the Obama administration’s immigration law policy – a passage written by a man who obviously no longer cares that he sounds increasingly like a right-wing talk radio host rather than a justice of the Supreme Court, and that his dissents are starting to read more like hastily drafted blog posts than sober judicial opinions.

Read the whole thing.

I identify with this.  I, too, used to defend Scalia — not his decisions, but his intellect.  I can no longer do this.  He's a hack.

Romney Responds To The Immigration Ruling

Mitt Romney's only comment on today's Supreme Court ruling against SB1070 is this written statement released a short time ago:

“Today's decision underscores the need for a President who will lead on this critical issue and work in a bipartisan fashion to pursue a national immigration strategy. President Obama has failed to provide any leadership on immigration. This represents yet another broken promise by this President."

"I believe that each state has the duty–and the right–to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities. As Candidate Obama, he promised to present an immigration plan during his first year in office.  But 4 years later, we are still waiting.”

Remarkable.  He wants to talk about leadership, and yet… he can't say whether or not he agrees with the ruling.  Nor can he say what is "national immigration strategy" is.

 Via Jed Lewison, here's a sentence-by-sentence analysis of Romney's statement:

  1. Obama sucks.
  2. Obama sucks.
  3. Obama sucks.
  4. SB1070 was Arizona's duty and responsibility because Obama sucks.
  5. Obama sucks.
  6. Obama sucks.

Now, that's leadership.

Scalia “Jumps The Shark”

Justice Scallia raves more against the politicization of the Supreme Court more than any justice in history, and yet, he barely even tries to hide the politics which guide is "objective" legal opinions.   It's blatent, as Steve Benen observes:

Scalia used the court's ruling on Arizona's anti-immigrant law to condemn President Obama and complain about the administration's enforcement policies. Consider this gem from Scalia's dissent in the 5-3 decision.

It has become clear that federal enforcement priorities — in the sense of priorities based on the need to allocate "scarce enforcement resources" — is not the problem here. After this case was argued and while it was under consideration, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced a program exempting from immigration enforcement some 1.4 million illegal immigrants under the age of 30. [For certain illegal immigrants] immigration officials have been directed to "defe[r] action" against such individual "for a period of two years, subject to renewal."

The husbanding of scarce enforcement resources can hardly be the justification for this, since the considerable administrative cost of conduct¬ing as many as 1.4 million background checks, and ruling on the biennial requests for dispensation that the nonenforcement program envisions, will necessarily be deducted from immigration enforcement. The President said at a news conference that the new program is "the right thing to do" in light of Congress's failure to pass the Administration's proposed revision of the Immigration Act. Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so. But to say, as the Court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of the Immigration Act that the President declines to enforce boggles the mind.

Remember, Obama's decision to implement many of the goals of the DREAM Act wasn't at issue in this case. Scalia didn't agree with the president's move, though, so he decided to make it part of the case anyway.

For that matter, Scalia complaining about lax enforcement of existing federal immigration laws — another element that really wasn't at issue in this case — it itself bizarre, given that Obama deporting more undocumented immigrants than any modern president.

Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA, adds:

“Scalia has finally jumped the shark,” Winkler told TPM. “He claims to respect the founding fathers, but his dissent channels the opponents of the Constitution. Back then, opponents argued that the Constitution denied states their sovereignty by giving too much power to the federal government, as with immigration. Now Scalia echoes their complaints that states are being denied their sovereignty. States are not sovereign when it comes to powers vested in Congress, such as the authority over immigration and naturalization.”

Here's what I find to be ths most striking of what Scalia said:

But there has come to pass, and is with us today, the specter that Arizona and the States that support it predicted: A Federal Govern­ment that does not want to enforce the immigration laws as written, and leaves the States’ borders unprotected against immigrants whom those laws would exclude. So the issue is a stark one. Are the sovereign States at the mercy of the Federal Executive’s refusal to enforce the Nation’s immigration laws?

A good way of answering that question is to ask: Would the States conceivably have entered into the Union if the Constitution itself contained the Court’s holding? Today’s judgment surely fails that test. […] If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign State.

WTF?  That's the legal test?  "Would a state have entered into the Union if the Constitution itself contained the Court's holding?"  

That's ridiculous.  Scary ridiculous.  First of all, what kind of tea-leaf-reading judge is EVER going to know the answer to that question?  Most importantly, haven't we already answered the question of what happens to states that try to leave the union? And isn't it remarkable the Scalia, as a sitting justice, is taking the side that still calls it the War of Northern Aggression?

Apparently, Scalia isn't even aware of the Civil War.  Here is the crux of his legal argument about the sovereignty of states:

Notwithstanding “[t]he myth of an era of unrestricted immigration” in the first 100 years of the Republic, the States enacted numerous laws restricting the immigration of certain classes of aliens, including convicted crimi­nals, indigents, persons with contagious diseases, and (in Southern States) freed blacks. Neuman, The Lost Century of American Immigration (1776–1875), 93 Colum. L. Rev. 1833, 1835, 1841–1880 (1993). State laws not only pro­vided for the removal of unwanted immigrants but also imposed penalties on unlawfully present aliens and those who aided their immigration.^2 Id., at 1883.

Yes.  I believe that's all true. Way to cite it in your 2012 opinion, friend.

Obamacare Decision Today?

It's possible, but I suspect not.  Anyway, if you're reading this on Monday, June 25 before 10am, the place to be isn't here, but the live blog at SCOTUSBlog.

We'll know almost imeediately if they decided on Obamacare.

UPDATE:  No Obamacare decision today, it looks like.  But SCOTUS did reject a Montana case which could have weakened Citizen's United.  Unfortunately, the court rejected it 5-4 (you can guess who the five and four were — opinion (PDF) here.)

UPDATE #2:  The good news is that most of the oppressive Arizona law – making it a state crime for illegal immigrants not to possess their federal registration cards; for illegal imigrants to work, apply for work or solicit work; and a section that allowed state and local police to arrest illegal immigrants without a warrant when probable cause exists that they committed "any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States" — has been struck down as unconstitutional.  

Scalia is unpleased and reading his dissent from the bench.  Apparently, he mentioned Obama's decision last week about suspending deportation of illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children — something that was not part of the case.  Bias much?

The opinion was 5-3.  Kagen took no part.  Those striking down (most of) the Arizona law were the other three liberals on the court (Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Breyer) joined by Kennedy and (in a surprise) Roberts.  Opinion here.  This is a "win" for the Obama administration.

UPDATE #3:  Court also rules that juvenile offenders CANNOT be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.  Good.  5-4, of course.  You know who they are.

UPDATE #4:  Obamacare on Thursday.

All You Need To Know About Romney

So both Presidential candidates are speaking before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, a very important Latino group if you want to woo crucial Latino voters.

Obama, of course, brought immigration issues to the forefront earlier this week, by making an executive decision (i.e., no Congressional approval required) not to enforce deportation laws against immigrants who came to this country at a very young age, and have been schooled here and/or served in the U.S. mililtary and/or who have no knowledge of any other country but the United States.

It's a sensible measure.

Romney has been stuttering all week with a response to the Obama measure.  If he became president, would he repeal it?  Yes?  No?  Romney waffled.

But today, speaking before the Latino group, he had his chance to say what he would do:

"Some people have asked if I will let stand the President's executive action. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President's temporary measure.

As President, I won’t settle for a stop-gap measure. I will work with Republicans and Democrats to find a long-term solution. I will prioritize measures that strengthen legal immigration and make it easier. And I will address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil but resolute manner. We may not always agree, but when I make a promise to you, I will keep it."

Did you get that?

Now, to some people, that's a response.  But it isn't.  "I will come up with a solution" isn't a policy.  It's just a promise to come up with a policy (something which Obama has been trying to do, but Republicans won't compromise).

Do we know what Romney will do?  What HIS position is?  What SPECIFICS he would want to put in place?  Nope.

He thinks he can get elected by not saying anything.  Let's make sure he can't.

UPDATE: Steve Benen adds

You've heard of a non-apology apology? This is a non-policy policy. What's Romney's position? It's to come up with some other position that will "replace and supersede" Obama's policy. Does Romney agree with Obama's policy? He won't say. What will the new "long-term solution" include? He won't say that, either.

Just about everyone — congressional Republicans, voters, reporters, et al — are waiting for Romney to step up and show some leadership. The GOP candidate isn't quite up to the task.

Obama Ahead Of The Immigration Curve

Last week, Obama announced an amnesty of sorts (although he took pains not to call it that) when it comes to immigration.  Essentially, he made an executive decision (one he can make without Congress) not to go after "illegal" aliens who came to this country at a very young age, and have stayed here, grown up, paid taxes, served in the military, etc.

It's a sound, makes-sense proposal.  So naturally, Republicans are against it.

But lookie here. Three years ago, shortly after President Obama took office, fully 50 percent of Americans believed that the number of immigrants entering the United States needed to be reduced. Since then, support for more restrictive immigration policies spiraled downward, and is now at its lowest point since the Gallup polling firm started asking this question in 1965:

Obama is being smart about this.

Short Takes

*  Britney Spears – who used to be famous – is engaged.  Uh, to be married.  Uh, again.  She's 16 years old still.

* Naughty Republicans — the mayor of Grandaven, Mississippi for 14 years — a guy named Greg Davis — re-ran for mayor in 2008 on a family values platform.  You know where this is going, right?  He's in trouble now for using thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on liquor, expensive dinners at a local restaurant, and a visit to an adult store catering to gay men.  The latter revelation forced him to admit that he is gay.

* Naughty Tebaggers – Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler was taken into custody Thursday morning after he tried to check in for a Delta flight to Detroit with a locked gun box containing a Glock pistol and 19 cartridges of ammunition, Queens prosecutors said. [CBS News]

*  The Florida Family Association can suck it.  Seriously.  The new show on TLC, called American Muslim, portrays Muslims in America as normal everyday Americans with normal everyday American problems.  The Florida Family Association objects to the show… because it portrays Muslims in America as normal everyday Americans with normal everyday American problems.  Apparently, you can now protest stuff because it ain't bigotted enough for you.  Oh, and screw you Loew's.

*  Every once in a while, Congress will do something good — like ban traditional incandescent light bulbs (which are inefficient and hurt the environment).  Unfortunately, the good die young.

Supreme Court to Rule On Arizona Immigration Law

AP:

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to rule on Arizona's controversial law targeting illegal immigrants, setting the stage for an election-year decision on an issue that is already shaping presidential politics.

The justices said they will review a federal appeals court ruling that blocked several tough provisions in the Arizona law. One of those requires that police, while enforcing other laws, question a person's immigration status if officers suspect he is in the country illegally.

The Obama administration challenged the Arizona law by arguing that regulating immigration is the job of the federal government, not states. Similar laws in Alabama, South Carolina and Utah also are facing administration lawsuits. Private groups are suing over immigration measures adopted in Georgia and Indiana.

Kagen is sitting this case out, presumably because she worked on it when she was in the Obama administration.

It should be a no-brainer.  Immigration policy is a federal matter; states cannot get involved.

Today in Middle America

(1)  A bill moving through the South Dakota legislature would make it legal to murder abortion providers:

A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of “justifiable homicide” to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state’s GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state’s legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person “while resisting an attempt to harm” that person’s unborn child or the unborn child of that person’s spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman’s father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one.

(2)  GOP legislator Connie O’Brien in Kansas was speaking in favor of rescinding a pro-immigration law when she recounted a story about a student she saw while enrolling her son at Kansas City Kansas Community College last year.  She claimed that the student she saw was an illegal immigrant.  When asked by another lawmaker how she knew the student was an illegal immigrant, Ms. O'Brien replied:

“Well, she wasn’t black, she wasn’t Asian and she had the olive complexion.”

*Facepalm*

Arizona’s Illegal Immigration Law Explained

NPR got to the bottom of Arizona's much-discussed controversial anti-immigration law — the one would require certain aliens to have documentation with them at all times, and gives the Arizona police broad powers to stop and detain anyone who appears to be an undocumented alien.  

The Arizona law would undoubtedly send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. 

So it comes as no surprise (in retrospect) that NPR discovered who was the impetus for pushing such a law: the private prison industry, who stand to make lots of money running and filling jails.  This law was a plan they devised some time ago, and they helped write the bill, and lobby for its passage.  Read the whole thing.

Arizona’s Latest Xenophobia

CNN:

(CNN) – A proposed Arizona law would deny birth certificates to children born in the United States to illegal immigrant parents.

The bill comes on the heels of Arizona passing the nation's toughest immigration law.

John Kavanagh, a Republican state representative from Arizona who supports the proposed law aimed at so-called "anchor babies," said that the concept does not conflict with the U.S. Constitution.

"If you go back to the original intent of the drafters … it was never intended to bestow citizenship upon (illegal) aliens," said Kavanagh, who also supported Senate Bill 1070 – the law that gave Arizona authorities expanded immigration enforcement powers.

Unfortunately for Kavanagh, he is wrong.  The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1868 after the Civil War, states the following concerning citizenship: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

It makes no distinction at all between aliens (legal or illegal) or anything else.  If you were born in the United States, you are a citzen of it.

What's more, to the extent there is any doubt, the United States Supreme Court settled this matter in 1898, specifically saying that children born in the United States are automatically granted citizenship, regardless of their parents' residency status.  The only exception is children of foreign diplomats, and children born to enemy forces engaged in a hostile occupation of the United States.

But people like Kavanagh don't care about the law or the Constitution.  They're Republicans.

Thought For The Day

To those who wish to point out that that Times Square bomber guy was a Muslim-American immigrant, and that this whole episode should serve as a reason to restrict legal immigration of Muslims, can I point out something?

The man who alerted the authorities to the car bomb and possibly saved dozens or even hundreds of lives was also a Muslim-American who immigrated here.

Aliou Niasse, a street vendor selling framed photographs of New York, said that he was the first to spot the car containing the bomb, which pulled up right in front of his cart on the corner of 45th street and Broadway next to the Marriott hotel.

"I didn't see the car pull up or notice the driver because I was busy with customers. But when I looked up I saw that smoke appeared to be coming from the car. This would have been around 6.30pm."

"I thought I should call 911, but my English is not very good and I had no credit left on my phone, so I walked over to Lance, who has the T-shirt stall next to mine, and told him. He said we shouldn't call 911. Immediately he alerted a police officer nearby," said Mr Niasse, who is originally from Senegal and who has been a vendor in Times Square for about eight years.

Arizona Explained With Crayons

Arizona_explained_with_crayons

By the way, the right wingnuts in the Airzona legislature aren't through with the crazy.  Now they are taking on human-animal hybrids:

Actually, there is a serious side to this.  It is a veiled attempt to end stem cell research, which can cure all kinds of diseases.

Arizona Moving To Modify Its Anti-Immigration Law

From Arizona Central:

And That’s The Deal My Dear

I'm probably making more of this Arizona anti-immigration law than I ought to.  As I wrote before, the thing just won't survive all the constitutional challenges that are sure to come in court.

But on the off-chance that the Arizona law survives legal battles, it's still facing another tough opponent:

Colombian-born pop star Shakira will meet with the mayor of Phoenix this week to help campaign against a new Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigration, a member of the mayor's staff said on Tuesday.

The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter will speak with Mayor Phil Gordon, a strong critic of the new law, and other city officials on Thursday afternoon, a spokesman for the mayor said.

Shakira, best known for her hit singles "Hips Don't Lie" and "Whenever, Wherever," was also expected to meet with families who could be affected by the Arizona law.

NOW you've done it, Arizona!  You've rankled the sensibility of Shakira and her mighty ass.

May God have mercy on your soul.

Arizona To Feds: Help Enforce Our Own Draconian Law

This is pretty ballsy:

The Arizona agency tasked with training 15,000 law officers to enforce the state's controversial new illegal immigration law has asked federal authorities for assistance, but administration officials say it is unclear whether the government will help.

Lyle Mann, executive director of the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, says federal assistance is "critical" to what he describes as an unprecedented effort to prepare officers as soon as this summer to enforce the law, which gives local police authority to identify and arrest illegal immigrants.

The request was made to the United States Department of Homeland Security's division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Frankly, the response should come from the U.S Civil Rights Division, warning Arizona's task force about the consequences of engaging in civil rights violations.  As for the Department of Homeland Security, they shouldn't spend a dime on this.  Maybe the cost of a stamp for return postage, containing a letter saying "Dear Arizona, Bite me."