Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Booker Rule - why there must be no confirmation vote until investigations are completed

Sen . Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dodged, ducked, and weaved about the semantic landscape when faced with outrage over his promise to have a quick vote on Trump’s nominee to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. RealClearPolitics.com reports: McConnell: “Will Vote To Confirm Justice Kennedy’s Successor This Fall”. Watch his statement on the Senate floor in this video.

The hypocrisy inherent in McConnell’s promise is apparent to everyone other than McConnell and the rest of the Republican establishment (including Faux News). McConnell changed the rules of the Senate to deny then President Obama his pick for the Supreme Court and then rammed through the Gorsuch nomination after the election. Sen. Chuck Schumer argues that the same “rule” should apply now: Dems to McConnell: Vote on Kennedy replacement after midterms, stop the hypocrisy. Predictably, led by McConnell, the counter argument is that this is not a presidential election year and so the vote on Trump’s pick will proceed anyway.

We cannot count on Sen. Jeff Flake to save us - he already bailed on this one - and I doubt that Senators Collins and Murkowski can resist (empty) promises to preserve Roe v. Wade. So the math, even without wavering Dems, favors an early vote on Trump’s pick and quick confirmation. And that would seal the judicial fate of the nation for our lifetime.

But there is A Better Reason to Delay Kennedy’s Replacement (h/t Sherry Moreau). Paul Schiff Berman, a professor at George Washington University Law School, points to a conflict of interest. Should a sitting president under investigation for possibly criminal acts appoint the person who will sit in judgment of those acts? This is the judicial equivalent of Pandora’s Box.

… there is another reason to withhold confirmation that both Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree on: People under the cloud of investigation do not get to pick the judges who may preside over their cases. By this logic, President Trump should not be permitted to appoint a new Supreme Court justice until after the special counsel investigation is over, and we know for sure whether there is evidence of wrongdoing.

True, that point is unlikely to stop Mr. McConnell or his colleagues. But it highlights the real risk involved in letting a deeply compromised president shape a court that may one day stand between him and impeachment.

… legal experts are already debating several knotty constitutional questions that involve the president and may one day soon have to be decided by the court. Can the president pardon himself or others specifically to extricate himself from criminal investigation? Can the president be compelled to testify before a grand jury? Can a sitting president be criminally indicted?

Did the appointment of the special counsel somehow violate the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, as some conservatives implausibly insist? Can a president ever obstruct justice? What is the proper legal remedy for Mr. Trump’s repeated violations of the Emoluments Clause? It is no exaggeration to say that never before has the selection of a Supreme Court nominee been so thoroughly compromised by the president’s profound personal interest in appointing a judge he can count on to protect him.

Mr. Trump’s possible crimes are inextricable from his desire for unilateral control of the federal government. … Add to this sweeping institutional power a president who refuses to acknowledge any checks on his power as legitimate, whether those checks come from the courts, the legislature, the media, the government bureaucracy or his political opponents. This is the perfect recipe for autocracy. In such a world, the importance of checks and balances has never been greater.

This would be dangerous regardless of Mr. Trump’s legal shortcomings. But this president has, by his own admission, already taken steps to thwart an investigation into his own potential criminality. Both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate should therefore resist calls for a quick confirmation process.

Otherwise, there will be a stain on the legitimacy of this nomination, on the performance of whomever is confirmed and, even, on the Supreme Court itself. The fact that the president has every motive to ensure that happens — to promote his political agenda and to protect him personally — makes the present moment all the more frightening.

Following this logic Sen. Cory Booker argued persuasively for No Supreme Court vote until resolution of Trump investigation. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports.

With Donald Trump poised to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Senate Democrats have limited options. To have any chance of success, the minority party and its allies need a plan.

Calling out Republican hypocrisy has the benefit of accuracy, but its potency is limited. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) couldn’t care less about appearing unprincipled; his GOP colleagues are already shrugging their shoulders; and conservative red-state Democrats, most of whom are up for re-election this year, aren’t prepared to gamble their careers on this point.

Democrats hoping to at least slow down the process until after the midterm elections will need a stronger pitch, which could credibly serve as the basis for an effective strategy.

They’ll need something like this.

Some Democratic senators and their allies are starting to make the argument that not only should there be no Supreme Court pick until after the November elections, but that there shouldn’t be one at all while the president remains under criminal investigation. […]

During a judiciary committee hearing Thursday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) noted that a challenge to the investigation could very well end up before the Supreme Court at some point – potentially creating a conflict of interest for a president who has asked nonpartisan officials for their loyalty.

“If we’re not going to thoroughly discuss what it means to have a president with this ongoing investigation happening, who is now going to interview Supreme Court justices, and potentially continue with his tradition of doing litmus tests, loyalty tests, for that person, we could be participating in a process that could undermine that criminal investigation,” Booker said yesterday. “I do not believe [the Senate Judiciary Committee] should or can in good conscience consider a nominee put forward by this president until that investigation is concluded.”

The closer one looks at this position, the more sense it makes.

Rachel added on the show last night that as the president prepares to choose a high court nominee, the national discussion of this has not yet “caught up to the possibility that if the president himself is alleged by the special counsel’s investigation to have any significant criminal liability in this Russia scandal, that as a matter of law will almost inevitably end up as a matter before the United States Supreme Court – to which he is about to name a new member.”

There’s no shortage of relevant questions for the justices. Can a sitting president pardon himself? Can he be criminally indicted? What power does a president have to dismiss a special counsel during an investigation? These are lines of inquiry the Supreme Court may soon wrestle with.

And Donald Trump’s political life will depend on how the justices answer those questions – which very likely creates a conflict of interest for Donald Trump.

If the special counsel’s investigation ends, and the president – currently a subject of the ongoing probe – faces no allegations of wrongdoing, senators can proceed with the process of considering his Supreme Court nominee.

But in the interim, it’s difficult to defend the idea that Trump should be responsible for choosing a justice who may soon decide his legal fate. Call it the Booker Rule: presidents under criminal investigation have to wait until the matter has run its course before picking Supreme Court justices.

The HuffPost’s report suggests this argument has growing support among Senate Dems, and Harvard Law School’s Lawrence Tribe, among others, endorsed the tack yesterday.

This isn’t about hypocrisy, it’s about a conflict of interest. These are unusual circumstances – American presidents rarely face federal criminal probe – but until they’re resolved, there’s no reason to allow the subject of an investigation to choose a judge who may soon hear his case.

The problem with all of this is that Trump’s base and his allies in congress have already forgiven Trump an incredible number of lies and actions that heretofore would have triggered articles of impeachment. So why not forgive one more affront to the supposed rule of law by which we are governed? Why not forgive the ultimate act of autocracy and let Trump pick his own judge? After all, he has assured the nation that he is guilty of nothing and, by the way, he asserts that he has the power to pardon himself

Putting my pessimism aside, we need to make every attempt to stop this now. There must be no confirmation vote until investigations are completed. And there must be no Democratic Senator voting for it.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Arizona race of U. S. Senate seat will be Sinematic - and quite possibly a cliff-hanger

The Democrat Is Up Big In Arizona’s Senate Race — For Now reports fivethirtyeight in this morning’s email Poll of the week. That would be Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema. All the polls so far have her winning over GOP possibilities (McSally, Ward, Arpaio). However, the support among Dems is united whereas the Republicans are split among those three candidates, and there is a large block of uncommitted voters who tend to swing Republican. Following are snippets with details.

Holding onto all of their U.S. Senate seats in red states would all be for naught for Democrats if they don’t net the two pickups they need to take control of the chamber. This week, two polls came out showing that Democrats are comfortably ahead in one must-win state — Arizona, where Republican Sen. Jeff Flake is retiring.

But there’s reason to think that cushion won’t hold up to the rigors of the general election.

According to a CBS News/YouGov poll conducted June 19–22, likely Democratic nominee U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema leads all of her potential Republican opponents by at least 7 percentage points among registered voters: She leads Rep. Martha McSally 41 percent to 34 percent, former state Sen. Kelli Ward 43 percent to 35 percent and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio 45 percent to 28 percent. An NBC News/Marist poll conducted June 17–21 showed similar results: Sinema led McSally 49 percent to 38 percent, Ward 48 percent to 38 percent and Arpaio 57 percent to 32 percent.

If we take these results at face value, Arizona doesn’t even look that competitive; Sinema would be heavily favored. But there’s plenty of reason to believe that the race will tighten before November. One red flag is the high number of respondents who refused to support one of the two major party candidates. Instead, from 11 percent to 27 percent of voters said that they were undecided, intended to vote for a third-party candidate or won’t vote at all.

But many of these voters won’t stay uncommitted. Undecided ones will hop off the fence, and lots of people who now say they’ll support a third-party candidate probably won’t follow through with it. (Third-party support tends to decline as campaigns progress.)

… Republicans are in the midst of a contentious primary between McSally, Ward and Arpaio, while Democrats are united behind Sinema. Many Ward voters, for example, are not inclined to think kindly of McSally at the moment, and that’s probably keeping some usually reliable Republican voters from telling pollsters they will support the party’s nominee no matter what. But by the fall, these voters usually return to the fold as hard feelings from the primary fade away.

I’m not saying Sinema can’t win (let’s not get too cute; these polling numbers are great news for her), but I am saying Democrats would be foolish to take Arizona for granted or divert resources from it on the basis of a few early polls. Demographics make Democrats’ path to victory in the Grand Canyon State a narrow one: Despite a growing minority (especially Latino) population, it is not yet a big enough share of the electorate to hand Democrats a win on their own. Sinema could still win by performing respectably among white voters, which she does in the polls from this week. That’s possible because Sinema has forged one of the most conservative voting records of any House Democrat and Arizona is a fairly elastic state, meaning its voters are generally persuadable. But at the end of the day, it is still discernibly red — 7 percentage points further right than the nation as a whole, according to FiveThirtyEight’s partisan lean metric. Once Arizona’s base partisanship sets in and currently uncommitted voters come home to their usual camps, this is likely to be every bit the toss-up race everyone thinks it will be.

But before you take strong objection to Sinema’s “conservative” voting record, please re-read my earlier Research report - Krysten Sinema’s votes reveal progressive values. When considering bills that clearly are of concern to progressives, Sinema is not the perfect progressive but is one hell of a better choice (scoring 85% progressive) than McSally (scoring 3% progressive). So if you decide to stay home or just not vote for Sinema, then you place yourself at risk of being one of 167 votes that keeps Flake’s Senate seat in the company of GOPlins. (In case you missed it, that 167 is the number of nonvoters that sent McSally to Washington.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Kennedy retires after Sotomayor dissents - 'military necessity' in 1944 was and 'national security' in 2018 is used to justify abuse of civil rights

This CNN report by Chris Cillizza, Anthony Kennedy’s retirement just confirmed every Republican’s dream scenario for Trump, is an example of the biggest news item today (June 27th, 2018). If Mitch McConnell manages Kennedy’s replacement just as was done for Gorsuch, we could be looking at a conservative majority court for the rest of our lives. Think Roe v. Wade struck down.

Below is a post I had in the mill before learning about Kennedy’s announcement. There are two justifications Kennedy made for his positions on campaign finance and immigration to which I take exception. But I take no pleasure in bashing Kennedy considering what might be coming at us after his retirement.

Anthony Kennedy then: Citizens United

Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court. In it he said these things.

Federal law prohibits corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech defined as an “electioneering communication” or for speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate. 2 U. S. C. §441b. …

Citizens United challenged these prohibitions on corporate electioneering. But SCOTUS, via Kennedy, found reason to lift the ban. He concluded:

… The Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether.

Kennedy had faith that Congress, or state legislative bodies, would control corporate dark money by enacting laws forcing disclosures. He was wrong then. Congress has done nothing, as far as I know, to insure transparency.

Anthony Kennedy now: Immigration Ban

CNN reports in Justice Kennedy reminds Trump he is not above the law.

In one of this year’s most-watched cases, Trump v. Hawaii, Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday authored a five-justice opinion upholding the latest version of the Trump administration’s so-called travel ban. While Roberts is the court’s formal leader, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy is often its fulcrum – the proverbial swing justice – and its conscience.

In the Hawaii case, Kennedy penned a brief and high-minded concurrence, epitomizing his approach to being a good judge and a good leader.

Why … did Justice Kennedy vote to uphold the travel ban, given some of the nasty comments tweeted by President Donald Trump in the run-up to earlier versions of the order? Because there is a difference between what a President (or presidential candidate) offhandedly says, and what a policy adopted by an administration actually does.

… Justice Kennedy didn’t think the court’s job includes policing the President’s potty mouth.

And yet, Kennedy did feel the need to remind us all that even though the court is not in a position to censor or closely edit a President in the foreign affairs arena, the President himself should remember that he is not above the law, and is bound by oath to uphold constitutional values of religious tolerance and respect.

Well, Kennedy was wrong then and is wrong now. Trump has repeatedly scoffed at restraining norms and even at the laws themselves. Just as Congress failed to live up to Kennedy’s expectation in Citizens United, so will Trump fail to live up to Kennedy’s expectation in Hawaii.

But Justice Sonia Sotomayor was not about to let Kennedy and the four right-wing justices off without a blistering critique.

Here are excepts from the SCOTUS record at the Court’s web site.

DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. HAWAII, ET AL. ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT [June 26, 2018]

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR, with whom JUSTICE GINSBURG joins, dissenting.

The United States of America is a Nation built upon the promise of religious liberty. Our Founders honored that core promise by embedding the principle of religious neutrality in the First Amendment. The Court’s decision today fails to safeguard that fundamental principle. It leaves undisturbed a policy first advertised openly and unequivocally as a “total and complete shutdown of Mus­lims entering the United States” because the policy now masquerades behind a façade of national-security con­cerns. But this repackaging does little to cleanse Presi­dential Proclamation No. 9645 of the appearance of dis­crimination that the President’s words have created. Based on the evidence in the record, a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus. That alone suffices to show that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their Estab­lishment Clause claim. The majority holds otherwise by ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent, and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the Procla­mation inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens. Because that troubling result runs contrary to the Constitution and our precedent, I dissent.

Then follows lots more of Sotomayor’s reasons, lightly edited, for her dissenting opinion. In brief …

Today’s holding is all the more troubling given the stark parallels between the reasoning of this case and that of Korematsu v. United States, 323 U. S. 214 (1944). …

As here, the Government invoked an ill-defined national- security threat to justify an exclusionary policy of sweep­ing proportion.

As here, the exclusion order was rooted in dangerous stereotypes about, inter alia, a particular group’s supposed inability to assimilate and desire to harm the United States.

As here, the Government was unwilling to reveal its own intelligence agencies’ views of the alleged security concerns to the very citizens it purported to protect. Compare Korematsu v. United States, 584 F. Supp. 1406, 1418–1419 (ND Cal. 1984) (discussing information the Government knowingly omitted from report presented to the courts justifying the executive order); Brief for Japanese American Citizens League as Amicus Curiae 17–19, with IRAP II, 883 F. 3d, at 268; Brief for Karen Korematsu et al. as Amici Curiae 35–36, and n. 5 (noting that the Government “has gone to great lengths to shield [the Secretary of Homeland Securi­ty’s] report from view”).

And as here, there was strong evidence that impermissible hostility and animus motivated the Government’s policy.

Sotomayor sums up.

In the intervening years since Korematsu, our Nation has done much to leave its sordid legacy behind. See, e.g., Civil Liberties Act of 1988, 50 U. S. C. App. §4211 et seq. (setting forth remedies to individuals affected by the executive order at issue in Korematsu); Non-Detention Act of 1971, 18 U. S. C. §4001(a) (forbidding the imprisonment or detention by the United States of any citizen absent an Act of Congress). Today, the Court takes the important step of finally overruling Korematsu, denouncing it as “gravely wrong the day it was decided.” Ante, at 38 (citing Korematsu, 323 U. S., at 248 (Jackson, J., dissenting)). This formal repudiation of a shameful precedent is laud­ able and long overdue. But it does not make the majority’s decision here acceptable or right. By blindly accepting the Government’s misguided invitation to sanction a discrimi­natory policy motivated by animosity toward a disfavored group, all in the name of a superficial claim of national security, the Court redeploys the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu and merely replaces one “gravely wrong” decision with another. Ante, at 38.

Our Constitution demands, and our country deserves, a Judiciary willing to hold the coordinate branches to ac­count when they defy our most sacred legal commitments. Because the Court’s decision today has failed in that respect, with profound regret, I dissent.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

His foundation is now another source of legal trouble for Trump

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) brings us up to date on Why the tax returns for Trump’s charitable foundation are so important.

It’s been a couple of weeks since the New York attorney general’s office accused Donald Trump’s charitable foundation of being little more than a slush fund, which, among other things, made illegal in-kind contributions for Trump’s campaign. The scope of the legal issues raised by the New York court filing [on June 14th] are still coming into focus.

There are, of course, questions surrounding the president and his family allegedly running a fraudulent charitable entity. There are additional questions about violations of federal election law, which appear to have been quite flagrant.

But what may be one of the most difficult legal angles is an issue that has long been a trouble area for Trump: tax returns.

As the New York Times recently reported, the president personally signed federal tax returns swearing that his foundation wasn’t used for political and/or business purposes, and we now know there’s quite a bit of evidence that suggests it was used for both. Indeed, the article added that when he signed those tax documents, Trump stated, under penalties of perjury, “that the foundation did not engage in transactions with interested parties, and that the foundation did not carry out political activity.”

The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold added the other day that Trump’s signature appeared “just below a stern warning from the IRS: Providing false information could lead to ‘penalties of perjury.’”

In 2007, 2012, 2013 and 2014, the Donald J. Trump Foundation stated that none of its money had been used to benefit Trump or his businesses. But the New York attorney general found that, in each of those years, Trump had used his charity’s funds to help one of his businesses. In 2013, the attorney general alleged, Trump also failed to disclose an improper gift to a political group.

This suggests we’re not just talking about a possible one-time bureaucratic slip-up. Trump and his family stand accused of running a fraudulent charitable operation and repeatedly lying in official legal documents about the nature of the foundation’s work.

The Post’s article added, “It is a felony to knowingly file a false tax return, with potential penalties of up to $100,000 in fines and up to three years in prison. In rare cases – where prosecutors could prove the falsehood to be deliberate – people have been convicted of signing false tax returns.”

This is entirely in line with what Jenny Johnson Ware, a criminal tax attorney in Chicago, told the New York Times earlier this month: “People have gone to prison for stuff like this, and if I were representing someone with facts like this, assuming the facts described in this petition are true, I would be very worried about an indictment,”

The NY Times editorial board provided more examples from the NY AG’s court filing: Donald Trump’s Charity Begins, and Ends, at Home

For instance, the largest reported donation the foundation has made — $264,631 — was used to refurbish the fountain in front of Mr. Trump’s Plaza Hotel in New York. He has not given any of his own supposed fortune to the foundation since 2008, relying instead on the beneficence of others, whether pro-wrestling mavens or simply Americans who thought they were supporting, say, veterans. And yet the Trump Foundation was repeatedly compared with the Clinton Foundation, which, despite justifiable concern about Bill and Hillary Clinton’s dual roles as philanthropic boosters and politicians, is a credible charitable enterprise that focuses on global health and has saved perhaps millions of lives.

A lawsuit filed by the New York State attorney general, Barbara Underwood, on Thursday morning confirms many of these facts and adds a few new ones, alleging that “the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” Ms. Underwood said in a statement.

In precise and damning detail, the suit catalogs Mr. Trump’s repeated violation of both state and federal laws by tapping the foundation’s funds for his own personal purposes, including paying out legal settlements, making political contributions and purchasing a portrait of himself to hang in one of his golf clubs.

A couple of examples: In 2013, the foundation gave $25,000 to “And Justice for All,” a political organization supporting the re-election of Florida’s attorney general, Pam Bondi. But on its federal tax form, the foundation claimed that it did not contribute money to any political campaign, and that it had donated $25,000 to a Kansas-based nonprofit, Justice for All, even though it had not. The foundation later attributed the false report to an accounting error.

Days before the 2016 Iowa caucuses, Mr. Trump held a fund-raiser on behalf of military veterans, raising about $5.6 million, half of which went directly to his foundation. The money was then managed not by philanthropists but by top Trump campaign staff members, who handed it out to veterans’ organizations across Iowa just before the caucus — converting the donations into illegal campaign contributions.

That’s a start. But Ms. Underwood only has jurisdiction to file civil lawsuits in cases involving charities like the Trump Foundation. She cannot bring criminal charges against them for, say, violating campaign finance laws. So she also sent lengthy referral letters to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission, detailing extensive conduct that could, and clearly should, trigger further investigation. In other words, Mr. Trump, who is already dealing with multiple federal inquiries into his campaign’s involvement with Russian efforts to swing the 2016 election as well as into possible crimes by his personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, may soon find himself in even deeper trouble.

If the IRS does indeed undertake further investigation, it could well hit Trump with a criminal complaint, as a former IRS attorney says in Why the I.R.S. Should Go After Trump.

The New York State attorney general yesterday filed a lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation and its directors, accusing the charity and the Trump family of violating campaign finance laws, self-dealing and illegal coordination with the presidential campaign. It asks that Mr. Trump pay restitution and be prohibited from leading a nonprofit in New York for 10 years.

As a former attorney for the chief counsel of the I.R.S. who specialized in nonprofit organizations, I believe Mr. Trump is also criminally liable for his actions. If I were still at the I.R.S., based on the lawsuit, I would make a criminal referral, on charges of tax evasion or false statements on a tax return, or both.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders deserves a seat at a table but not at my table

Yesterday, I made a case for Why we should keep partisan politics out of restaurants. This morning I feature excerpts from two opinion writers, one basically agreeing that Sanders’ behavior as press secretary is reprehensible, that she serves as the mouthpiece of a president who lies about anything and everything. But does that disqualify her from having a place at a restaurant table? The other view is that a restaurant is a public place and should serve patrons regardless of disparate political beliefs. At the outset, let me explain that I agree with both positions.

Sometimes I watch the noon press briefing. Most times I cannot make it to the end and have to shut off the tube. Sanders’ performance is a revolting melange of attacks on her audience, the press, and a vomitous summary of Trump’s lies. She deserves the contempt of any sentient being. Ifs she knows she is repeating lies, she deserves our disrespect. If she does not know what she says are lies, she, in her ignorance, deserves our grudging pity. Either way I grant her nothing more than my disgust.

I would not let that woman, or her dishonest boss for that matter, into my house. But my house is a private residence. The Red Hen is a public place. By virtue of opening a restaurant, I think, the proprietor promises to serve those who comport themselves well with civility. Then the proprietor is obliged to provide equal access to the goods and services offered by the restaurant. This reasoning is elaborated in my post yesterday On ‘eating out’.

Here are differing views, not of Sanders the purveyor of Trump’s dishonesty, but of whether Sanders deserved service in the Virginia restaurant.

Why Sanders’ day job does not get respect for her at night

Adam Gopnik, writing in The New Yorker, considers Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Who Deserves a Place at the Table. Here’s Gopnik’s conclusion.

… someone who has decided to make it her public role to extend, with a blizzard of falsehoods, the words of a pathological liar, and to support, with pretended piety, the acts of a public person of unparalleled personal cruelty—well, that person has asked us in advance to exclude her from our common meal. You cannot spit in the plates and then demand your dinner. The best way to receive civility at night is to not assault it all day long. …

And here’s more of his reasoning.

This double act (for Sanders left when she was asked to) has caused a small but very significant ruckus: many have sided with the Red Hen on the grounds that, on this week in particular, a week which featured the Trumpites’ cruellest organized exclusion of others to date, to not exclude one of the organizers, or at least the mouthpiece, of that exclusion would amount to a moral failure. On the other side is an argument, not in every case touched by obvious hypocrisy, that the Red Henites, by denying their own rules of pluralism to Sanders and her party, are engaged in an act of incivility just as wrong as the kinds the Trumpites began, albeit on a smaller scale. Should we not let Sanders and the rest of the Trumpite commissariat eat in peace? Are we not in turn offended when Christian bakers refuse to bake cakes for gay weddings? And when the wheel turns—if it is, God or Washington willing, allowed to keep turning—would the same Red Henites now not look with disgust at a pro-Trump tavernkeeper who excludes, on similar partisan grounds, the gay spokesperson for our first female President or the female spokesperson for our first gay President?

Well, grownups should be able to count to two, a fine French idiom insists, and this is a case in which counting to two is essential. To sit and share or to shame and shun? On the issue of Sanders being expelled from a restaurant, mixed emotions are the only ones a rational person can have. On the one hand, one of the ritual functions of restaurants is to make a common place for commonplace civilization to proceed. They build social capital from their openness to all kinds. Think of how much the civilization of American cities depends on our being able to grab not just bite but a bit of anonymity—we eat alongside others without the others looking down too sharply upon us. It’s a fundamental liberal value, worth protecting in all partisan instances and on all partisan sides. And, no, we don’t want to set a precedent in which politics are so personalized that even simple common coexistence becomes impossible. As a moral duty, we should share the pleasures and conversation of the table with as many people of as many views as we can—and, even when we can’t, we shouldn’t grumble too nastily under our breath at our kids when someone at a nearby table takes up the case for the Donald. (A self-directed moral rule, this.)

On the other hand, the Trump Administration is not a normal Presidential Administration. This is the essential and easily fudged fact of our historical moment. The Trump Administration is—in ways that are specific to incipient tyrannies—all about an assault on civility. To the degree that Trump has any ideology at all, it’s a hatred of civility—a belief that the normal decencies painfully evolved over centuries are signs of weakness which occlude the natural order of domination and submission. It’s why Trump admires dictators. Theirs are his values; that’s his feast. And, to end the normal discourse of democracy, the Trump Administration must make lies respectable—lying not tactically but all the time about everything, in a way that does not just degrade but destroys exactly the common table of democratic debate.

That’s Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s chosen role in life—to further those lies, treat lies as truth, and make lies acceptable. This is not just a question of protesting a particular policy; in the end there are no policies, only the infantile impulses of a man veering from one urge to another. The great threat to American democracy isn’t “policy” but the pretense of normalcy. That’s the danger, for with the lies come the appeasement of tyranny, the admiration of tyranny, and, as now seems increasingly likely, the secret alliance with tyranny. That’s what makes the Trump Administration intolerable, and, inasmuch as it is intolerable, public shaming and shunning of those who take part in it seems just. Never before in American politics has there been so plausible a reason for exclusion from the common meal as the act of working for Donald Trump.

And what about civility? Well, fundamental to, and governing the practice of, civility is the principle of reciprocity: your place at my table implies my place at yours. Conservatives and liberals, right-wingers and left-wingers, Jews and Muslims and Christians and Socialists and round- and flat-Earthers—all should have a place at any table and be welcome to sit where they like. On the other hand, someone who has decided to make it her public role to extend, with a blizzard of falsehoods, the words of a pathological liar, and to support, with pretended piety, the acts of a public person of unparalleled personal cruelty—well, that person has asked us in advance to exclude her from our common meal. You cannot spit in the plates and then demand your dinner. The best way to receive civility at night is to not assault it all day long. It’s the simple wisdom of the table.

Sanders deserved the comfort of a meal in a public restaurant

Karen Klein, writing in The Sacramento Bee (published in the Daily Star this morning) explains Why Sarah Sanders shouldn’t have been kicked out of that Virginia restaurant. Here’s Klein’s conclusion.

In the public spaces of life, there should still be room for us all to sit and have the comfort of a meal or a night’s shelter. Let’s not allow the extreme and ugly days of Trump to take that away from us, too.

Here is some of the rest of Klein’s reasoning.

Over the years, but especially in 2008, the year of hateful Proposition 8, I wrote regularly about LGBT rights. I cheered the California Supreme Court decision that opened the door to same-sex marriage. I wrote about the unfair standards to which gay and lesbian couples were being held, about the judgmentalism involved in deciding who was entitled to the basic right to marriage.

Fortunately for me, I’m not a household name and certainly not a household face. But if I were, I would have been stunned and horrified to be turned away from a restaurant where the owner’s viewpoints differed from mine.

… I find myself in the strange position of standing up for Sarah Huckabee Sanders, despite her limp attempts as White House spokeswoman to make the Trump administration seem like anything higher than hateful slime that is taking apart our nation’s protections and humanity faster than I could have believed possible. Sanders was asked to leave a Virginia restaurant because the employees and owner find her actions fronting for the administration sickening.

And sickening they are. I wouldn’t let the woman or her boss into my home. I would gag at the thought of serving her and would hate having her in the same dining room where I’m a customer.

But that’s not the same as the general feeling among Trump-haters these days after Sanders was asked to leave a Virginia restaurant. The sense seems to be that the restaurant owner took the moral high ground by advising Sanders that she wasn’t welcome.

The decision to open a restaurant is a decision to welcome the public. It’s the kind of service to which we all should be at least accepted, if not warmly welcomed, whether we are gay or Muslim or pro-abortion or anti-abortion or even if we are, like Sanders, simply vile, unless we behave in ways that are disruptive to the business. That extends to hotels, retail stores and other public-serving businesses.

Virginia law does not protect patrons of public accommodations based on their sexual orientation or their political affiliations. (California laws are much more protective.) This isn’t about slicing and dicing the laws of different states to figure out who had their civil liberties curtailed.

It’s about the kind of nation we are becoming – the kind of nation that, in fact, Sanders and Donald Trump and various other cockroaches within the administration are encouraging us to become through inhumane policy and hateful comments.

When Sanders wants to buy underpants, she should be allowed to, even if the owner of the lingerie shop hates everything about her. A gay couple should be able to check into any hotel. The head of Planned Parenthood should be able to order dinner in a restaurant where the owner feels that abortion amounts to the horrific killing of innocent babies.

We may dislike or even revile certain people because of their beliefs or actions. We are discomfited by their presence. We’re big boys and girls. We can handle some discomfort.

So here is where I come down on all this. In a public restaurant, like the rest of us and regardless of our sexual orientation or political beliefs, Sanders deserves a seat at a table. But she is not entitled to a seat at my table.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Suffer Littler Children - one among many in the Tapestry of Travesties in the Illustrated News

Suffer little children
Suffer Little children - and boy, do they

Here are Mournday Mourning themes from the Illustrated News (aka toons from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona).

Let’s make it a quiz. Which of the following does not belong with the others?

(1) It was just a matter of time until Trump and Sessions co-opted the bible so as to let the children suffer
(2) Trump’s MAGA strategy - infest and infect
(3) FLOTUS stays on message. I … uh … We really don’t care. Do you?
(4) Republicans get some spine and stand up to Trump.
(5) Republican leaders fiddle while America burns.
(6) Trump attends space force summit - Kim, Xi, Vlad, Darth.

I leave you with one last theme.

Born free, as free as the wind blows
As free as the grass grows
Born free to follow your heart

Live free and beauty surrounds you
The world still astounds you
Each time you look at a star

Stay free where no walls divide you
You’re free as the roaring tide
So there’s no need to hide
Unless you are seeking asylum in America.

Why Democrats elect more women than Republicans

In The Morning Story (538’s significant digits email), Perry Bacon, at fivethirtyeight.com, explains Why The Republican Party Isn’t Electing More Women. It’s a very long article so here is a teaser about one reason why that’s true: Emily’s List. The broader view, though, suggests that the reason why Republican female candidates at all levels are fewer than Democratic female candidates is a difference in what the two parties value and differences in how they view women.

Democrats have prioritized electing women in a way that the GOP hasn’t. The liberal group Emily’s List, for example, focuses on getting women elected at all levels of government, by encouraging women to run for office, offering them training and helping them raise money. The group, founded in 1985, is deeply enmeshed in Democratic politics, raising and spending almost $45 million in both the 2014 and 2016 elections, and pumping money into the campaigns of dozens of Democratic women currently serving in Congress.

Emily’s List has been successful, researchers say, in part because liberal-leaning women are very interested in its mission.

“Democratic women donors will prioritize electing the female candidate in a primary over other factors that traditionally predict giving,” said Michele Swers, a Georgetown University professor and scholar on women and politics. “Among Republicans, gender has no impact on donations. Republican women don’t give more to women.”

Case in point: Maggie’s List, created in 2010 as a conservative alternative to Emily’s List, raised and spent less than $210,000 in both 2014 and 2016. That Maggie’s List was formed so much later than Emily’s List and has raised so much less money is no coincidence: As Soltis Anderson pointed out, Republican activists are leery of efforts to promote specific demographic groups, including women.

The role that Emily’s List has played in convincing potential female candidates that they should run has been especially vital, according to researchers I spoke with. Surveys have found that women are less likely than men to be asked to run for political office. So leave the political system alone and it’ll skew male. Emily’s List also encourages women to run even if they have school-age children by emphasizing that women and mothers have experiences and perspectives that should be represented in the political system. It’s not clear that potential female GOP candidates are getting such encouragement.

“Running for office would take time away from what they honestly feel is the most important job they will ever do and potentially put their kids in the spotlight and the crossfire,” said GOP strategist Liz Mair, describing the thinking of some Republican women who might otherwise run for office. “And once they’re done rearing the kids, ‘stay-at-home mom’ doesn’t look like the best résumé for a potential congresswoman or senator — or at least they think that’s the case.”

In fact, Republican women may be facing some discouragement to run. In 2014, Pew Research Center asked respondents whether they would be more or less likely to support a presidential candidate who is a woman. Overall, most people (71 percent) said it wouldn’t matter. But 15 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of self-identified conservatives said “less likely” (compared with 5 percent of Democrats and 4 percent of liberals). A Morning Consult poll in 20163 found roughly the same results.

On 'eating out' - Why we should keep partisan politics out of restaurants

Members of the Trump administration who show up in public places are taking heat for their parts in the design and execution of President Trump’s immigration policy. If you know about this already, scroll on down to the end for my commentary. If not, read about three incidents involving Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump policy advisor Stephen Miller, and now Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The Washington Post reported Kirstjen Nielsen heckled by protesters at Mexican restaurant. Other diners applauded them. Nielsen is the public face of Trump’s zero tolerance policy that resulted in the separation of thousands of children from their parents.

Protesters entered a Mexican restaurant in D.C. on Tuesday evening to heckle Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. She appeared to sit quietly with her head down for more than 10 minutes listening to the protesters chanting “Shame!” and “End family separation!”

"Secretary Nielsen!” a male protester yelled as the group approached Nielsen’s table, according to live video footage posted on Facebook by Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America. “How dare you spend your evening here eating dinner as you’re complicit in the separation and deportation of over 10,000 children separated from their parents? How can you enjoy a Mexican dinner as you’re deporting and imprisoning tens of thousands of people who come here seeking asylum in the United States? We call on you to end family separation and abolish ICE!”

If kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace!” the protesters yelled.

“In a Mexican restaurant, of all places!” one said.

“Have you listened to it? Do you hear the babies crying?” one said of audio leaked from an immigration facility to ProPublica in which children can be heard crying for their parents.

Just a few hours earlier, Nielsen had retweeted President Trump’s praise for the “fabulous job” she did at a news conference explaining the administration’s policy.

[Ana Navarro tweeted] “Are there no Norwegian restaurants in Washington, DC?”

The New York Post reported that, two days earlier, a Protester yells ‘fascist’ at Stephen Miller dining in Mexican restaurant. (Miller is thought to be the architect of Trump’s anti-immigration program that separates kids from mothers.)

White House adviser Stephen Miller was accosted at a Mexican restaurant by a patron calling him a “fascist” — two nights before Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was hounded out of another south-of-the-border eatery, sources told The Post.

Miller chose to dine at Espita Mezcaleria in the DC neighborhood of Shaw on Sunday, amid growing anger over the Trump administration separating migrant kids from their parents — a policy the aide had described as a “simple decision.”

“Hey look guys, whoever thought we’d be in a restaurant with a real-life fascist begging [for] money for new cages?” a customer at the Mezcal joint snarled at Miller, according to a source who saw the encounter.

Miller didn’t respond and scurried away, the witness said.

Both Nielsen and Miller may have fallen prey to a disconnect in what Americans think about Mexicans. Here’s a choice quote from Helen Rosner, a roving food correspondent for newyorker.com: The Absurdity of Trump Officials Eating at Mexican Restaurants During an Immigration Crisis.

… to many other Americans, including those leading our government, there is a simple, reflexive disconnect between cultural product and cultural producer, between policy and people. “Everyone hates Mexicans, but everyone at the same time loves Mexican food,” the Mexican-American writer Gustavo Arellano told the Huffington Post, in 2016. “When they’re eating it, they’re able to disassociate it from the people who made it, or who picked it or slaughtered those cows.”

In the most recent instance, Sarah Suckabee Handers (my nomination for her stage name), left a restaurant after being asked to leave by the owner. The Washington Post reports The owner of the Red Hen explains why she asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave.

Stephanie Wilkinson was at home Friday evening — nearly 200 miles from the White House — when the choice presented itself.

Her phone rang about 8 p.m. It was the chef at the Red Hen, the tiny farm-to-table restaurant that she co-owned just off Main Street in this small city in the western part of the state.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders had just walked in and sat down, the chef informed her.

“He said the staff is a little concerned. What should we do?” Wilkinson told The Washington Post. “I said I’d be down to see if it’s true.”

Several Red Hen employees are gay, she said. They knew Sanders had defended Trump’s desire to bar transgender people from the military. This month, they had all watched her evade questions and defend a Trump policy that caused migrant children to be separated from their parents.

[Wilkinson] knew — she believed — that Sarah Huckabee Sanders worked in the service of an “inhumane and unethical” administration. That she publicly defended the president’s cruelest policies, and that that could not stand.

“I’m not a huge fan of confrontation,” Wilkinson said. “I have a business, and I want the business to thrive. This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”

So …

"Tell me what you want me to do. I can ask her to leave,” Wilkinson told her staff, she said. “They said ‘yes.’ ”

[Wilkinson and Huckabee Sanders] stepped outside, into another small enclosure, but at least out of the crowded restaurant.

“I was babbling a little, but I got my point across in a polite and direct fashion,” Wilkinson said. “I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation.

“I said, ‘I’d like to ask you to leave.’ ”

And the Press Secretary and her entourage did.

… For all the angst that evening, Wilkinson said, everything had taken place with decorum. She had been polite; Sanders had been polite; the press secretary’s family had been polite as they followed her out the door.

Not surprisingly, Trumpkins responded in a much less civil manner. For example, “… fans of President Trump were doing their best to troll the restaurant’s phone line with fake reservations.”

The obvious purpose was to inflict financial damage on the Red Hen. The restaurant rating service Yelp received thousands of reviews by people who obviously had never eaten at the Red Hen thus dragging down the restaurant’s rating.

Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post/Right Turn) opines on Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the lost art of shunning

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders — whose lies are piling up at a furious rate and whose defense of the child-separation policy prompted a reporter to exclaim, “Come on, Sarah, you’re a parent” — was reportedly asked to leave a restaurant in Virginia on Friday because she works for President Trump. In a tweet, she explained that “I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left.” She then couldn’t help lying again: “I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.” Anyone who has seen her sneer, insult and condescend to the press knows that’s not the case.

Unsurprisingly, the restaurant confrontations became a source of debate on cable television. On CNN, Ana Navarro tartly observed, “You make choices in life. And there is a cost to being an accomplice to this cruel, deceitful administration.” So, are these reactions to Trump aides reassuring and appropriate acts of social ostracism that communicate to the cogs in a barbaric bureaucracy that they cannot escape the consequences of their actions? Alternatively, should we view these as a sign of our descent into incivility, evidence that we are so polarized we literally cannot stand to be in the same room as those with whom we disagree?

It depends on how you view the child-separation policy. If you think the decision to separate children from parents as a means of deterring other asylum seekers is simply one more policy choice, like tax cuts or negotiations with North Korea, then, yes, screaming at political opponents is inappropriate. Such conduct is contrary to the democratic notion that we do not personally destroy our political opponents but, rather, respect differences and learn to fight and perhaps compromise on another day. If, however, you think the child-separation policy is in a different class — a human rights crime, an inhumane policy for which the public was primed by efforts to dehumanize a group of people (“animals,” “infest,” etc.) — then it is both natural and appropriate for decent human beings to shame and shun the practitioners of such a policy.

Scriber’s comments

Using Rubin’s words, one question this raises for me at least is whether “it is not altogether a bad thing to show those who think they’re exempt from personal responsibility that their actions bring scorn, exclusion and rejection”. My answer is yes and no. It depends on the venue. I think Sanders should be taken to task by journalists for every single lie she repeats and defends - in press conferences, but not in restaurants. I’ve been worried sick about our crumbling societal norms, customs, and institutions. One of these is “eating out.” Must restaurants now be places for partisan political warfare? Gawd, I hope not.

But all of this raises deeper questions about who gets to do what to whom and when.

Remember this one?

The Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling [June 4th] in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop bakery owner Jack Phillips, who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple due to the shop owner’s religious beliefs.

Notably, the court limited its decision to the specifics of this case – mainly how the Colorado Civil Rights Commission handled Phillips’ claim. The court did not rule that the Constitution grants the right to discriminate but maintained the longstanding principle that business owners cannot deny equal access to goods and services.

Those are quotes from just one of the many reports earlier this month, this one by CNN: Gay wedding cake ruling reaffirms that businesses can’t discriminate.

So let me put two themes together. (1) A restaurant owner refused service to a customer because the owner took exception to the customer’s political behaviors. (2) A baker refused to make a cake for two customers because of the baker’s religious beliefs about the sexual orientation of the customers. The Trump fans who trolled the Red Hen phone line, I suspect, would defend (2) and, as they did, attack (1). Conversely, if you believe that (1) is justified, can you also deny (2)?

To put it in logical terms, (1) .AND. (2) is TRUE. Any other combination including .NOT.(1) or .N OT.(2) is FALSE.

EJ Montini from The Republic/azcentral.com agrees. He considers why Sarah Sanders dining snub is nothing compared to woman denied miscarriage medication. This has already gotten long, so I’ll do the short version. “Opinion: If you believe it’s okay for some business owners to turn away customers based on some belief then you can’t play the victim when it happens to you.

I’d guess that a number of those who are incensed by what the restaurant owner did to Sanders would somehow have no problem with a Walgreens pharmacist in Peoria refusing to give a woman who lost a fetus inside the womb the medicine she needed.

At her 10-week pregnancy check-up Nicole Arteaga was told that her developing child was gone. There was no heartbeat. She was prescribed medication by her doctor to manage the upcoming miscarriage by terminating the pregnancy.

The pharmacist refused to help her, based on ethical grounds.

Is that what we’ve become? A country where anyone can refuse to serve anyone or help anyone based on any type of belief — philosophical, religious, ethical, political…whatever?

… her “victimhood,” which is how Sanders and her supporters are playing it, may be overshadowed may by their hypocrisy. The administration already has come out in support of businesses that don’t want to serve members of the LGBTQ community.

If the people supporting Sanders are willing to say that every business open to the public should serve every member of the public — no matter their political affiliation or religious beliefs or sexual identity or anything else — I’m with them.

But if they believe it is wrong to turn away Sanders but right for a pharmacist to turn away a suffering woman with medical needs they should check their moral compass. The declination is off.

It’s pointing to someplace other than America.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

George Will advises America to 'vote against the GOP'

Linda Lyon, writing in Blog for Arizona, reports that Another Conservative Breaks Free of the Matrix. This time? It’s George Will!

I’ll snag some snippets from Will’s original piece in the Washington Post titled, amazingly, Vote against the GOP this November.

Trump the dictator
Trump as Mussolini

Actually, it’s not so amazing if you consider two things. Will is a staunch and genuine conservative. He was a counselor of sorts to Nancy Regan. But, point two, the Republican party has abandoned conservatism on its way to autocracy. Trump has converted the party of Lincoln into what resembles Mussolini’s fascist state (as I noted earlier this month in Trump’s monarchical grab for absolute power puts him above the law - even if he shoots his enemies. The GOP is now a cult in thrall to Trump, the tin pot dictator.

Amid the carnage of Republican misrule in Washington, there is this glimmer of good news: The family-shredding policy along the southern border, the most telegenic recent example of misrule, clarified something. Occurring less than 140 days before elections that can reshape Congress, the policy has given independents and temperate Republicans — these are probably expanding and contracting cohorts, respectively — fresh if redundant evidence for the principle by which they should vote.

The principle: The congressional Republican caucuses must be substantially reduced. So substantially that their remnants, reduced to minorities, will be stripped of the Constitution’s Article I powers that they have been too invertebrate to use against the current wielder of Article II powers. …

Consider the melancholy example of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), who wagered his dignity on the patently false proposition that it is possible to have sustained transactions with today’s president, this Vesuvius of mendacities, without being degraded. … Ryan traded his political soul for . . . a tax cut. He who formerly spoke truths about the accelerating crisis of the entitlement system lost everything in the service of a president pledged to preserve the unsustainable status quo.

There I must take exception. Trump is most definitely not trying to preserve the status quo. He is trying to destroy our democratic institutions.

Ryan and many other Republicans have become the president’s poodles … Congress has [delegated its powers] out of sloth and timidity — to duck hard work and risky choices. … the [Corker trade]amendment would have peeved the easily peeved president. …

The Trump whisperer regarding immigration is Stephen Miller, 32, whose ascent to eminence began when he became the Savonarola of Santa Monica High School . Corey Lewandowski, a Trump campaign official who fell from the king’s grace but is crawling back (he works for Vice President Pence’s political action committee), recently responded on Fox News to the story of a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome taken from her parents at the border. Lewandowski replied: “Wah, wah.” Meaningless noise is this administration’s appropriate libretto because, just as a magnet attracts iron filings, Trump attracts, and is attracted to, louts.

And this loutishness is what so repulses Will. I doubt that the 90% of the Republicans firmly attached to Trump’s derriere, much like Lamprey eels sucking on fishes, will be converted to vote against Trump’s cult. Instead, they will hunker down and suck more strongly (see accompanying posts today). The rest of us must band together and follow Will’s advice in order to divest our body politic from Trump’s louts: vote against the GOP this November.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

When it comes to immigration, America needs to jettison old myths and accept new realities.

On March 25, 1964, on the floor of the U. S. Senate, Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas gave a speech titled “Old Myths and New Realities” in which he explored those forces “shaping and driving the development of US foreign policy in the post-war world.”

Fulbright began his speech with this observation.

Mr. President, there is an inevitable divergence, attributable to the imperfections of the human mind, between the world as it is and the world as men perceive it. As long as our perceptions are reasonably close to objective reality, it is possible for us to act upon our problems in a rational and appropriate manner. But when our perceptions fail to keep pace with events, when we refuse to believe something because it displeases or frightens us, or because it is simply startlingly unfamiliar, then the gap between fact and perception becomes a chasm, and action becomes irrelevant and irrational. There has always—and inevitably— been some divergence between the realities of foreign policy and our ideas about it. This divergence has in certain respects been growing, rather than narrowing; and we are handicapped, accordingly, by policies based on old myths, rather than current realities. This divergence is, in my opinion, dangerous and unnecessary—dangerous, because it can reduce foreign policy to a fraudulent game of imagery and appearances; unnecessary, because it can be overcome by the determination of men in high office to dispel prevailing misconceptions by the candid dissemination of unpleasant, but inescapable, facts.

Fulbright’s observation applies well to our current conceptualizations about and actions on immigration. To see what I mean, in the forgoing text substitute “immigration policy” for “foreign policy” (which I highlighted for you).

Dispelling Old Myths

Writing in the Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham reports that There’s no immigration crisis, and these charts prove it.

The humanitarian crisis involving immigrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border has, among other things, laid bare a number of falsehoods driving much of the Trump administration’s immigration agenda.

The administration has said that the country is in danger of being “overwhelmed” by “massive increases in illegal crossings” that will bring “horrible crime,” “unbelievably great taxpayer expense” and the loss of American jobs.

None of those claims are true.

… we’ve compiled some of Wonkblog’s coverage highlighting the latest data and research shedding light on erroneous beliefs about immigration in the United States.

I’ll list the myths and rebuttals. You’ll have to go to Ingraham’s report to get the charts and details.

Myth No. 1: Undocumented immigrants are flooding into the United States
In fiscal 2017, apprehensions of immigrants entering illegally at the Southwest border (a proxy for the total number of individuals crossing the border illegally) hit their lowest level in 46 years.

Myth No. 2: Undocumented immigrants bring crime
The reality is just the opposite: A large body of social-science literature has demonstrated that immigrants, legal or otherwise, commit crime at lower rates than native-born Americans.

Myth No. 3: Immigrants take our jobs and lower our wages
… The best information comes from a massive summary of the literature published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) in 2017. “Most studies find little effect of immigration on the employment of natives,” that report concluded. In other words, no, immigrants are not taking your jobs.

Myth No. 4: Immigrants are a drain on the economy
In fact, research by the Cato Institute has found that poor noncitizens are considerably less likely than poor native-born Americans to use public assistance programs. [Moreover, the report’s bottom line, based on its analysis of hundreds of economic studies: “Immigration is integral to the nation’s economic growth. The inflow of labor supply has helped the United States avoid the problems facing other economies that have stagnated as a result of unfavorable demographics, particularly the effects of an aging workforce and reduced consumption by older residents. In addition, the infusion of human capital by high-skilled immigrants has boosted the nation’s capacity for innovation, entrepreneurship and technological change.”

Here’s what we can say in conclusion. Current rates of illegal immigration remain extremely low by historic standards. Legal and undocumented immigrants are significantly less likely to commit most crimes than native-born citizens, making them a net benefit to public safety. The research shows that immigrants are not taking jobs away from U.S. natives, and their impact on wages appears to be small to nonexistent, particularly across the long term.

Immigration appears to be crucial to economic growth, particularly as native-born fertility rates decline. More immigration leads to a stronger economy, particularly on the long-term horizon.

What’s striking about these findings is they suggest an urgent need for a policy of greater immigration and more open borders at a time when the Trump administration is pursuing exactly the opposite. The true immigration crisis, as it turns out, may be that we’re not letting enough immigrants in.

Embracing New Realities

Ingraham’s last point is striking given the current Trump and Republican biases and bigotry. John Cassidy at The New Yorker elaborates and explains Why the United States Needs More Immigrants.

The fact is that America is becoming a white minority country and there is nothing that will stop that - short of getting white folks to breed like bunnies.

As controversy continued to rage on Thursday about the Trump Administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the southern border, the Census Bureau published new data that show why the United States will need more immigrants, not fewer, in the coming decades.

Demographers and economists have been warning that the aging baby-boomer population presents a serious challenge to the nation’s finances, as the ratio of seniors to working-age adults—the age-dependency ratio—rises. The reason is straightforward: Social Security and Medicare are largely financed on a pay-as-you-go basis, which means that some of the taxes paid by current workers are transferred to current retirees. If the dependency ratio rises, the financial burden on the working-age population also increases.

A front-page piece in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal pointed out that this problem was contained for a long time because the age-dependency ratio remained relatively steady. In 1980, there were nineteen Americans age sixty-five or older for every hundred Americans between the ages of eighteen and sixty-four. The dependency ratio was nineteen per cent. By 2010, it crept up to twenty-one per cent, an increase of just two percentage points in thirty years.

But the end of 2010 marked an important threshold. In 2011, the first members of the baby-boom generation (people born between 1946 and 1964) turned sixty-five. By 2017, the age-dependency ratio had risen to twenty-five per cent—an increase of four percentage points in just seven years. In the coming decades, it is expected to rise even more sharply. By 2030, “the ratio would climb to 35 retiree-age Americans for every 100 of working age . . . and 42 by 2060,” the Journal story said, citing projections released earlier this year.

The easiest way to grasp the seriousness of what is happening is to look at the fertility rate, which is the average number of babies born to mothers between the ages of fifteen and forty-four. Merely to replace the existing population, the fertility rate needs to be about 2.1 per cent. During the baby-boomer years, it reached 3.7 per cent. In 2017, it was just 1.76 per cent. If this trend persists, as it seems likely to do, it portends a declining population and a sharply rising dependency ratio.

From a public-finance perspective, there are several possible ways to tackle the looming challenge. One is to reduce the level of retirement benefits significantly—but that would be very unpopular and difficult to achieve politically. A second option is to increase the proportion of people who are working, among both working-age people and senior citizens. That, too, would be a mighty challenge, because the trend is going in the opposite direction. …

The final option is to welcome more immigrants, particularly younger immigrants, so that, in the coming decades, they and their descendants will find work and contribute to the tax base. Almost all economists agree that immigration raises G.D.P. and stimulates business development by increasing the supply of workers and entrepreneurs. …

In the long run, welcoming immigrants is a good investment for the United States. The entire history of the country demonstrates this fact. But the current President wants to go in the opposite direction. Along with introducing draconian measures to curb the influx of undocumented migrants, he wants to slash legal immigration. At the moment, the United States grants permanent-resident status to about a million people a year, and many of these folks go on to become U.S. citizens. Trump wants to cut this number in half, roughly speaking.

His policy isn’t driven by economics, of course. As he more or less admitted earlier this year, with his derisive comments about immigrants from “shithole countries,” it is driven by racism and a desire to resist the emergence of a nonwhite majority in the United States—a transformation that is inevitable and necessary.

What’s largely driving this transformation is the aging of the white population and a concomitant fall in white birth rates. In twenty-six states, according to a recent study from the Applied Population Lab at the University of Wisconsin, deaths in the white population now outnumber births. In other words, the number of white people in America is declining. The new Census Bureau figures suggest that this is also true on the national level. In 2016 and 2017, the number of white, non-Hispanic Americans fell by forty-one thousand, according to the Journal report.

… the underlying picture is clear: with the native white population aging rapidly, the U.S. economy and fiscal system are in dire need of other groups to pick up the slack. …

This shortage of young people is far from just an American phenomenon. (In many European countries, the age-dependency ratio is rising even faster.) This doesn’t justify a policy of open borders. But it does mean that the United States needs a President who is willing to face the real challenges facing the country, and recognize the benefits of large-scale immigration.

Like most public policy challenges, we don’t have to act yesterday, but there is a window of time during which we can take effective action to cushion the negative effects of a declining birth rate. To do it, we need to create an intelligent, informed immigration policy. And to do that we need to temper public perceptions of immigrants, the Old Myths, with facts about how our demographics will affect our economy and fiscal system, the New Realities.

Our lawmakers, administrators, and executives would be well advised to read Fulbright’s speech.

Trump supporters and GOP leaders deny that Trump is beyond control.

The NYTimes.com News Alert email contained this gem.

Trump voters have become a resilient force for the midterms. They leap to his defense, they say, because criticism has gotten out of control.
Saturday, June 23, 2018 1:23 PM EST

In interviews across the country over the last few days, dozens of Trump voters, as well as pollsters and strategists, described something like a bonding experience with the president that happens each time Republicans have to answer a now-familiar question: “How can you possibly still support this man?” Their resilience suggests a level of unity among Republicans that could help mitigate President Trump’s low overall approval ratings and aid his party’s chances of keeping control of the House of Representatives in November.

Trump's crowd in Duluth
The Cult of Trump in Minnesota,
an otherwise sensible state

Are you effing kidding me? Criticism out of control? This is not resilience. It’s cult worship. Here’s some of the longer story in As Critics Assail Trump, His Supporters Dig In Deeper.

Republican voters repeatedly described an instinctive, protective response to the president, and their support has grown in recent months: Mr. Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is now about 90 percent. And while polling has yet to capture the effect of the last week’s immigration controversy, the only modern Republican president more popular with his party than Mr. Trump at this point in his first term, according to Gallup, was George W. Bush after the country united in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The increasingly tribalized politics on the left and right have helped insulate Mr. Trump from the paroxysms that have jolted his party and eroded longstanding expectations of restraint, humility and honesty in American presidents. This era of tumult has left Democrats energized and determined to win back Congress and act as a check on Mr. Trump, and their intensity has been reflected by strong turnouts in the primaries so far. But still, in just the last year and a half, Mr. Trump has bounced back from crises that at the time seemed as if they might be too severe for him to recover politically.

… as another immigration crisis of his own making smoldered this past week, critics inside and outside Mr. Trump’s party predicted another devastating, irremediable low point in his presidency. Yet many Trump voters said that they no longer had the patience or interest to listen to what they see as another hysterical outburst by Democrats, Republican “Never Trumpers” and the media.

For many Republicans, the audio of children sobbing at a migrant detention center barely registered, because these voters don’t pay attention to the left-leaning and mainstream media that have covered the family separation crisis far more than their preferred channel, Fox News.

And would you believe that the Republicans in Congress are too busy saving their own skins to care about all this?

At Daily Kos, FiredUpInCA tells us that Mark Sanford Explains Why Republicans Will Do Nothing As The Republic is Destroyed.

Mark Sanford, who committed the unpardonable sin of speaking against the current occupant of the White House while being Republican, just lost his Congressional seat to an opponent that Trump endorsed.

In an interview [aired a week ago on] “Face the Nation,” he explains why we cannot expect a critical mass of Republicans to stop this President from denigrating our intelligence agencies, undermining the rule of law, destroying our oldest alliances or ending the assault on basic human rights when asylum seekers reach out to the United States.

The reason is craven and pathetic.

Sanford, a frequent critic of Trump who lost his primary this week to pro-Trump challenger Katie Arrington, suggested there’s a simple, unspoken principle in Congress that enables his party’s hands-off approach toward Trump: “What you do as an elected official is … an old-time senator told me years ago, the name of the game is staying in the game,” Sanford said. (from www.businessinsider.com).

The reason I’m so outspoken on this now is there is no seeming consequence to the president and lies. And if we accept that as a society, it is going to have incredibly harmful consequences in the way that we operate going forward based on the construct of the founding fathers.” (From nypost.com).

So the party of alleged Family Values, that supposedly defends the lives of children, will say nothing as more than 2000 children have been forcibly separated from their parents.

So the party of the heartland, real America and the last defenders of democracy will do nothing as their leader rejects and demeans our closest friends and gushes over tyrants like Putin and Kim.

Why support a recreational liar and underminer of American democracy?

For the same reason that the majority of the American press does not have the courage to call out this president as passionately as our comics do.

To stay in the Game.

Our lives are not a game. The character of our nation, as expressed through our policies, is not a game. Our democratic ideals are not a game.

Right now the nation’s soul is being forcibly separated from our stated values. We have been and are currently under assault by a hostile foreign power that is undermining our elections and a hostile President that is undermining our democracy, our culture and our future.

Complicit Republicans and their complicit voters are not a loyal opposition at this critical moment. They are a threat and we must outvote them everywhere, every time, in every election, whether its school boards, statehouses or the White House.

Because they do not care about whether or not they are ruining the country and the world for decades to come. They care about ruining the day of a liberal. They care about winning the Game.

But this is not a game.

Immigration retrospective - the week that should not have been.

In the era of Trump, every week is incredible. But this was a really incredible week. After defending the inhumane “zero tolerance” policy that rips children from their parents and then, either by incompetence or corrupt intent, ships them in the dead of night to detention facilities without any paper trail, Trump signed an executive order that stops the separation but leaves in place the 2300 kids that have been separated to date. (That’s an incredibly long sentence but, like I said, it’s been that kind of week.)

The Guardian has a retrospective look at this last week by David Smith in How family separations caused Trump’s first retreat – and deepened his bunker mentality. Besieged by negative press over pictures of frightened children, the president backed off. But his allies remain and the party is still his to command. Remember that a majority of Republicans think that Trump’s immigration policy is just A-OK.

Ostensibly, Trump’s executive order ended the separation of children from their parents at the Mexican border, after days of cascading outrage in America and around the world.

"He had to sign it for one simple reason,” said Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. “The imagery was so bad that he could no longer justify the policy. You had people out there making complete asses of themselves in front of cameras, from the attorney general to the secretary of homeland security, justifying this inhumanity and blaming the migrants who are coming here seeking asylum.”

Steele added: “There’s no doubt it absolutely was the critical piece that changed this around for the president because you cannot argue with the image of a three-year-old child standing at her mother’s side crying as she’s being handcuffed and taken from her no matter how much you try, no matter how much you try to rally your base around it. Some of the polling started to show even members of his base thought, ‘Well that that may be a little bit too far – maybe.’”

There were family separations before Trump but officials usually erred on the side of keeping parents and their children together. The justice department’s announcement in April that all unlawful border crossings would be criminally prosecuted changed that. Now people without documents were sent directly to detention centres and their children and babies put in separate facilities.

America looked at itself in the mirror and did not like what it saw. All four living former first ladies spoke out. Church leaders raised their voices. Liberal cable news host Rachel Maddow broke down in tears during a live broadcast. Bruce Springsteen, performing on Broadway, told his audience: “We are seeing things right now on our American borders that are so shockingly and disgracefully inhumane and un-American that it is simply enraging.”

Then there was First Lady Melania Trump, who flew to a children’s detention centre in Texas but upended her mission of compassion by wearing a Zara jacket bearing a slogan: “I really don’t care. Do U?” Her spokeswoman said there was no hidden message; her husband said there was a hidden message about the media.

Steele said: “It’s fucking 90 degrees here in Washington and Texas. I’m sorry, what do you think the response is going to be if you wear a coat like that going to the place you’re going in the midst of the controversy which your husband’s administration is embroiled in? How can you not think that people would say you’re basically flipping off this whole thing?”

Rich Galen, a Republican strategist and former press secretary to vice-president Dan Quayle, said: “Trump got to the point where even Republicans in the House or Senate openly disagreed with him, which they have not been willing to do on almost anything before this. The Republicans were getting blistered by their constituents and starting to sense they need to establish their own personalities in their districts. If I was a Democrat woman running against a Republican man, this is all I’d run [in TV commercials].”

The Republican rebellion should not be overstated, however. [Sen. Ted] Cruz and others were careful to swerve past condemnation of Trump, who remains utterly dominant in the party. …

Steele reflected: “I’m not going to give them brownie points for doing something that they should do without having to feel that they should get a pat on the back. There’s no applause for that because you’ve let so many other things go unaccounted for, uncommented on, you’ve turned your head the other way, looking in shame instead of standing straight up and going, ‘This is wrong.’ We are here because those leaders and significant numbers of our neighbours and friends have allowed us to be here. They want us to be here. This is the space we’re in. So now we have to deal with this.”

The sentiment was echoed by Neil Sroka, communications director for the progressive political action committee Democracy for America. “I don’t think they found their backbone as much as they found a level they could not withstand politically,” he said. “The last week showed they only care about the politics of the situation: it doesn’t matter how many brown lives they ruin as long as they advance Donald Trump’s agenda.

Sroka said: “Something in Donald Trump’s reptilian brain couldn’t understand the morality but understood that using children as bargaining chips is politically toxic. The fallback position we’re in now is equally toxic. He went from the government kidnapping children to the Department of Defense setting up internment camps for families.”

And remember: “It also does nothing to reunite those already separated.”

Zoe Carpenter at The Nation reports that The Trump Administration Still Has No Plan to Reunite Families It Tore Apart. The 2,300 children who have been taken from their parents face a tangled legal process and a shortage of lawyers to help them through it.

… rather than clarify the problems facing separated families, Trump’s executive order only replaces one disastrous policy with another. Officials are reportedly preparing to house as many as 20,000 children and their families on military bases, a plan that may well violate the Flores settlement, which establishes basic protections for children in federal custody. Accordingly, the Trump administration is petitioning a court to dismantle Flores. “In some respects, the executive order makes things worse,” Efrén Olivares said. “The use of military facilities and the potential construction of additional facilities is outrageous. In 2018, to be building internment camps for immigrants is unconscionable.”

To that I would add a reminder that Justice requisitioned 21 JAG lawyers from Defense to work on immigration matters at the border. These are active U. S. military working in service of civilian policies in the 50 states. Together with the housing of immigrants on military bases, that strikes me as a violation of posse comitatus. From Wikipedia, “In the United States, a federal statute known as the Posse Comitatus Act, enacted in 1878, forbade the use of the United States Army, and through it, its offspring, the United States Air Force, as a posse comitatus or for law enforcement purposes without the approval of Congress.” But that would not be the only law trampled by the Trumpians.

And when you drill down to the individual level, the cases of children separated from their parents is a psychological nightmare. Amanda Schaffer at The New Yorker reports on A Physician in South Texas on an Unnerving Encounter with an Eight-Year-Old Boy in Immigration Detention.

(Below are snippets but you should read the entire article that describes interactions of the physician with the adult handlers of that boy. Sick.)

Alicia Hart has worked as an emergency physician in South Texas for ten years, and has seen a stream of migrant children from Guatemala and Honduras come to the U.S. fleeing gang violence. In the past, most of the kids in her care were teen-agers who had crossed the border unaccompanied and ended up in government detention facilities. Many of them were fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen years old and seemed capable of living away from their families. Most came to the emergency room for common childhood complaints, such as viral illnesses, asthma, and allergies. “Some had sad stories from their home countries, but they seemed relieved to be here,” Hart said. “It seemed like most were just waiting to be sent to relatives in the U.S.”

But then the Trump Administration began to enforce a “zero tolerance” approach toward migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, a move that included separating parents from their children. (The President apparently revoked the policy on Wednesday.) The number of young children in detention facilities rose sharply. “The population I’ve been starting to see is younger, and it scares me,” Hart said. “These are little people, little babies. And they are ill-equipped to fend for themselves. They’re so totally traumatized. They don’t cry like normal kids. They don’t interact like normal kids.”

Last week, on a day when Hart was on duty, the charge nurse called her over to examine a child who needed clearance for psychiatric treatment. He was eight years old, and he sat hunched in a recliner chair next to the nurses’ station. …

"This boy seemed devastated—quiet and withdrawn. He barely spoke. I asked if he needed a hug. I kneeled down in front of the recliner, and this kid just threw himself into my arms and didn’t let go. He cried and I cried. And to think he’s been in a facility for a month without a hug, away from his parents, and scared, and not knowing when he’ll see them again or if he’ll see them again. … If we get these kids to the psychiatrists, at least they’re in a protective unit, away from these detention facilities, and they will get some of the counselling they need, because they’ve been through a tremendous trauma. The idea of pulling a child out of a parent’s arms, or identifying a parent but still keeping them separate—it isn’t right. Just deep in your viscera, you say, ‘This is wrong.’ ”

And, sadly, there is no end in sight of the wrong inflicted by Trump on the immigrants and on our nation. Expect more revelations of more wrongs in the week starting tomorrow, another week that should never be.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Arizona Fails Another Test

Yesterday, the Network for Public Education and the Schott Foundation for Public Education, released a report titled “Grading the States” that serves as a report card on our nation’s commitment to public schools. At the onset, they challenge the belief in privatization as the solution and write,
Although the public school system is not perfect and has continual room for improvement, it is still the cornerstone of community empowerment and advancement in American society.
Therein, I believe, lies the rub. Those driving America’s economic engine, don’t want everyone aboard the train. Instead, those who most “have”, are working very hard to leave the “have nots” at the station. As Stephen Brill writes in his new book “Tailspin”,
Conservatives have always preached self-reliance while liberals favored an activist government that assures the common good. However, [what we are seeing now] is a new, wider, and more dangerous divide - between those at the top, who enjoy unprecendented power, and everyone else. For those at the top, the common good is no longer good for them.
Even though many Americans have become polarized into either the Conservative or Liberal camps, the real fight isn't there. Increasingly, it is between the MEGA "haves" and the "have-nots". Truth is, for these MEGA "haves", political ideology and allegiance to our nation, are likely much less important than maintaining and improving their status. After all, in our global economy, our country's borders are no barrier to their multi-national interests and in their gilded worlds, not only do they increasingly not care about the common good, they don’t even need it. And nothing, is more all about the “common good” than public education. It provides opportunity to all and is largely responsible for building the strongest middle class in the world, once making the American Dream a possibility for many.
Now, that Dream is largely out-of-reach by the vast majority of Americans and the assault on public education is a real threat to our nation. As “Grading the States” points out,
Privatization in public schools weakens our democracy and often sacrifices the rights and opportunities of the majority for the presumed advantage of a small percentage of students.
Those paying attention, are aware of the threat. What "Grading the States" does, is drive home the havoc being wreaked by grading each state according to “instituted policies and practices that lead toward fewer democratic opportunities and more privatization”, as well as “the guardrails put into place [or not] to protect the rights of students, communities and taxpayers”.
It should surprise no Arizona public school advocate that our state received an “F” rating. It also should not surprise that Arizona was ranked 51st overall, 50th in voucher policy and 49th in charter policy.
Delving into further details, the report notes that,
Of the 18 states with Tuition Tax-Credit Programs, 9 fail to require any accreditation of the schools that receive a benefit from such Tuition Tax-Credit Programs. Arizona has the worst accountability over their Tuition Tax-Credit Programs. Except for requiring background checks for teachers and employees, Arizona’s Tuition Tax-Credit Programs fail all the reviewed accountability categories.
It also points out that although privatization advocates claim “vouchers and charter programs are more accountable than public schools”, research just doesn’t bear this out.
For example, the ESA program of Arizona, the largest in the country, expects no evidence or monitoring of student achievement, while placing 90% of the public school funding on a debit card for parents to find non-public education services.
Only public district schools after all, have locally elected governing board members, who are accountable to the voters and taxpayers, and must adhere to open meeting laws.
Perhaps craziest of all, is that we are all being sold a bill of goods that aren't, by and large, delivering better results and that most of us really don't want. According to the report, a poll conducted in October 2017 found that,
among all registered voters, only 40 percent supported vouchers while 55 percent are opposed. This number further decreases to 23 percent with opposition at 70 percent when voters were asked to consider support if it meant less money for public schools.
In Arizona, a December 2016 poll supported these findings, showing that 77 percent indicated the state should spend more money on our schools and 61 percent indicated they would support a tax increase to provide additional funding for education.
To understand why then, the push to privatize is being pursued with such vigor, one need only follow the profit and power. The U.S. K-12 education market is estimated to be worth some $700 billion. The oversight of public education is the most fundamental exercise of our right to self-govern and in many communities, our districts are the hubs of those communities. If the privatizers succeed in killing our right to, and interest in, engaging on behalf of our children, what engagement will we still care about?