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Saturday, June 23, 2018


Saturday Night at the Movies

She’s gotta have it: Let the Sunshine In (***½)

By Dennis Hartley

In one scene from Claire Denis’ Let the Sunshine In, several people take a country stroll. One of them stops and says, “What fascinates me is that this landscape is…nothing. Shapes, colors, a sunbeam. Yet it becomes part of us, and does us good. It’s totally intact. It’s rare. Nature that looks like nature.” That may sound like dime store profundity, but if you apply the same observation to acting, it gains depth. After all, the best actors are…nothing; a blank canvas. But give them a character (shapes and colors) and some proper lighting (a sunbeam), and they will give back something that becomes part of us, and does us good: a reflection of our own shared humanity. Nature that looks like nature.

Consider Julilette Binoche, an actress of such subtlety and depth that she could infuse a cold reading of McDonald’s $1 $2 $3 menu with the existential ennui of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 123. Binoche is not required to recite any sonnets in this film (co-written by the director and Christine Angot), but her character does speak copiously about love; love in all its guises: erotic, affectionate, familiar, playful, obsessive, enduring, self, and selfless.

She also makes a lot of love (I don’t judge. I merely observe and report). Her character, a Parisian painter named Isabelle, is a divorcee on the rebound. She’s looking for love in all the usual places, yet not settling for any one suitor. She’s pretty sure she knows what she wants, but she’s not 100% sure she really needs it (or has at least been around the block enough times to remain wary). That said, an inordinate number of her lovers happen to be married; and we know that scenario frequently ends in tears. So-what gives?

You may think you know how this is all going to turn out, but Denis’ film, like love itself, is at once seductive and flighty. It’s also quite amusing at times; with a casual eroticism that reminded me of Jean-Jacques Beineix’s 1986 film Betty Blue. Granted, Isabelle isn’t quite as off the rails as poor Betty, but she has issues (perhaps she is closer to Cate Blanchett’s character in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine). There is even an echo of Mike Nichols’ Carnal Knowledge in an extraordinary (and unexpected) denouement featuring Gerard Depardieu (I won’t spoil it for you). One thing I will tell you is that you won’t be able to take your eyes off Binoche; she gives it her all in a bravura performance.

Previous posts with related themes:
2 Days in New York
Certified Copy
A Summer’s Tale

More reviews at Den of Cinema
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--Dennis Hartley

Klaatu barada nikto

by digby

Nobody tells the baby president he can't have his toys:

President Trump’s surprise decision to order the creation of a U.S. “Space Force” came because he was frustrated with Pentagon officials for not taking up his initial suggestion, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Trump directed the Defense Department on Monday to create the country’s sixth military service branch, a move that shocked Pentagon officials and lawmakers.

People familiar with the decision told the Journal that Trump often throws out ideas in public but then expects his aides and Cabinet officials to create follow-through plans.
Trump gets frustrated and make demands when he feels like his appointees haven’t jumped into action, the newspaper reported.

“He doesn’t forget, and ultimately erupts when he feels slighted,” a former high-level industry and government official said.

The White House did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

Trump first tossed out the idea of a Space Force in March.

“You know, I was saying it the other day — because we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space — I said, 'Maybe we need a new force, we’ll call it the Space Force.' And I was not really serious, and then I said, 'What a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that. That could happen,' ” Trump said during a speech to military personnel in San Diego

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Air Force Chief of Staff David Golden and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright all opposed the idea of a separate space branch when the issue was proposed by the House Armed Services Committee last year.

“I oppose the creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions,” Defense Secretary James Mattis wrote in 2017.

Wilson and other senior Air Force commanders reportedly had no idea Trump's announcement was coming when they met for a strategy session last week.

A new military branch has not been created since the Air Force in 1947.

Oh look, the border isn't crime ridden

by digby

I know the president would like Americans to believe that the border is "infested" with crime but he's lying as usual. This article about the most violent Texas cities tells the tale:

Border cities get a bad rap as violent, but the Rio Grande Valley is extremely safe. Of the 24 Texas metro areas ranked by the FBI, Brownsville comes in dead last, with 240 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 people. Nearby McAllen comes in at #18, with 286 per 100,000.

This tracks with what many of the residents are saying all over TV too. They say there is no crisis and that things were pretty placid, at least until Trump and Sessions decided to divide the country once again.

There are, of course, total fascists who are getting on TV and praising the "gung ho" border patrol types who have "taken off the gloves." But they're liars too.

Gitmo was supposed to be temporary too

by digby

In case you missed this one:

The U.S. Navy is preparing plans to construct sprawling detention centers for tens of thousands of immigrants on remote bases in California, Alabama and Arizona, escalating the military’s task in implementing President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy for people caught crossing the Southern border, according to a copy of a draft memo obtained by TIME.

The internal document, drafted for the Navy Secretary’s approval, signals how the military is anticipating its role in Trump’s immigration crackdown. The planning document indicates a potential growing military responsibility in an administration caught flat-footed in having to house waves of migrants awaiting civilian criminal proceedings.

The Navy memo outlines plans to build “temporary and austere” tent cities to house 25,000 migrants at abandoned airfields just outside the Florida panhandle near Mobile, Alabama, at Navy Outlying Field Wolf in Orange Beach, Alabama, and nearby Navy Outlying Field Silverhill.

The memo also proposes a camp for as many as 47,000 people at former Naval Weapons Station Concord, near San Francisco; and another facility that could house as many as 47,000 people at Camp Pendleton, the Marines’ largest training facility located along the Southern California coast. The planning memo proposes further study of housing an undetermined number of migrants at the Marine Corps Air Station near Yuma, Arizona.

The planning document estimates that the Navy would spend about $233 million to construct and operate a facility for 25,000 people for a six-month time period. The proposal suggests these tent cities be built to last between six months and one year.

There's money for all this bullshit along with Ivanka's tax cuts. But that's it. Everything else is on the chopping block.

Don't get complacent people. His rabid followers number in the tens of millions and they believe every lie he tells (or at least appreciate the fact that he lies just like they do) and they will walk on hot coals for him. They aren't depressed. They are energized by this.


For Clinton they called it "fatigue". For Trump "bonding"

by digby

This exact phenomenon was presented and defined very differently when it came to Clinton:

Gina Anders knows the feeling well by now. President Trump says or does something that triggers a spasm of outrage. She doesn’t necessarily agree with how he handled the situation. She gets why people are upset.

But Ms. Anders, 46, a Republican from suburban Loudoun County, Va., with a law degree, a business career, and not a stitch of “Make America Great Again” gear in her wardrobe, is moved to defend him anyway.

“All nuance and all complexity — and these are complex issues — are completely lost,” she said, describing “overblown” reactions from the president’s critics, some of whom equated the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children and parents to history’s greatest atrocities.

“It makes me angry at them, which causes me to want to defend him to them more,” Ms. Anders said.

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 Mr. Trump’s low overall approval ratings and aid his party’s chances of keeping control of the House of Representatives in November.

“He’s not a perfect guy; he does some stupid stuff,” said Tony Schrantz, 50, of Lino Lakes, Minn., the owner of a water systems leak detection business. “But when they’re hounding him all the time it just gets old. Give the guy a little.”

Yeah, I remember that feeling back in the 1990s. I don't remember even one member of the press saying it was good for Clinton.


"Not a stitch of Make America Great Again" wardrobe my ass.

It turns out that this woman Gina Anders isn't just some nice Republican lady they found randomly:

[Republican candidate] Tabb said she has become alarmed by the rightward drift of the Republican Party in Jefferson County. She said its alignment with the tea party’s anti-government, anti-tax agenda and the party’s affiliation with far-right activist groups that have sprung up over the last decade – such as We the People of West Virginia-Jefferson County, started by now-state Sen. Patricia Rucker, and the Liberty Political Action Committee begun by Stephen C. Anders and Gina Anders, formerly of Maryland, then of Shepherdstown and now living in Loudoun County, Va., have made the party almost unrecognizable to her.

This happens over and over again --- stories about supposedly Average Joe Real American turn out to be right wing extremist activists. It wouldn't have taken much to find that out.


Kids for decency

by digby

This is a Move-on initiative:



Parents everywhere are grappling with how to talk about this with their kids—and how, together, we can make a difference in solidarity with immigrant families at our borders. You can collect funds at your lemonade stand and then make an online payment to a coalition of 14 groups protecting immigrant kids being taken from their families.

Groups include Al Otro Lado, The Florence Project, Neta, Innovation Law Lab, Fuerza Del Valle, The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, We Belong Together, United We Dream, The Women’s Refugee Commission, The ACLU, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, Human Rights First, and La Union de Pueblo Entero.

Give away a free cookie or lemonade to your neighbors who:

Write a postcard or letter to an immigrant kid being detained without their parents at the border. National Domestic Workers Alliance will help deliver them.

Sign up to participate in an event as part of the June 30th Families Belong Together National Day of Action. (If you can, have a phone, laptop or tablet available with the website pulled up and ready to go so you can sign up your customers right then and there!)


In the run up to the Families Belong Together National Day of Action on June 30th, host your lemonade stand this weekend, anytime Saturday, June 23rd or Sunday, June 24th.

Good morning, good morning

by digby

I've got nothing to say but it's okay

The best.

That is all.


Causes not symptoms

by Tom Sullivan

The level of national anguish over the Trump administration's unconscionable treatment of children on the southern border obscures the deeper factors at work that precipitated it. As does the immediacy of preventing additional long-term damage to the children involved.

In a reunification scene between mother and child in Baltimore, the Guatemalan mother weeps as she hold her seven-year-old for the first time in a month. The boy seems at first dazed from his month in custody.

But Damon Linker argues the right's crackdown on the flood of immigrants and asylum seekers is tilting the left further towards embracing an open borders policy that may prove as unworkable as it is politically fraught. "In such a situation," Linker writes, "it's crucially important for voters to know that, wherever we ultimately choose to set the annual rate of immigration and whatever admissions criteria we use, we will enforce it, by taking firm control of the border and continuing to uphold the politically crucial distinction between who is and who is not a citizen."

Peter Beinart, he notes, drew criticism last summer for writing that the left does not take seriously enough "Americans’ yearning for social cohesion."

More recently, David Frum cautioned that Trump's "brutish methods" are radicalizing his opponents, pushing them towards a view that immigration itself is a civil right and that immigration enforcement is totalitarian. "Immigration control is both conservative and progressive," Frum argues, "progressive because it enhances equality and mobility; conservative because it binds societies more cohesively together and strengthens the connection between a society’s past and its future." As an immigrant himself, Frum warns that "border laxness empowers extremism.

"If you don’t have Borders, you don’t have a Country!" tweets the extremist-in-chief. Trump is doing his best Col. Chivington imitation, branding immigrants an infestation. Those entering the country illegally (or even legally) are criminals. The law is the law, and if enforcing it is harsh, so be it. The message plays well with his base of authoritarian followers. They are already threatened by the loss of status resulting from the greatest income disparity in this country since the Gilded Age. The fear comes naturally that poor immigrants represent competition for fewer, smaller crumbs falling from the tables of the wealthy.

Thus, the focus on the southern border and the plight of those caught up in the inhumanity of Trump's "zero tolerance" misses another dynamic at work. Where there is one, harsh law for the poor and another lax one for the rich, you don't have a country either. You have a kingdom. That's just what Americans fought a revolution to end and what Trump and Trumpism seek to restore.

I read recently that someone (Paul Manafort perhaps) caught up in the Russia investigation was taken aback at his treatment by the justice system. It seemed so harsh and capricious, he felt it was personal. Someone was out to get him. The whine was not unlike, "You can't do this to me. I'm an American!" Only in this case, a rich American. Poorer citizens familiar with our system of justice know better. The wealthy and better-connected typically have the means to avoid it. It's not designed to punish them anyway. It's meant to enrich the private prison industry at the expense of the poor and taxpayers alike. Justice is a byproduct, if there is one.

What the focus on the humanitarian disaster also misses is that the solution won't be found either by improving the immigration system or punishing more poor refugees. It will come from paying more attention to the hemispheric neighborhood an America first policy abandons. The Council on Foreign Relations reports that most of the refugees headed north are fleeing some of the most violent countries in the world. The instability is the product of both U.S. interference and neglect. It won't be solved by harsher enforcement of our own laws but by the Northern Triangle putting its own house in order and making El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras safe again for their own people.

American involvement there has made things worse in the past, but leaving things to just work out while we focus on domestic problems seems myopic. In any case, America is on no mood to help anyway.

[h/t DB]

* * * * * * * *

For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday Night Soother

by digby

Koko has died. :(

"The Gorilla Foundation is sad to announce the passing of our beloved Koko," the research center says, informing the world about the death of a gorilla who fascinated and elated millions of people with her facility for language.

Koko, who was 46, died in her sleep Tuesday morning, the Gorilla Foundation said. At birth, she was named Hanabi-ko — Japanese for "fireworks child," because she was born at the San Francisco Zoo on the Fourth of July in 1971. She was a western lowland gorilla.

"Her impact has been profound and what she has taught us about the emotional capacity of gorillas and their cognitive abilities will continue to shape the world," the Gorilla Foundation said.

Throughout her life, Koko's abilities made headlines. After she began communicating with humans through American Sign Language, she was featured by National Geographic — and she took her own picture (in a mirror) for the magazine's cover.

That cover came out in 1978, seven years after Koko was chosen as an infant to work on a language research project with the psychologist Francine "Penny" Patterson. In 1985, the magazine profiled the affectionate relationship between the gorilla and her kitten: Koko and All Ball.

Koko amazed scientists in 2012, when she showed she could learn to play the recorder. The feat revealed mental acuity but also, crucially, that primates can learn to intricately control their breathing — something that had been assumed to be beyond their abilities.

Her ability to interact with people made Koko an international celebrity. But she also revealed the depth and strength of a gorilla's emotional life, sharing moments of glee and sadness with researchers Patterson and Ron Cohn.

"Famously, Koko felt quite sad in 1984 when her adopted kitten Ball was hit by a car and died. How do we know? Here is nonhuman primate grief mediated through language: In historical footage in the film, Patterson is seen asking Koko, "What happened to Ball?" In reply, Koko utters these signs in sequence: cat, cry, have-sorry, Koko-love. And then, after a pause, two more signs: unattention, visit me."

I know this is a sad story but Koko lived a long, full life and taught humans a whole lot about the sentience of our animal friends. As I get older I like them so much more than some of the humans with whom we share this planet.



Don't make trouble. Pretend Trump doesn't exist and everything will be ok.

by digby

We are all worried that Trump's race baiting will get his Fox viewing deplorable voters off their couch in November to push back the Blue Wave. This article from Amy Walter at the Cook Report indicates they are getting very excited unlike their reaction in 2006.

But my God, this via a piece by Susan Glasser in the New Yorker is insane:

I asked Merkley what his spotlight-loving Democratic colleagues had thought of his viral moment exposing the Trump Administration. The story had exploded, Merkley recalled, but not everyone was happy about it. Some of the other senators were shocked, telling him, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe that they’re really doing it.” But others, Merkley told me, quickly saw political peril. “There were folks saying, ‘My goodness, shifting the attention from health care to immigration is a huge political mistake.’ ”

The story goes on to handwring about how this is the one wedge issue that really works for Trump and how dangerous it is for Democrats to stray from their positive message of health care and the minimum wage. The implication is that talking about Trump's incompetence and malevolence will just make his voters love him so we need to complain about the Republicans trying to repeal Obamacare and pretend it's 2008 and say "yes we can!" (Don't say si se puede, though. That might rile up the Trumpies and we need to keep them as happy as possible at all times.)

Trying to appease these people and motivate the Democratic base by re-running their old campaigns and presenting a sunny vision of America is delusional. Republicans can't be appeased by Democrats because they are completely delirious that their Dear Leader is holding a national hatefest. That's what makes them happy. Meanwhile, Democratic voters will think these Democratic politicians are as depraved as Trump if they don't describe this grotesque insanity for what it is.

Pretending that what is happening isn't happening will simply not work. Trump is going to spend the next few months doing what he always does: spew racist to thrill his racist base. The only thing Democrats can do is get their own base out and acting like a bunch of cynical cowards isn't going to get the job done.

This is a fight whether we like it or not. If Democrats can't even show enough courage to make an argument to a majority of the American people that taking babies away from their mothers is a bad policy then we might as well surrender to Trumpism and get on with the re-education camps. This isn't even a close call.

What To Do If Kids Separated From Parents Are Found In Your City?

by Spocko

On Wednesday Rachel Maddow interviewed Garance Burke, the national investigative reporter for the Associated Press, about "tender age" facilities where the Trump administration is keeping babies and toddlers taken from parents seeking asylum in the U.S.
Garance Burke, national investigative reporter for the AP, discusses "tender age" facilities
where the Trump administration is keeping babies and toddlers taken from parents seeking asylum in the U.S. 
Burke explained that children were being sent to many places around the country. Rachel then did a segment. Are they holding them in your state? In your town?

She described how people who have knowledge of what is going on are leaking to the press.

On Thursday we started to see this happening. Chicago-based Heartland Alliance confirmed it was providing shelter for migrant children who were separated from their families. CBS's Lauren Victory did a story about what they found out. At the time they didn't know how many children or where they are located.

The reporter contacted the Mayor's office who didn't know anything about it. The reporter was still investigating. What happens next?

What should you do if you find out separated children are in your city? Find the location and organize a protest? It depends on who the players are and what your goals are.

What if you find out kids are being held in a "tender age" facility run by a government agency? People should learn where the kids are so they can protest at the location. Burke talked about how she found the "tender age" facilities by following the vendors and suppliers to the locations of the facilities.

But what if the children are in a non-profit shelter that's not bad? You could find the location the kids are being held and go protest there, but maybe the reason they don't want locations to be known is they also house children from domestic violence cases.

Maybe the kids have their own rooms, aren't in cages or drugged. Maybe the non-profit is providing good shelter. The separation of families still needs to be protested, because the kids still aren't with their parents.

Young immigrants arrive with their parents at the Catholic Charities RGV after they were
processed and released Tuesday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in McAllen, Texas.
I've found lots of good people in nonprofits who want to help kids. They too are disgusted by Trump's program and the concentration camp facilities with ceiling-high metal fencing, space blankets and 24/7 lighting.

For example, from Heartland Alliance website:
"Heartland Alliance does not agree with separating children from their parents at the border. It is our moral obligation to keep children safe while they are in our care.

We operate nine shelters in the Chicagoland area, and our first priority is the safety and welfare of the children in our care. We provide a stable, nurturing environment. Our staff speak the languages of the children in their care. They focus on the children’s well-being and help them to heal from trauma, and work to reunify the children with their families as soon as possible. Keeping the identities of children and details of their circumstances confidential is essential to these efforts."
In the process of helping the kids, and protesting the program, you don't want to hurt the people who are trying to do the right thing. So what can you do?

Find The Best Images and Allies

A big part of this story involves showing images of the bad conditions the kids are being held in. If you want to show bad shelter conditions, but not specific locations, there are ways to do it. Find elected officials who can go to undisclosed locations to ask to inspect the facilities.

This gives you a chance for a visual and a message. If the person can't get in to see the children, you still have video of a politician opposing the program. With a politician and a protest at a symbolic location, a media outlet can still do a story about the terrible program, even if there are no crying babies.

And here is another big reason you don't always want to go to the location. The visuals of the kids in the shelter might not be terrible! I have a source who confirms good conditions for the kids in Heartland Alliance shelters. I was happy to hear that, but the kids still aren't with their parents. But even if conditions are fine, the previous cases of separation still need to be protested.

The media now has to mention the executive order the President signed. But it doesn't address what is happening with the children already separated. Stories of separation and what happens to those families needs to come out in your media now. This is important to do because Fox News will be searching for and providing examples of abuses of the immigration and asylum system.

Prepare for the GOP Fox News Pushback

Something I don't see activists working though is the need to anticipate the GOP response to actions. For example, once you have picked a Democratic politician who will talk about the child separation program in your city, they need to be prepared for the GOP response. Yesterday I watched a politician and bunch of obese white people in a cafe in Arizona throw out talking points that support Trump's baby snatching program.

"The parents illegally came here... blah, blah, blah. "

If your Democratic politician knows what the GOP opposition will say and your spokesperson knows what the fat white people in Arizona will use as talking points, they can preempt them with specifics of the families involved.

Trump supporters deal in generalities and imaginary bad guys. When given a specific case to comment on they get stumped and move to generalities.

Know About The Worse Cases And Best Cases

We will need to provide lots of real cases to show the public because the Trump supporters will be shown cases of abuse of the asylum system and cases of crime from illegal immigrants.

(I wrote this part last night. This afternoon Trump held an event where he gave statistics of "the human toll of illegal immigrant" He starts talking about homicides and kidnapping from a 2011 report with idea over what period of time these happened. Then he talks about arrests in Texas over 7 years of "criminal aliens" (vs "illegal aliens") with no break down of the crimes. After talking about murder, robbery and kidnapping people will assume they are from homicides, robberies or kidnapping. The Washington Post did an analysis of Trump's number of crimes committed by people who entered the US illegally? Guess what? They are totally BS, untrue, made up. Source>? from PETE KING from 2005 https://t.co/PqaONObTuN )

Fox or Trump PR will find a story of a human trafficker from MS-13 who claimed to be a parent. Even if they have to go back years and ignore tens of thousands legitimate asylum seekers, they will get that story to Fox, Breitbart and Town Hall.

Fox will explain that the bad guy came in under Obama years ago! Fox will then run that story of the abuse of the system 24/7. It will be shared and forwarded on email and Facebook millions of times just to prove to the libtards that bad people slipped through.

Then, because of the Fox story of abuse, the MSM will run a story about it. Because of how the MSM works thousands of legitimate asylum seekers will be "balanced" against a handful of abuses, making it look like half of the people entering are liars. That is why a big part of our job as activists is to show the preponderance of evidence of why asylum programs are necessary.

Soon, the right wing will find stories of people who gamed the system, they will find and share specific stories of immigration abuses and coached children- because they exist. We don't need to deny the stories exist (although we do need to verify them!) In response we need to show and share examples from the tens of thousands of cases where the need for asylum was real, the children weren't coached and the parents were trying to get away from a bad situation to a better life.

Finally we should also show stories of what great citizens the dreamers and asylum seekers have become.
A little something to dream about

by digby

This is probably nothing. But I'm going to enjoy thinking about Trump's reaction to it for a few minutes:
Tom Arnold—the actor and comedian who’s said he’s on a mission to find incriminating video of President Trump—tweeted a photo of himself with Michael Cohen late Thursday, saying “this dude has all the tapes.” Trump’s longtime attorney, who retweeted the photo, apparently talked to Arnold for a Vice show that is to be called “The Hunt for the Trump Tapes.” Arnold told NBC News about the meeting: “We’ve been on the other side of the table and now we’re on the same side. It’s on! I hope [Trump] sees the picture of me and Michael Cohen and it haunts his dreams.” He didn’t say if Cohen handed over any salacious evidence, but said: “This dude has everything... I say to Michael, ‘Guess what? We’re taking Trump down together, and he’s so tired he’s like, ‘OK,’ and his wife is like, ‘OK, fuck Trump.’” 
Cohen retweeted it.


It's a Feature, Not a Bug 

by tristero

The Trump administration never had a plan to re-unite children ripped from their mothers. And the media has gone out of its way to publicize that lack of a plan and to blame it on Trump's incompetence. The emphasis on incompetence obscures the fact that this lack of planning was intentional. Its purpose was to send a message to anyone seeking to migrate to the US that you will endanger not only your own lives but literally lose your children. They also intended the media to repeat this message over and over again. It is the tactic of the most cynical of terrorists.

Another way to say this is that the thugs who make up the Trump administration are not merely logistically incompetent. They are morally incompetent as well. They have not a shred of human decency.

As painful as this is to watch, the "success" of this tactic makes it all but inevitable that Trump and his fascist goons will try it again, only with even worse consequences.

We should never forget this: This is not about their will to power or about our moral outrage at the destruction of America. This is about children who are being abused and tortured. This is about them, innocent children who will suffer horribly. That is why it must be resisted or stopped.
So much winning: his incompetence just proves the right wing's point

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

President Trump has now been in office for a year and a half. By this time presidents who are unfamiliar with the ways of Washington (and that is not uncommon) have gotten past the rough spots, settled into the job, and figured out how to work the levers of power. Some are naturally better at it than others and some take a while to get their bearings. And some seem to always be in the middle of some kind of political drama while others just seem to stay placid and even-keeled, almost to the point of being boring. (Bill Clinton vs Barack Obama comes to mind.) But however they start out, a year and half in they have settled into whatever their groove is going to be and are operating at a high level of professional competence. It's the presidency of the United States, after all.

None of that applies to Trump. He is just as incompetent today as he was the day after his inauguration when he sent out Sean Spicer in an ill-fitting suit to defend his preposterous claim that his inauguration crowd was bigger than President Obama's. In fact, he has actually gotten worse at the job instead of better. If anyone labored under the impression that the responsibility and importance of the job would by its very nature force a president, no matter how seemingly unfit, to rise to the occasion Trump has disabused them of it.

Setting aside the relentless palace intrigue, which I think is unprecedented in American presidential history, and his endless insults and rhetorical excesses, his inability to craft an even minimally competent policy much less implement it after all this time is astonishing. During the campaign he assured his followers that the presidency was going to be easy for him because he is such a genius that he would able to do everything he promised almost immediately. So, when he came into office and seven days later had his unctuous factotum Stephen Miller scratch out an Executive Order banning travelers and refugees from predominantly Muslim countries that was so incompetent and amateurish that it stranded travelers all over the world and threw the entire immigration system into total chaos, most people chalked it up to an over-eager rookie mistake. He wanted to make good on his promise and didn't understand the complexities of the job just yet. They weren't fully staffed and hadn't thought through the logistical ramifications of just pulling the plug and didn't realize that there were serious constitutional issues that would have to be considered. Surely it wouldn't happen again.

Yet here we are a year and half later and they just did exactly the same thing with this ridiculous zero-tolerance policy at the border. Once again they instituted a half-baked policy based on some idiotic demagoguery (and Trump's desperation for his wall) without considering what would come after.

In this case they thought they were being very clever by arresting everyone who steps foot on American soil without proper papers and then separating them from their kids, thinking "hey, we've got facilities and processes for unaccompanied minors who turn up at the border so we'll just call these kids that and it will all be fine." But they failed to anticipate how people would react when they saw that the children coming over the border with their parents wouldn't be teen-agers like the other unaccompanied minors, they would be little kids, even toddlers and infants. In their zeal to enact their "zero-tolerance" policy they couldn't even think through the practical and political consequences of taking babies from their mothers.

And just as they didn't bother to issue clear directives to the customs and immigration people with the Muslim ban resulting in confusion and chaos everywhere, they didn't bother to institute clear procedures for this family separation. Even something as obvious and simple as arranging for clear identification of the little kids and their parents so they could easily be tracked and identified for reunification at the end of the process was overlooked. Today, a little toddler is being asked "what's your mommy's name?" at some shelter in Michigan while her mother is on her way back to Guatemala with no idea where her baby is.

Jeff Sessions appeared on the Christian broadcast network and tepidly said "we didn't intend for this to happen." He's only got the entire Department of Justice at his disposal. How could he be expected to anticipate that here might be a problem with yanking babies from their mothers and shipping them off without any way of knowing who they belong to? He can't think of everything.

Trump's executive order that supposedly rescinds the policy is just as inept. There are no clear directives, different agencies and jurisdictions are saying different things and nobody understands how it's supposed to work. What else is new?

Former Bush administration staffer Elise Jordan said on MSNBC Thursday:
This is the worst political crisis that if you were just scripting would be the most horrific scenario that I could dream up. Maybe that's part of the problem. We've had a failure of imagination with the Trump administration --- how incompetent and depraved they can be with their public policy?

We don't need to imagine. It's happening before our eyes over and over again.

For all of this Republican president's vaunted negotiating power he has been exceptionally weak in getting anything out of a Republican congress. They passed massive tax cuts that he didn't run on and every other legislative initiative has become mired in infighting, largely because the president remains completely clueless about how it's supposed to work. Yesterday he tweeted this in the middle of a hard fought negotiation in the House to try to pass an immigration bill that would give Republicans in swing states a chance in November:

To say that wasn't helpful is an understatement.

I won't even go into the massive foreign policy blunders. We all know what he's done. And he's not getting any better at that either.

One might be tempted to think that this incompetence is a blessing in disguise considering his authoritarian impulses. But as we've seen with the travel ban and the manufactured border crisis, his incompetence is no protection against cruelty and inhumanity. An unfit president is no less powerful.

The good news for Republicans is that when all is said and done, this trainwreck of a presidency will be repurposed to use as yet another example of how government can't do anything right. They'll tell us that the only solution for that problem is another round of tax cuts, the cure for whatever ails you. It's quite a racket.

Failure to hail Trump is treason

by digby

“First of all, we came to a wonderful agreement, it’s a shame the fake news covers it the way they do,” Trump told Mike Huckabee on the former Arkansas governor's TBN show. “It’s almost treasonous, you want to know the truth.”

“If you listen to the mainstream media, it’s almost like I lost a negotiation,” Trump added.

Well, he sure as hell didn't win one. But maybe he's really just so dumb and incompetent that he doesn't know that.

He really is an authoritarian who believes, like a king, that he should be immune from criticism. He later said he was just joking when he claimed this:

He really didn't sound like he was joking. And truthfully, Mike Pence has turned into beaming robot and KellyAnn Conway has turned herself inside out to defend this menace so he's actually accomplished that. They stage tableaus at least once a week where all of his cabinet members or GOP congressional representatives sit around the table and listen to him ramble incoherently and then dutifully tell him how great he is as if they are all in a North Vietnamese hostage video from 1969.

Look at this picture:

He's called the press enemies of the state and now says they are treasonous for failing to properly kiss his ass.

It's not the first time he's said this about his political enemies:
Trump faced some criticism earlier this year when he accused Democrats of “treasonous” behavior for not applauding his achievements during his first State of the Union address.

"Can we call that treason? Why not?" the president said during a speech. "They certainly didn't seem to love our country very much."

It's grotesque authoritarianism. Can he pull it off? So far the institutions are shaky but they're holding. However, the ground is being prepared by him, tens of millions of our fellow citizens are hearing this and cheering it. It's not hard to imagine a dozen scenarios that would unleash this beast.



Time for a competency hearing?

by Tom Sullivan

A poll out this morning shows 42 percent of Americans think Donald Trump should be impeached or removed from office. This is on par with public opinion on Richard Nixon (43 percent) months before he resigned in August 1974. Impeachment takes months, and high crimes and misdemeanors have not yet been proven. But incompetence has. Not just Trump's, but his entire administration's.

The Trump administration changed its story on its family separation policy no fewer than 14 times, reports the Washington Post. Protesters this week drove DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen from a Mexican restaurant over the family separation policy she had denied existed. A patron at another Mexican restaurant called Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller a fascist days earlier. Bragging rights for Miller, perhaps. "There’s always been a way he’s gone about this. He’s Waffen-SS,” an outside White House adviser said of the rumored architect of the separation policy. Then yesterday, the first lady leaves for a border inspection wearing a coat emblazoned with graffiti lettering: "I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?" The policy that was not a policy but a law the president had no power to change Trump changed (sort of) with an executive order on Wednesday.

But it's not the tone-deafness or the rank corruption doing damage to thousands of lives. It's the incompetence.

Perhaps 2,500 small children, some barely a year old, have been separated from their parents at the border and distributed to detention shelters across the country with no plan in place for reuniting them. An Assistant Federal Public Defender in Texas wrote in the Washington Post that in questioning before a judge, the lead investigator in his client's case had no knowledge of the whereabouts of her 4 year-old daughter taken by federal authorities:

At another hearing before a different judge, as one of my colleagues asked the agent on the stand about the whereabouts of my client’s child, the prosecutor objected to the relevance of the questions. The judge turned on the prosecutor, demanding to know why this wasn’t relevant. At one point, he slammed his hand on the desk, sending a pen flying. This type of emotional display is unheard of in federal court. I can’t understand this, the judge said. If someone at the jail takes your wallet, they give you a receipt. They take your kids, and you get nothing? Not even a slip of paper?
That should put an end to Nazi references. Nazis kept detailed records.

The Washington Post is asking readers to help locate detention centers across the country where children might be held, essentially crowd-sourcing a map for an administration that has lost track. Authorities are relocating them in the middle of the night.

One child 8 months old and another 11 months old arrived in Grand Rapids, MI after being separated from their parents weeks ago:

"These kids are arriving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Not only are they being separated from their family, they are being transported to a place that they don't know in the middle of the night," said Hannah Mills, program supervisor for the transitional foster care program at Bethany Christian Services, which is currently assisting the displaced children. "We have found on many occasions that no one has explained to these children where they are going."

According to Mills, some of these displaced children got picked up right at the airport by a foster family, while others wound up at a foster care center, begging to talk to their parents. Many have gone 30 days or more without talking to their parents because their parents can't be located, she said.
So it goes. The sitting president thinks chaos works for him. He doesn't care what it means for others. Here, or for the rest of the planet.

Trump, writes George Packer, is undoing the post-war liberal order that brought stability to chaos:
Trump, with his instinct for exploiting resentments and exploding norms, has sensed that many Americans are ready to abandon global leadership. The disenchantment has been a long time coming. Barack Obama saw that the American century was ending and wanted to reduce U.S. commitments, but he tried to do so within the old web of connections. In pulling back, he provided Trump with a target. Now Trump is turning retrenchment into rout.

What would it mean for the United States to abandon the liberal order? There’s no other rules-based order to replace it with, which is why the definite article in the G-7 communiqué was appropriate. The alternative to an interconnected system of security partnerships and trade treaties is a return to the old system of unfettered power politics. In resurrecting the slogan “America First” from prewar isolationists who had no quarrel with Hitler, Trump was giving his view of modern history: everything went wrong when we turned outward.
Perhaps a rules reset was inevitable. A more orderly one might have been less destructive. But team creative destruction tends to profit more from the chaos it engineers, so why not let Trump run amok and multiply malevolence with incompetence? Nothing tops a profitable quarter better than showing the lessers who's boss.

In the instantly iconic G7 photo, says Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer, we see the world's leaders trying to convince Trump to sign an agreement supporting a “rules-based international order.” Bremmer told CBS:
As the photo shows, their arguments were not warmly received, but Trump did eventually agree to join the other G7 nations in signing the communique. Bremmer describes what happened next: “He stood up, he put his hand in his suit jacket pocket and he took two Starburst candies out, threw them on the table, and said to Merkel, ‘Here, Angela, don’t say I never gave you anything.’”
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. - Maya Angelou

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

It's not working

by digby

A record-high 75% of Americans, including majorities of all party groups, think immigration is a good thing for the U.S. -- up slightly from 71% last year. Just 19% of the public considers immigration a bad thing.

They have been working on demonizing "illegals" for years. With Trump they expanded it to refugees and kids. (Remember, he said he would refuse entry to a Syrian 5 year old in the campaign....) The big prize is to hit legal immigration.

I suspect people are catching on to their game a little bit here. This is about deportation and barring entry to foreigners in general, particularly those with brown and black skin. Just ask Jeff Sessions. He wrote it all down in 2015. And he told Steve Bannon all about it:

In seven years we'll have the highest percentage of Americans, non-native born, since the founding of the Republic. Some people think we've always had these numbers, and it's not so, it's very unusual, it's a radical change. When the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and congress changed the policy, and it slowed down immigration significantly, we then assimilated through the 1965 and created really the solid middle class of America, with assimilated immigrants, and it was good for America. We passed a law that went far beyond what anybody realized in 1965, and we're on a path to surge far past what the situation was in 1924.

Latinos have been here from the beginning. It's the racist white people who need to assimilate..

This doesn't seem to be working that well. 75% of Americans think immigration is a good thing. Because that's the American way.


Which 2 year olds would Jesus lock up?

by digby

White, conservative Evangelicals are all in:

First, polling on white evangelical Protestants has shown that they’re more likely than any other religious group to support hardline immigration policies and to have negative views of immigrants overall. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that 70 percent of white evangelical Protestants are in favor of expanding the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, compared with only around half of white mainline Protestants and white Catholics and much lower shares of other religious groups. Another Pew survey, conducted last year, found that while majorities of nearly every religious group agree that immigrants strengthen our country, white evangelical Protestants are more divided, with a plurality (44 percent) saying that immigrants are a burden.

These findings line up with results from other surveys too, like a 2017 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute that found that white evangelical Protestants were the only religious group in which a majority (57 percent) said they’re bothered when they encounter immigrants who don’t speak English. They were also the likeliest to say that they have little or nothing in common with immigrants.

Daniel Cox, the research director at PRRI,2 said these findings help explain why evangelicals aren’t likely to abandon Trump over the child separation crisis, even if they’re troubled by it. “More than other groups, white evangelical Protestants seem to perceive immigrants as a threat to American society,” he said. “So even if they don’t like this particular policy, they’re on board with Trump’s approach to immigration in general, and that makes it likelier that they’ll see this as a tactical misstep rather than a breaking point.”

That’s also how some evangelical leaders have responded; for example, Jentezen Franklin, a Georgia megachurch pastor who serves on Trump’s evangelical advisory council, criticized the family separation policy in an interview with FiveThirtyEight but blamed Congress — rather than Trump — for failing to act. “The president really cares for these families, but to permanently fix the problem, he needs Congress to do their job and work with him on border security,” Franklin said, adding that many evangelicals were drawn to Trump because of his emphasis on reducing the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

And while many other Christian leaders, including the Catholic bishops, have criticized the policy based on the biblical injunction to care for the poor and the stranger, several prominent evangelicals have emphasized the need to obey the law and defer to the president’s authority. Robert Jeffress, the pastor of Dallas’s First Baptist Church and a strong Trump supporter, told FiveThirtyEight that the separation of children from their parents was “disturbing” but quickly added that Trump has the “God-given responsibility” to secure the border in the way he deems appropriate and punish people breaking the law, even if it appears harsh.

That deference to law and order is fundamental to the way evangelicals think about immigration policy. A 2015 poll by LifeWay Research, a Baptist-affiliated research organization, found that although a strong majority (72 percent) of evangelicals agreed that “immigration reform should protect the unity of the immediate family,” even more believed that “immigration reform should respect the rule of law” (88 percent) and “guarantee secure national borders” (86 percent). Partisanship and racial anxieties are also likely playing a role, said Janelle Wong, a political scientist at the University of Maryland and the author of a new book on evangelicals and immigration.

Ya think?

I don't think fear of MS-13 provides any rationale for an allegedly moral person to think it's ok to rip 2 year olds from their mothers because they crossed an invisible line on a piece of land. It's ridiculous on its face.

This issue blows the lid off their alleged family values. The people who think this is ok are bigots. That is all there is to it.

They like Trump and everything he does because he hates and he isn't ashamed to say it. All these excuses are just nonsense.


Poor Melania had nothing to wear today

by digby

From the "you cannot make this stuff up" files

Be Best.

Driving while Canadian

by digby

Man, Hillary's deep state is really on a tear these days:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents set up a checkpoint Wednesday on Interstate 95, stopping drivers and asking them questions about their citizenship before letting them proceed.

The random checkpoint shut down the southbound lane between the Penobscot County towns of Howland and Lincoln. Several agents set up cones blocking the highway, and then asked vehicle occupants questions about their citizenship. Southbound drivers could not avoid the roadblock.

“If you want to continue down the road, then yes ma’am. We need to know what citizen — what country you’re a citizen of,” an agent said Wednesday evening. When questioned about what would happen if a driver declined to answer, he said the car would only be able to keep going if, after further questioning and upon the agent’s judgment, “the agent is pretty sure that you’re U.S. citizens.”

These routine checkpoints are similar to immigration checks that border agents are performing at Maine bus stops, where agents have been captured on video asking riders about their citizenship, said Stephanie Malin, a CBP spokeswoman.

In recent months, the bus stop checks have come under fire from the Maine American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing the federal agency for records to learn more about the practice. Lawyers for the Maine ACLU said they have questions concerning “the intrusive operation,” and whether it infringes on the Fourth and Fifth amendment rights of bus passengers.

The legal advocacy organization has gone after highway checkpoints in the past, having previously requested records from the agency and calling them examples of government harassment, according to BDN archives.

On Wednesday, attorney Emma Bond said the Maine ACLU was also interested in learning more about the highway checks as it pursued records about the bus checks.

“People have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, whether at a bus station or on the road,” she said.

These are shock troops, exercising their power in a one-on-one way with the population. This isn't some abstract abuse of internet "privacy" as important as that is. These are uniformed cops rousting people for their papers at both borders.

Better not wear scuffed shoes or the government might jail you for smuggling.

There is no border crisis. There is a Trump crisis

by digby

My Salon column this morning: 

A few days ago, fresh from what he thought was a triumphant summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, President Trump took a stroll on the White House lawn and talked to reporters about the family separation program at the border. This is what he said:

You will note that he said he had to have 10 Democratic Senators to change the law and when asked if he would take executive actions he declared,"you can't do it through an executive order."

We knew that was a lie since his administration had called for all people crossing the border at anything but designated ports of entry to be arrested, requiring their children to be taken from them, but he said it repeatedly. Recall this from Monday:

Under pressure from Republicans, yesterday he did what he said could not be done. He signed an executive order requiring that families be kept together and proclaimed himself a hero for saving all the children as his minions Kirstjen Nielsen and Mike Pence stood behind him like a couple of potted plants. The truth is that the Executive Order was just another PR stunt. He could have just told Nielsen and Sessions to do it.

The devil is in the details. No one is entirely sure how the new policy will be implemented since he has not rescinded the "zero-tolerance" policy that requires all these people to be prosecuted and there is little current capacity for housing all these families. But apparently, they don't intend to hold them together for long:

The plan seems to be to detain the families for 20 days after which Trump will say they have to be separated again because the court made him do it. That would mean we are back to square one, with Trump demanding that Democrats fork over 25 billion for the wall and provide billions more for border security or the kids will get it.

It's possible that the court will step in and find another reason to make him keep these families together. And the politics of this are fluid so none of this may come to pass. But it looks as though they either planned this to unfold in stages or are simply moving to plan B after the outcry. The only thing that matters to Trump is being able to say he built his wall and the rest of the anti-immigrant right want to remove as many immigrants from American soil as they can, by any means necessary, for reasons I spelled out earlier this week.

To that end Trump's shock troops are deporting law abiding undocumented workers and searching out long time legal residents for crimes committed in the distant past. They are using laws that have only been used on war criminals in the past to rescind citizenship from naturalized Americans. (Trump also supports ending birthright citizenship because he believes it is a "magnet for illegal immigration.")

And they have created a crisis at the border where none exists --- illegal border crossings in 2017 were actually at a 46 year low. And while Trump engages in his usual fear-mongering in places like Duluth Minnesota, reports from the border towns in Texas, Arizona and California are that this influx of families seeking asylum is actually quite modest.

They are almost all seeking asylum for the first time:

Before the administration adopted its zero-tolerance policy, these families would have been allowed to come into the country, apply for asylum and, contrary to right wing propaganda, nearly all of them do come back for their hearings at a later date. They don't want to be undocumented. They want to be safe.

These refugees' lives are hell in their home countries because their home countries are in the grips of criminal gangs and corrupt police. Women, girls and LGBT people are particular targets for violence and rape, with boys being forcibly conscripted into gangs or killed. Michael O'Hare described these countries in this op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle in terms that explain why Trump has no empathy for any of these people:
On one side are the gang leaders and corrupt, murderous police in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. These guys are the real thing, cut from the same cloth as Trump’s better-known heroes Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un and Rodrigo Duerte. They kill, imprison, dismember and rape as a conscious managerial/motivational technique. They are about making money and making people fear them, just like Trump. 
That may sound extreme but consider this quote from a Trump associate given to Gabriel Sherman in Vanity Fair about Trump's top immigration adviser Stephen Miller:
Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border. He’s a twisted guy, the way he was raised and picked on. There’s always been a way he’s gone about this. He’s Waffen-SS.
The journey from these countries to the American border is just as dangerous with thugs and criminals all along the way.  (One national security professional characterized as so dangerous he would rather backpack across Syria than do it himself.)  And there are plenty more gathered in the border towns where these people are supposed to wait their turn for a chance to request asylum on the other side of the border. That danger is a big reason why many of them would rather just cross at other places and get arrested.
They are far more afraid of what they have behind them than what lies ahead. Even risking losing their children to this cold and heartless bureaucracy is preferable to losing them to violence and death.

If that isn't depressing enough the Trump administration is ending Temporary Protected Status program — a protection given to people in the wake of humanitarian disasters  — to tens of thousands of people, many of whom have lived in the US for decades, from these very same countries. They will all be deported into that violence and mayhem.

On MSNBC yesterday Chris Hayes explained why being cruel and inhuman to these refugees as a "deterrence" is leading us down a very dark path:
What that ends up being is you get into a kind of bidding war with the cartels about who can be more monstrous...You end up having to do monstrous things so that the tip of judgement tips in your favor.

I have little doubt that Trump, Sessions, Miller and the others are happy to keep upping the ante. Trump has always been in favor of the crudest violence as a means of getting his way.  But the horrified reaction of the American people to this odious family separation policy has shown that there just might be some limits to what this country will put up with after all. It isn't over yet but today there is reason to hope that Trump will lose this one.

Portland's Got The Right Idea 

by tristero

The list of things to like about Portland has just gotten a lot longer:
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Portland office temporarily shut its doors due to ongoing protests against the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy which leads to children being separated from their parents.  
“ICE operations at this location have been temporarily halted due to security concerns,” an ICE spokesman said Wednesday in a statement reported by Oregon Public Radio. “Normal operations will resume once security concerns have been addressed.”
It's a start.
QOTD: the dotard

by digby

At his rally last night:
“You ever notice they always call the other side ‘the elite.’ The elite! Why are they elite? I have a much better apartment than they do. I’m smarter than they are. I’m richer than they are. I became president and they didn’t.”
His cult followers cheered wildly.



United States of insecurity

by Tom Sullivan

Addictive drugs start out delivering a quick, pleasing euphoria. Then life quickly spirals downhill. This story comes from one recovery website:

“I remember the first time I did heroin,” Parker says, thinking back to his first experience. “I felt like a God. Nothing could mess with me, I couldn’t do anything wrong and everything was how it was supposed to be.”
What Donald Trump promises supporters is just that: a shot-lived sense that everything is how it is supposed to be. He was going to make America great again. Not an improved now, but the way things are supposed to be in whatever imagined alternate reality. In the family separation policy the administration put into place on the southern border, in the tears and cries of toddlers and mothers, what the world saw was the weak restoring American "greatness" on the backs of the weaker.

But Trump's caving to pressure and reversing his cruel policy is not a "come-from-behind victory for human decency," Eric Levitz cautions. "It is very difficult to demonize immigrants who are still in diapers."

Yet the White House, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security tried. They tried whipping up support by demonizing infants as future violent gang members. They suggested desperate "families" fleeing violence at home were a false front for criminals bringing an infestation of drugs and crime and diseases. They condemned mothers and fathers as lawbreakers and poor parents for seeking safer homes and futures for themselves and their kids. Prejudice always tries to conceal itself behind socially acceptable pretext. Law and order. The Bible tells me so.

Trump's fiddle is not just the politics of fear, but insecurity. What he is pushing to treat it is not opioids, but authoritarianism. President George W. Bush once quipped, “If this were a dictatorship it would be a heck of a lot easier... as long as I'm the dictator. Hehehe.” That wasn't a joke. It was a Kinsley gaffe. Trump is not joking.

A study The Atlantic highlights confirms what the work of Princeton’s Anne Case and Angus Deaton suggested. “The failure of life to turn out as expected," they wrote, "[is] consistent with people compensating through other risky behaviors such as abuse of alcohol and drug use.” Or authoritarian politics, I'd add unscientifically, speaking of compensating:
The authors of this paper, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, relied on a survey called midus—Midlife in the United States—that interviewed American adults about their mental health in 1995–1996 and again in 2011–2014. They found that for the poorest whites in the sample, mental health consistently declined between those two times, suggesting low-income white Americans became less happy over the years. Meanwhile, higher incomes were “consistently associated with less distress and greater well-being,” the authors, Noreen Goldman of Princeton and Dana Glei and Maxine Weinstein of Georgetown University, write.
There is "substantial social stratification" indicated in the mental health of Americans. The authors speculate, “increasing income inequality and wage stagnation for the working class; long-term deterioration in employment opportunities that have led to intergenerational decline in economic security; reduction in stable marriages ... increasing work-family strain; and weakening interactions within communities and associated social isolation” are to blame.

But these are effects of income inequality, not their causes. Poor immigrants who weren't in the country did not produce it. The weak, the powerless, and non-natives are simply easy scapegoats. Cheap labor and (future) political competitors make them "threats" who could make a bad situation worse for those already insecure about their stations.

A notoriously needy and insecure president knows all about that. And as a veteran salesman, he knows how to exploit it.

But what this week's family separation debacle proved (it's not over) is that a country that professes all are created equal practices "kick down, kiss up." As Jay Michaelson details, “It’s the law, and that’s what the law states” from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cannot hide how the distribution of justice is just as inequitable and capricious as income:
If the Trump administration were really enforcing laws without exceptions, it would have enforced them against Wells Fargo, Exxon Mobil, Devon Energy, Bank of America, and Equifax. In fact, the government chose not to enforce the law against each of them and many others, on numerous occasions over the last year.
"If you don’t have Borders, you don’t have a Country!" Trump tweeted again yesterday. But where there is one law for the poor and another for the rich, you don't have a country either. You have a kingdom.

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