January 19, 2022 / by 


Coming Attractions: Emptywheel Live Music Trash Talk

Hi there. I mentioned it previously, but without live sports, and the trash talk we often do and it is hard to see any of that anytime soon, Emptywheel Music Trash Talk is an idea long discussed, but the time may have come. Listen, this would be a kind of dead period anyway. The Boys Of Summer would still be in spring. The NBA and NHL seasons that seem to go on forever, would not have even been close to their playoffs. And don’t start about football, at best that would be over four months away.

So, I started a thing about maybe having some trash talk about music. It was an afterthought that caught more steam than I anticipated, even though I had considered it for many years in one form or the other. Probably would have happened this weekend, but for some unfortunate dental experience that left me a bit daff. But, additionally, I have to figure how to do this, as people will want to post a lot of You Tubes in comments, and that is a bigger concern than you may think.

Assuming my dentist gets me off of the painkillers, maybe this can go off Thursday or Friday where everybody can lob in over several days. In the meantime, Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii will always make the cut of the best. The 2016 Gilmour version, even not as iconic as the original band, but back at the ancient grounds…likely will not, but it is beyond freaking fantastic. Get ready to get live, get ready to rip up this juke joint.

Until we meet again…..

RIP Kobe

You probably know by now that Kobe Bryant has died in a tragic helicopter crash. Even more sadly, it appears his teen daughter did as well and they were on the way to some kind of basketball event with another parent and daughter, and, of course, the pilot. All are dead.

The facts are young, and the reportage heavy. Bryant has long had a personal Sikorsky helicopter, a fairly stable platform as to airworthiness, and it is apparently confirmed it was indeed a Sikorsky S-76 involved. We shall see what the longer term NTSA investigation produces. There was apparently bad weather, but not so much that flight was prohibited, and where it occurred is within a tightly terminal controlled airspace, so it was perceived to be okay.

Here is the thing. Most of you, I guess, were not here when we started this here gig. There was a precursor blog known as The Next Hurrah, but it then morphed into the “Emptywheel” blog you now know and enjoy. But Emptywheel, as you know it, started out as a part at a group blog known as Firedoglake, operated by Jane Hamsher.

The “Lake” was the Lakers, the “Dog” was Jane’s giant poodle “Kobe” and the “Fire” was by the TV she watched the Lakers on religiously. I may not have all of that perfect, but close enough.

Whether you love him or hate him, Kobe was one of the greatest players in the history of sports, and one of the fiercest competitors ever. And he was on a path to doing significant good after his retirement. The loss of his teenage daughter, thirteen years old, Gianna, is even more tragic. She was the next generation that will never get the opportunity to blossom.

This is a sad day for sports, and a sad day for the history of this blog. RIP.

Championship Sunday Trash Talk

Last Sunday of football before the Super Bowl, so only two games today. We’ll get to those in a minute, but since there are only two, I thought I’d throw a couple of other topics out for discussion too.

You’d think the Trump impeachment would be the biggest news for the weekend, but it got a serious run for its money from the Royal split-up. Harry and Meghan are out, and not out in some kind of hybrid duty arrangement, but just out. They will still be the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but no longer possess any “Royal Highness designations (seems kind of like a distinction without difference, but the Brits seem to take it seriously), and will do no more official work at all for the queen. They will no longer get money from the Royal Trust or whatever, but that was very little of their funding anyway and will still get from whatever personal trust Prince Charles doles out, which is apparently a lot. And will earn some of their own too, how is unclear. And they will maintain possession of their UK home Frogmoor Cottage (apparently one hell of a “cottage” but will have to repay some money that went to renovation of it recently. And, maybe most notable, they intend to spend a lot of time in North America, sounds like British Columbia is the likely place for that, which also puts them in easy reach of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. I don’t really have too much interest in all this, but a stunning amount of people do it turns out.

Second is, of course, impeachment. The House Impeachment Managers filed their brief yesterday afternoon, and it is here. It is over 100 pages and is extremely well done, supported and argued. That is the House’s main trial brief. Team Trump made a filing yesterday as well, but it is only a six page boatload of stupid that veers into ludicrous and awful. It is here, and reads like Trump himself authored a lot of it. And it is really only an answer to the impeachment articles summons. The Trump trial brief will be much longer, and is due tomorrow, so yesterday’s filing is NOT their final word before the proceedings begin.

Okay you can also talk about anything else you want of course, but enough of the other stuff, let’s get to the football.

First up is the Titans at Chefs. The Titans are simply a better team than people think, and they caught lightning down the last half of the regular season and playoffs. Derrick Henry is just a beast, but I expect KC’s defense to try and contain him and make Ryan Tannehill beat them. Tannehill has played well enough in their first two playoff games, throwing for TD’s, but not throwing often, and not for many yards (as in 160 yards combined over this two wins). He is going to have to do a lot more today, because Pat Mahomes looks back to full speed and Jesus can he and KC’s offense put up a lot of points in a hurry. Odds started out plus 10 in favor of the Chiefs, but are down to 7 now. Sounds about right.

The second game is the rejuvenated Packers at Santa Clara to visit the 49ers. Green Bay is a lot better team than the one that got absolutely smoked 37-8 there earlier in the year. I think the Pack defense can do some things against Jimmy Garropolo and the Niners, but they better watch out for those quick hitters in the middle, and that is not the best part of the GB defense. That is a problem. Packers offense is much improved as of late, especially with Devante Adams back at full speed. But the rest of the receiving core is not exactly going to light anybody up with the possible exception of Aaron Jones out of the backfield. And that is a problem. Rookie Nick Bosa is just a freak for the Niners’ defense, he is seriously good, and Dee Ford is back from injury and a handful too. And then there is always Richard Sherman in the secondary, and he always comes to play in big games. Packers O-Line has been playing fairly well, but they are fragile as to in game injuries. They will have to be great today. Current line favors the Niners by 7.5, and that sounds about right too. If this game was at Lambeau on the Frozen Tundra, I would be very tempted to take them in an upset. But not in the Niners’ crib.

Since the Royals are all over the news, today’s music is The Royal Scam by Steely Dan. Tilt a pint or two and have some fun.

Christmas At The Wheelhouse, And A Giving Of Thanks

Here we are at yet another Christmas. We have been doing this a long time now, and even longer for those that go back to The Next Hurrah. Yes, we are all getting old together. But let that be painfully, fitfully and difficult for the government, corporate and political forces. And that battle is not done yet.

We are all for the better for gathering here. So, to one and all, thank you. It means everything to us. Seriously. And the Merriest of Christmases to one and all, no matter what your faith or following. It is a season for sharing and love, and we send that to one and all.

With that said, let’s give thanks to one and all, not only here, but who have come and left. There are so many friends that have come and, sadly, departed there is no good way to cover one and all. There have been so many.

We can only say thanks to one and all. It is one thing to have a forum to talk to people. It is yet another where people both listen and interact positively and brightly better than what you ever hoped. That has been the hallmark here from the start. Thank you for that. And, a Christmas Eve should never go without a mention and thank you to our early friend and colleague, Mary, who left us on Christmas Eve 2011. Vaya con dios Mary Beth Perdue, you are still remembered and missed.

For all, sincerely, thanks, both for the year that was, and the time to come. Be well.

Happy Fourth!

Cherry PieI’m heading out to Ann Arbor for festivities today, and I may well leave the laptop home…

I was going to wax politic about our Constitution. And oh, what the heck — why not quote from the end of John Roberts’ decision in Riley v. California (even if he doesn’t believe the Fourth Amendment extends to women’s uteri) — for a reminder of how we got here.

Our cases have recognized that the Fourth Amendment was the founding generation’s response to the reviled “general warrants” and “writs of assistance” of the colonial era, which allowed British officers to rummage through homes in an unrestrained search for evidence of criminal activity. Opposition to such searches was in fact one of thedriving forces behind the Revolution itself. In 1761, the patriot James Otis delivered a speech in Boston denouncing the use of writs of assistance. A young John Adams was there, and he would later write that “[e]very man of a crowded audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance.” 10 Works of John Adams 247–248 (C. Adams ed. 1856). According to Adams, Otis’s speech was “the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the child Independence was born.” Id., at 248 (quoted in Boyd v. United States, 116 U. S. 616, 625 (1886)).

May we renew James Otis’ fight as we go forward.

But I wanted instead to express my gratitude to several people, who have already made my Fourth. First, the guy collecting cans for deposits who I often see as I walk McCaffrey the MilleniaLab in the early morning. He was the first to wish me a — shouting across the street, in joyous whoops — a Happy Fourth this morning, which gave me great joy. This day belongs to all Americans — may we remember that common purpose and start serving it for all to benefit.

And I especially want to thank the West Michigan farmers who made it to the Farmer’s Market this morning. Not only does that mean we’ll be having strawberry-rhubarb and (the first of the season) cherry pies at our barbecue this evening. But the farmers who picked their first crop of blueberries last night to have them for today will make the kids at the barbecue very happy.

A safe and joyous Fourth to all emptywheel’s readers!

The America’s Cup Comes Home

[EW: Rosalind stole the keys! Awesome!!! Uh. Ut oh.]

Looks like Mom and Dad have been so consumed with all-things NSA they went and left the keys to the joint right out in the open. I better write fast.


One week ago the America’s Cup standing stood at New Zealand eight wins, USA one (they actually had three, but more on that later), with first team to reach nine the champion. Everyone – everyone – hoped the US boat could eke out a couple more wins before the Kiwis got that inevitable last win and took the Cup back home. Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill had other plans, calmly proclaiming his team focused on winning not just the next race, but the Cup itself. The World politely smiled and nodded, while rolling our eyes. Dude, c’mon, you’d need to reel off eight sudden death wins in – a – row.

I attended the Opening Weekend races and watched New Zealand take 3 out of 4, but what I saw in those races should’ve prepared me for the amazing feat Oracle was about to pull off. The US boat could’ve won two more of those opening races if not for some bad tactical decisions and poor boat handling during key tacks and gybes. The Kiwis had the faster boat upwind, but Oracle was faster downwind. If they could improve the tactical and stabilize the maneuvers, they had a real chance to get back into things.

They replaced the tactician with 5-time Olympian Ben Ainslie, got the new crew in sync, made tweaks to the boat night after night, and started to win. Every race. Every day. The World stopped smirking and the thousands along the San Francisco waterfront went wild as the US boat now stretched out its leads on the upwind legs thanks to whatever engineering tweak magic the techs had made.

(A moment to address the, uh, cheating thing: Oracle started the series in the hole -2 races due to a cheating incident with their AC45 boat in an earlier series. I can’t believe they were so stupid, and they deserve what they got, which was a 2 point race penalty, and the removal of their wing trimmer four days before the start of the series. Add in Oracle owner billionaire Larry Ellison’s uncanny ability to come off like a Bond Villain sent straight from central casting, and well, it can lead to rather fantastical musings – “That’s it! An Oracle sub with a magnet pulled the US boat upwind!”)

In today’s final the Kiwis got the jump at the start, rounding the first mark ahead while Oracle buried their bow and dropped their speed. They recovered, gave chase and took the lead, which New Zealand grabbed back, then USA pulled ahead. And then came Leg 4, a downwind leg, and Oracle put on their jets, shifted into a whole new gear and left the Kiwis almost 700 meters behind. From there the US boat just had to stay in one piece.

My sailing friends and I have long dreamed of an America’s Cup series on the San Francisco Bay, and the reality has surpassed even our highest hopes. A gorgeous natural amphitheatre, miles of shoreline to watch up close, scary-fast boats that fly across the water and along the waterfront, so close the crowd and crew are able to feed off each others energy.

I celebrate the Oracle team for pulling off one of the most incredible sporting comebacks in history. I salute the New Zealand team for a great run and the Kiwi fans for being the nicest, funniest, fervent fans this side of Middle Earth.

And I raise a toast to the City of San Francisco and the America’s Cup Organization for showing what a true public and private partnership can reap, how beautiful public spaces can be used to great effect and benefit for the public.

To the thousands of fans who flocked to the City, and the happy hotel owners and cafe managers and taxi drivers et al, meet you back here in a few years!

An Angry Mother on Steubenville and Parenting

The Steubenville rape case is so offensive in so many ways I can’t even begin to tackle them all.

•  CNN and a number of other news outlets cast the rapists as victims;

•  Idiots who “don’t believe in rape” come out of the woodwork and spew their insanity;

•  Society follows the spectacle of the case for entertainment, but fails to take action about the culture of rape perpetuated by their demand for this amusement.

Yet there’s a missing component in this mess, just as there was in Columbine, Colorado years ago, just as there was in Central Falls, Rhode Island.

Where are the parents and what the hell was going on BEFORE the rape?

I ask this knowing how very culpable the parents are. I’m guilty of failing my kids, and I learned it the hard way this past year.

How did this happen? I’m the mom who gave her kids books like Our Bodies, Ourselves and Changing Bodies, Changing Lives in middle school, gave demonstrations of condom use (with fruits and vegetables and condoms, get your mind out of the gutter). I’ve had numerous, lengthy conversations with my kids about sexuality, from first sex to masturbation, to contraception and STDs. We’ve talked openly about bisexuality, transgender, and homosexuality; they’ve told their friends my door is open to any kid who has a problem about their sexual identity.

Some of these conversations also included discussions about other kids and their parents’ failures. At least one of my kids’ closest friends was sexually active as a junior in high school and her parents had NEVER had any discussion about sex with her, before she became active, and not for the rest of her high school tenure.

What? Are you fucking kidding me? was my initial reaction. How can parents these days trust public OR private schools to do an adequate job teaching their kids about sexuality, let alone contraception? How can parents stick their heads in the sand when there are so many misleading messages offered to kids over the internet as well as traditional media?

Take that “Don’t believe in rape” asshole linked above; how can parents not offer their own messages about rape and the nature of consent when that kind of toxic idiocy is being spewed? (And where in the hell did that idiot acquire his ignorant, poisonous attitude about rape? His parents?)

No fucking way should any parent assume that no news is good news, that what they have to say as parents will be ignored or discounted. In the absence of parental messaging on both values and laws, the morons will win.

As I said, I’m guilty of failing my kids. I know EXACTLY how big the hole is that parents should fill, even after very concerted, conscious efforts to fill that gap.

Last year during her first term at college, my daughter came home and dumped, frustrated and scared about events of the previous weekend at a fraternity party. She’d followed all the rules we’d discussed before: don’t accept open drinks, bring your own sealed beverages, have a buddy to get your back, don’t drive drunk, so on.

The gap, though, was education about dealing with the aftermath of nonconsensual sex. One of their female classmates got shitfaced (read: drank too much alcohol, drugging not ruled out) and was taken advantage of by a male classmate.

The immediate collective concern of a handful of female classmates was finding Plan B — trying to find it locally on a weekend at a nearby drugstore or major chain store was all they thought about.

I listened, sick to my stomach, disgusted with the perpetrator, with the girls, the fraternity, the school — but mostly with myself.

•  Not one of these girls thought about insisting their friend go to the emergency room.

•  Not one of these girls thought the victim should get tested for rohypnol or other drugs.

•  Not one of these girls thought about testing for STDs.

•  Not one of these girls thought this was a crime that should be reported.

I failed my daughter, I failed her classmates, I failed the victim; my daughter should have thought of these things when the crisis presented itself, and she didn’t because I had not coached her adequately on these subjects until it was too late.

Believe me, we’ve had many, MANY conversations here about the incident since then. My son is sick of this subject, but he now understands clearly that no means no, and no response means take the girl home. He won’t believe the crap Mr. “Don’t believe in rape” spews.

Some parents reading this may think to themselves that their religious beliefs preclude such discussions. Ri-ight. Well, I’m glad that poor drunken Christian girl at her first frat party had her faith to fall back on when her male classmate raped her. Check into reality: your daughter OR your son could be drugged and abused without their consent. How will your religious values help you respond to the possibility of physical or mental injury, STD exposure, reputation assassination via social media, let alone pregnancy?

And — God forbid — the worst case happens, how will you deal with the bullshit from people like Mr. “Don’t believe in rape” who believe your kid had it coming to them?

Does the pressure feel uncomfortable? Let’s face it, it’s overdue. Parents are too often left off the hook during horrors like Steubenville. Let me point to the Columbine High School Massacre and Crystal Falls’ failed high school as examples.

How did the parents of Columbine students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold not know their sons were stockpiling weapons in their homes, or were troubled?

In the case of Crystal Falls, how did the parents not realize that their kids were having problems en masse before they finished a single year of high school?

Why did the media fail to ask about the parents in either case? Note carefully this WaPo piece on Crystal Falls as it was typical of media coverage: the parents are not mentioned at all.

And now Steubenville.

Didn’t the convicted rapists ever learn from their parents that lack of consent means no consent? Or did they come to believe in the absence of adequate guidance that Mr. “Don’t believe in rape” is right? Weren’t these young men ever taught that taking advantage of someone who cannot speak for themselves is the farthest thing from being a man, is utterly reprehensible, and is criminal in the case of nonconsensual sex?

As for Mr. “Don’t believe in rape”: Blaming a victim — A CHILD who might have been doped — makes you among the lowest of low. Do you not understand that taking something personal without explicit permission is criminal and the victim shouldn’t be shamed? I’m pissed off enough about your malignant stupidity to hope someone tests your disgusting premise on you after doping your beverage at a party. You’ll have been asking for it, by your own definition.

Some people only learn the truth the hard way, when it becomes personal.

Don’t I know it.

UPDATE — 11:05 pm EDT — 

I’ve been told the website of Mr. “Don’t believe in rape” is now down or blank. Huh. Isn’t that interesting? I should have trusted my instincts and taken a snapshot of the site because it’s not archived, either. If you have a snapshot you can share, please drop a note in comments, thanks!

Christmas at Emptywheel: Friends Current and Past

And so we reach another Christmas Eve together here at the Emptywheel Blog. And I mean together, because this is a community, from Marcy, Jim White and me, to all of you who participate here with us. You are not just names on a computer screen, you are our friends and colleagues.

We deal with a lot of hard, and far too often infuriating and depressing, topics. Sometimes you just want to scream, because really success seems to be measured only in whether you can slow down by a fraction, or put a slight dent in, the bad things going on in this country and the world.

Occasionally, however, there are truly bright spots in what we cover and push. One of these is certainly the movement on marriage equality and equal protection for sexual preference. Another is, as problematic as they are in their own right, the victory of the Democrats and Obama over a slate of Republicans who would have materially regressed about everything we hold near and dear. It may be small solace, but it is far better than the alternative. So there are good things too.

But the one irreducible minimum is, despite the passion we all have for various subjects and policies, life will actually always plug on one way or another for most, it is simply a matter of how it does so. And that is really something too easily lost sight of…what really counts when you get down to it are the people.

Here at Emptywheel, so it is the people who really count too. And we would like to take a moment to thank you for sharing your time, your experience, your knowledge, your humor and yourselves. It makes all of us richer and that is something to be thankful for as we look forward to Christmas day and the week of festivities that culminates in New Years Day. Health and happiness to one and all.

I’d also like to take a minute to remember that not all are doing well. Some are struggling and have health problems. We know of several, but it would not be appropriate to discuss the individual situations. Just know that we know, we care and our thoughts are with you.

And then there are those that we have lost along the way this year. One in that category really stands out. One year ago tonight, our friend, colleague, and contributor to this blog, Mary Perdue, passed away. We miss Mary a lot, both in content and in her unique character. I constantly see discussions and think “Damn, Mary would have been all over this”.

However, Mary is not the only important voice here that has gone dark this year. We also seem to have lost MadDog. I first encountered MadDog at FDL during pretrial proceedings in the Libby case. We both quickly became regulars at the precursor to Emptywheel, known as The Next Hurrah. He followed us from TNH to Firedoglake and then to here. Like Mary, MadDog was a constant colleague with a well developed sense of irony and sharp analytical skills. The last comment by MadDog was on September 11 at 8:16 pm, since then a deafening silence. We have tried to determine what happened by both email and phone, but no luck so far. We miss him greatly.

In that regard, I want to excerpt part of a post we did in memory of Mary when we learned she had passed. Not just to honor her again, but because much of it applies to the nature of all who participate here, have participated here, and how we feel about them and you:

The internet is a strange and wonderful thing. Just about everyone and everything in the world is on it, even though it is nothing but data in the form of binary computer code traversing by random electrons. Yet thought is crystalized, and friendships born and nurtured, through commonality of interest and purpose. And so it is here at Emptywheel, where many of us have been together since the days at The Next Hurrah, through years at Firedoglake, and now at our new home. Just because it germinates via the net does nothing to detract from the sense of community, friendship and admiration for each other gained over time.

With profound sadness, I report we have lost a true friend, and one of our longest tenured contributors, Mary. Mary Beth Perdue left us on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2011.
Here at Emptywheel, she was just Mary; and she was so much more than a simple obituary can convey. She was funny, kind, and, most of all, razor sharp in analysis of extremely complex issues surrounding torture, indefinite detention, international human rights, illegal wiretapping and executive branch overreach.

But this is the way it is with one and all here. You all contribute so much. Thank you. All here are indeed more than electrons and impersonal screen names.

It is the people – you – that count. Marcy, Jim and I raise a glass of fine IPA in toast to one and all. So, as you sit down with your families and friends for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the holiday week, from our family to yours, enjoy and thanks!

This is an open thread for all things – news, politics, cooking, sports, holiday greetings and all manner of discussion. Music by the incomparable Alicia Keys.

A New Home for the Holiday

Marcy is probably up to her eyeballs in boxes both empty and full right now. I picture McCaffrey the MilleniaLab wandering lost if excited among them, wearing a loose doggy grin as his nails tick-tack across the new floor. Mr. Emptywheel may likewise be wandering between boxes while muttering in an Irish accent under his breath about a well-deserved beer.

Ah, but they’re home for the holiday. What a great memory this will be in years to come. Congrats to Mr. and Mrs. Emptywheel on their new digs!

Most of us have memories of home on this holiday–many good, some bad, but enough decent ones to compel us to go home to give thanks with others. Many of you are preparing for a harried road trip, or an even more hectic trip by air. I wish you safe and secure between here and wherever it is you need to be. Watch out for deer if you’re driving.

A number of my own best/worst Thanksgiving memories involve travel. Like the time I flew from Detroit to Omaha to see my folks and kid brother; it was like landing in another world, a movie set replete with All-American high school football stars and cheerleaders. We drove from the airport past the Platte River, where sandhill cranes amassed by the thousands along the banks in nearby fields. I made my dad stop the car to hear the roar they made as these dinosaur-ish creatures chattered at one another.

Or another year when I drove hundreds of miles to volunteer with my nurse-mom at a convent. Well, more like a nursing home for nuns; I helped with bedpans, walkers, visited and served dinner, attended an utterly silent prayer service. Absolutely insane experience, all the elderly women patting me on the cheek like I was the one who needed care. I will never forget the tiny, frail 80-something sister who sat next to me during their turkey dinner; she clutched my hand, then patted it, and rasped, “This’ll be one Thanksgiving you’ll never forget.” She fricking winked at me and smirked, and then tried to recruit me to take vows in their order.

Hell yes, sister, I still think of it and you every year. Sorry about those vows, though. I know you meant well. I’ve never been nun material.

When I was growing up, nearly every T-Day holiday my family took in a new movie. We don’t do that anymore, but we do watch oldies but goodies at home. They’ve become part the rituals that my kids will remember in the future as they think back on their Thanksgiving holidays past. Like watching my personal favorite, Home for the Holidays, while we bake something yeasty for tomorrow’s feast at the in-laws. There’s nothing quite like Home for the Holidays to brace one’s self for visiting the extended dysfunction that is family. Tomorrow we’ll watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles while we cuddle up on our couch, lolling about in our overfed discomfort,and enjoy a fire in the fireplace.

What about you? What are your favorite Thanksgiving Day memories? Are you traveling? And what about holiday movies–is there one you’d share or enjoy every year?

DHS Inspector General Fluffs the Success of Secure Communities

Last Friday, DHS’ Inspector General released two reports purportedly written in response to an April 28, 2011 request from Zoe Lofgren to determine whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement and DHS more generally were lying about the Secure Communities program, and if so, if doing so was criminal.

As a threshold matter, the completion of two reports, rather than just the one, seems to be a bit of a smokescreen. Lofgren asked if government officials lied. In response, DHS’ IG decided to answer two questions:

  • Whether Secure Communities was effective in identifying criminal aliens and prioritizing cases for action
  • Whether ICE clearly communicated to stakeholders the intent of Secure Communities and the expectation of States’ and local jurisdictions’ participation

In addition to reframing Lofgren’s question to avoid fully considering why people had misinformed Congress and localities (and also, given the scope of their work, to avoid inquiring whether DHS, rather than ICE, had decided to do so), DHS IG first decided to see whether Secure Communities was effective. According to the list of major contributors included with each report, with the sole exception of Communications Analyst Kelly Herberger, two entirely different teams conducted the reviews. The report that at least sort of responded to Lofgren’s questions was issued on March 27, whereas the non-responsive efficacy report was issued April 5, though both were apparently sent out Friday together. ICE responded to both reports on the same day–February 23, 2012–so it seems the different release dates comes because the efficacy report was revised in some way (the date on the conveyance letter for the efficacy report is in a non-standard sans serif font, which sort of makes you wonder…).

In short, the submission of these two reports together stinks, though it presumably had the desired effect, as the NYT reported “mixed reviews” for Secure Communities. HuffPo and LAT were less compliant, focusing instead on the communications report instead.

That said, the purported “good” efficacy report doesn’t actually prove that Secure Communities is working all that well. Here’s the summary of their results:

We performed this audit to determine if Secure Communities was effective in identifying criminal aliens and if Immigration and Customs Enforcement appropriately prioritized cases for removal action.

Secure Communities was effective in identifying criminal aliens, and in most cases, ICE officers took enforcement actions according to agency enforcement policy. Under Secure Communities, the agency expanded its ability to identify criminal aliens in areas not covered by its other programs. In addition, it was able to identify criminal aliens earlier in the justice process, some of whom it would not have identified under other programs. Secure Communities was implemented at little or no additional cost to local law enforcement jurisdictions. Although ICE was able to identify and detain criminal aliens, field offices duplicated the research associated with their detention, and officers did not always sufficiently document their enforcement actions. To improve the transparency and thoroughness of its processes under Secure Communities, the agency needs to eliminate the duplication of research and ensure that officers fully document their actions.

One of the ways they quantify that success is with a claim that they had identified 692,000 “criminal aliens.”

According to ICE, as of September 30, 2011, it had spent most of the $750 million and identified more than 692,000 criminal aliens.

Now, the graphics they provide to back up this claim do show 692,788 “IDENT” matches in the last 3 fiscal years.

Never mind that the program has become less efficient over the years. In FY2009, ICE had 1,087 fingerprint matches for each activated jurisdiction, in FY2011 ICE had 372 matches. To some degree that’s expected–jurisdictions along the southern border joined in first–but  also suggests getting every jurisdiction in the country involved has diminishing returns.

More troubling, the report also reveals that some of the people–it doesn’t say how many–in IDENT are citizens.

Individuals with fingerprints in IDENT include persons with an immigration history, such as aliens who have been removed but have reentered the country, immigration visa applicants, legal permanent residents, naturalized citizens, and some U.S. citizens.
IDENT includes two categories of U.S. citizens:

  • Citizens who have adopted a child from abroad (which involves U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), participated in a trusted traveler program, or may have been fingerprinted by immigration officials for smuggling aliens or drugs across U.S. borders;
  • Individuals who were not citizens at the time that their fingerprints were collected, but subsequently became citizens through naturalization, legal permanent residency, or immigration.

So if you’ve adopted a kid from China? You’re in this database too. If you’ve become a citizen, you’re in this database. If you’re an American busted for certain border crimes, you’re in this database. And if you’ve applied for expedited entry at the borders? You’re in there too.

In any case, compare the 348,958 fingerprint matches last fiscal year with the number the LAT gives–but this report does not–and it’s unclear whether the ICE’s stats are as good as they say they are.

Nearly 217,000 people convicted of felonies or misdemeanors were deported last year, an 89% increase since 2008, according to ICE.

These may be for different time periods (fiscal versus calendar year), but in any case this says perhaps as few as 62% of those identified are actually deportable criminal aliens (I’m gong to try to get some clarity on this issue).

But the IG report seems to suggest it’s even lower than that. The IG reviewed the resolution of 766 Secure Communities cases. No only did it show that only 91% were found to have been dealt with properly, but it also showed that just 48% of those reviewed ended up being properly deported.

As broken down, the review shows that just over a third of those whose cases were reviewed are illegal aliens guilty of a serious crime (what ICE calls a “Priority 1 crime,” which includes things like murder and serious drug charges). Over 12% of those deported were guilty of less serious crimes–including misdemeanors as minor as disturbing the peace–or, it appears, just undocumented status. 11.5% of the people they’re conducting two reviews of (they do this because of yet another computer contractor who can’t do what we’ve paid them to do, resulting in the need to review all these matches twice) are US citizens–those people who have become citizens or–worse!–adopted a baby from China (which may mean that almost 80,000 Americans have been reviewed for deportation under Secure Communities). And almost 9% of those reviewed either ICE has no idea what happened to them (because the reviewers didn’t annotate the record) or were improperly resolved.

This report supposedly declares Secure Communities to be a success but–if you assume the 3.3% erroneous resolution carried over to the 692,788 matches they’ve found–suggests that 22,862 have been improperly resolved, which given there’s a separate category for undocumented people with no criminal record who were deported, seems to suggest were improperly deported.

And all that’s before you consider the impact of Secure Communities on community policing because it makes illegal aliens and those who might be mistaken as such less willing to work with the cops.

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