Undead Testify: Welcome to the Zombie Apocalypse

[NB: Come on, look at the head, byline, and blurb. Of course it’s me. /~Rayne]

The zombie apocalypse wasn’t supposed to look like this; it should have been more cinematic. And yet here we are, surrounded by the undead.

You think I’m joking, right?

That bloated grey mass seated in the witness chair before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week is a revenant.

Yes, a revenant — from the French word, revenir, meaning one returned, revived from the dead. Revenant describes more than one type of undead reanimated being, including zombies and vampires.

We’ve seen revenants in culture more frequently over the past two decades. Some argue they represent the same biases we’ve seen before; for example, the popularity of Bram Stoker’s Dracula was attributed to xenophobia, aimed at eastern Europeans migrating west. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla may have been an expression of fears of lesbianism. And we’ve seen fears of immigrants and LGBTQ people used by the right-wing to rally and control their conservative, authoritarian base since the Reagan administration.

More recently the re-emergence of revenants in culture has been attributed to anti-capitalist sentiment, in addition to traditional xenophobia — the unthinking drive of consumerism underpinning toxic capitalism mirrored by zombies’ ravening hunger for living brains or vampires’ unending thirst for fresh blood in the form of human labor.

But the undead animus we all watched and heard this week was both simpler and more serious — it was the dark remnants of corruption in Reagan’s administration.

If you think about it, Reagan should not have held office as long as he did; his son Ron said he was already suffering from early symptoms of Alzheimer’s while in office. Illegitimate activities went on under his nose which may have relied heavily on his slowly-fading mental competency.

And Barr was the fixer who swept up after Iran Contra.

Now we have a president — who may have been illegitmately seated with help by hostile foreign entities — with a tenuous grasp on mental competence.

(How many raving tweets has he published this week? How many lies has he uttered or written in his 28 months in office?)

Once again, a fixer is needed. The GOP, a walking dead vamipiric party which is killing itself with its toxic xenophobia and its dogmatic insistence on ending government’s oversight power for the benefit of unfettered capitalism, summoned the undead spirit of the Reagan administration to deal with the threat to its deathgrip on power.

Lo, the bloated grey mass bubbled forth from entombment last summer with a letter persuading the vampires it would address the ongoing obstruction of the Special Counsel’s investigation with more obstruction.

And obstruct the zombie did.

He wasn’t alone in his obstruction. He had the help of other undead, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who both obstructed the public’s view of the Russian interference in the 2016 election and who ensured the judiciary would be infected with unqualified appointees, who further ensured the approval of Barr as attorney general.

And Senator Lindsey Graham, who was clearly bitten by the Zombie-in-Chief while playing golf one day. Graham exemplifies best how insidious they are, how rapidly revenants can infect those who are too close to their reach — one minute victims are anti-zombie and the next they are happily chomping on brains, distorting reality.

Given the presence of so many revenants covering Barr’s back, expect a return of the same acts we saw after the Iran Contra hearings: Barr will encourage pardons if he doesn’t ask for commutations. The shades behind him will do their best to obscure other criminality and unethical behavior in a fog of decaying right-wing rhetoric. Favors will be paid back somewhere along the way; did Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly do anything for George Bush’s dad or Bill Clinton which might yet need repayment?

The only way to deal with the undead is wrest them out fearlessly and stake them out in the sun — there is no better disinfectant. Examine the corpses for weaknesses, cut off reviving animus in full view of the public, and purge their glorification from history. Impeachment will label them as anathema for future generations.

Then seek out and dispatch all the other lingering revenants before they sneak up on us.

Don’t be surprised if some of them arrive wearing candidate’s clothing, either; you’re already seeing the ghost of Clarence Thomas’s wretched nomination walking among the living.

This is an open thread.

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing: AG William Barr

Catch Marcy’s live tweeting of today’s Senate Judiciary Committee featuring star witness Attorney General William Barr:

I set up a list of folks covering Trump-Russia, most of whom are covering the hearing today:

Rayne’s Trump-Russia Twitter list

CourthouseNews’ Brandi Buchmann is also covering the hearing today via Twitter:

Background on Barr leading up to today’s hearing:

08-JUN-2018 — William Barr sent a (unsolicited-?) 20-page letter(pdf) to the Department of Justice outlining his opinion on the Office of Special Counsel’s Trump-Russia investigation and the SCO’s questions about obstruction of justice by Trump.

27-JUN-2018 — Barr has a brown bag lunch with DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (see today’s hearing, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s second round of questions, approx. 3:03 p.m. EDT).

07-NOV-2018 — Jeff Sessions’ apparent exit from role at Department of Justice as Attorney General.

07-DEC-2018 — Trump announced he would nominate Barr to succeed Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.

03-JAN-2019 — Trump formalized Barr’s nomination.

15-JAN-2019 — Barr appeared for two days before the Senate Judiciary Committee in nomination hearings.

04-FEB-2019 — Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve Barr as Attorney General, 12-10 along party lines.

07-FEB-2019 — Senate voted to approve Barr as Attorney General, 54-45 nearly along party lines.

14-FEB-2019 — Barr was sworn in as AG.

05-MAR-2019 — Meeting between Barr and Special Counsel Robert Mueller regarding the SCO investigation.

22-MAR-2019 — Barr decided outcome of the SCO this day (see today’s hearing, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s second round of questions approx. 3:00 p.m. EDT).

24-MAR-2019 — Barr released a 4-page letter summarizing the impending Special Counsel’s Office’s Trump-Russia investigation report.

27-MAR-2019 — Mueller sent a letter to Barr in which he said Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the SCO’s report.

18-APR-2019 — Trump-Russia investigation report by SCO released to public with redactions by Barr.

30-APR-2019 — March 27 letter from Mueller to Barr reported by Washingon Post.

This thread is dedicated to the Barr hearing — please stay on topic.

ADDER: Former FBI director James Comey’s op-ed in NYT published today, How Trump Co-opts Leaders like Bill Barr.

History’s Rhyme: Nixon’s Articles of Impeachment

[NB: Byline check, please. /~Rayne]

History, as they say, doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.

By now many of us have heard or read discussions comparing the actions of Trump and his administration with those of Richard Nixon — actions for which Nixon was nearly impeached.

(Bill Clinton’s impeachment surfaces only as an example of what a joke impeachment can be when a partisan hack investigator is intent on creating a mountain out of a consensual blowjob molehill.)

Though he resigned before the House could vote on them, Articles of Impeachment were drafted against Nixon. The first three of five had been passed by the House Judiciary Committee:

Article I: Obstruction of Justice

Article II: Abuse of Power

Article III: Contempt of Congress

Article IV: Cambodia bombing

Article V: Failure to pay taxes

Article I outlined a list of obstructive behaviors Nixon engaged in the lead up to and during the Watergate scandal. They read like a list of indictable offenses with the exception of an abuse of power in seeking the CIA’s efforts to interfere with the FBI.

Article II outlined Nixon’s abuses of power; the behaviors were unethical.

Article III charged Nixon with contempt after he refused to cooperate with Congress’s investigation into Watergate.

The third article has drawn the most reconsideration in the last 24-48 hours after Trump announced “We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” saying the administration would not comply with House committees’ requests for witnesses and documents.

While Trump hasn’t an unauthorized bombing of Cambodia under his belt addressed by the fourth article in 1974, he does have ongoing violations of international treaties for which he should answer, and for which the Republicans in Congress should be held accountable by a vote on an article about crimes against humanity.

We don’t yet know if a fifth article related to taxes may yet be needed but we shouldn’t be surprised if the tax returns Trump is so desperate to hide do not provide grounds for one.

What a lot of familiar rhyming. One might wonder what Articles of impeachment would look like against Trump. Let’s take a look at a possible Article I.

~ ~ ~

Article 1

RESOLVED, That Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanours, and that the following articles of impeachment to be exhibited to the Senate:

ARTICLE 1

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice, in that:

Beginning March 2016, and prior thereto, agents of Russia knowingly accessed computers without authorization belonging to or used by U.S. presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton and volunteers (“Clinton Campaign”), of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (“DCCC”), and the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”) in Washington, District of Columbia, for the purpose of securing political intelligence.

In April 2016, Conspirators including agents of Russia and persons know and unknown to a Grand Jury began to plan the release of materials stolen from the Clinton Campaign, DCCC, and DNC.

Beginning in or around June 2016, the Conspirators staged and released stolen materials. The Conspirators continued their U.S. election-interference operations through in or around November 2016 with the intent to support the campaign of Donald J. Trump and deter the Clinton Campaign.

Subsequent thereto, Donald J. Trump, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such unauthorized access and use of stolen materials; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.

The means used to implement this course of conduct or plan included one or more of the following:

1. making false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States;
2. withholding relevant and material evidence or information from lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States;
3. approving, condoning, acquiescing in, and counseling witnesses with respect to the giving of false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States and false or misleading testimony in duly instituted judicial and congressional proceedings;
4. interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of Special Counsel, and Congressional Committees;
5. approving, condoning, and acquiescing in, the surreptitious payment of substantial sums of money for the purpose of obtaining the silence or influencing the testimony of witnesses, potential witnesses or individuals;
6. endeavoring to misuse the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Office of White House Counsel of the United States;
7. disseminating information received from officers of the Department of Justice of the United States to subjects of investigations conducted by lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States, for the purpose of aiding and assisting such subjects in their attempts to avoid criminal liability;**
8. making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States into believing that a thorough and complete investigation had been conducted with respect to allegations of misconduct on the part of personnel of the Presidential Campaign and on the part of the personnel of the executive branch of the United States, and that there was no involvement of such personnel in such misconduct: or
9. endeavoring to cause prospective defendants, and individuals duly tried and convicted, to expect favored treatment and consideration in return for their silence or false testimony, or rewarding individuals for their silence or false testimony.

In all of this, Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

_________

** Did Trump share/receive material through the Joint Defense Agreement not for the purposes of defense but to obstruct the Special Counsel’s investigation?

~ ~ ~

Well now…the potential parallels are quite striking. Because there’s so much to ponder in this one possible Article, I’ll leave evaluation of other possible Articles to another post to follow.

What do you think? Is there more which an Article focused on obstruction might include? Is there wording which needs revision based on what we now know?

This is an open thread.

Do the Right Thing: Break Some Eggs and Impeach

[NB: Check the byline. This piece may not reflect the opinions of other emptywheel contributors. /~Rayne]

There’ve been a lot of eggs cracked today. Not all of the eggs in need of cracking came in pretty dyed shells.

Like the oeuvre floating around out there claiming impeachment is bad for the country. (I’m looking at you, Tumulty.)

There’s really no question about what must be done. There’s only a fight against spin protecting an un-indicted co-conspirator, or worse. Sadly, some of the spin comes from the left and it needs to be smashed right now.

But why impeach? they ask.

Because it’s the right thing to do when a law enforcement investigation reveals a pattern of unlawful behavior.

Because it’s the right thing to do when the president systematically engages in abuse of power and unethical behavior, causing states and non-governmental groups alike to sue to protect human rights.

Because it’s the right thing to do when the president breaks his oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Because it’s the right thing to do when the president fails to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

Because it’s the necessary thing to do when the president’s incompetence or bigotry results in the deaths of thousands of American citizens without so much as an apology.

Because it’s the right thing to do when the president permits and/or encourages dangerous deviations — some in secret — from national security policy without debate, advice, and consent by Congress.

Because it’s the right thing to do when the executive usurps co-equal branches’ power to check the executive.

Because failure to do so yields the co-equal power of Congress to the executive for the worst of reasons — because it’s too much trouble, timed inconveniently, unpopular.

Because failure to do assures future unethical presidents, they, too, need not worry they will be held to account by the branch of government charged with doing so; they’ll feel protected, insulated from rebuke and punishment.

Because failure to do so assures a certain class of person they are above the law while telling the average citizen they belong to a second and lower class.

Because failing to do so sends a message to foreign powers that tampering with our elections will go unchecked; a mere censure will only enrage a malignant narcissistic executive while doing nothing to deter hostile foreign actors.

Because we are a nation of laws, and the law provides for the rebuke and removal of an executive guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, including unlawful orders, bad faith execution, unethical behavior, and abuse of office.

Because we must lead the future by example, demonstrating the exercise of oversight powers which include impeachment of a failed executive even when a country is divided by popular opinion.

There are far too many constructive reasons why we should impeach the executive; the risk from failing to attempt impeachment is far greater, considering the hollowing out of government and undermining of long-term policy continuing apace. The common good demands it.

Do we proceed directly to impeachment? This is a matter of conjecture — I believe we need to investigate the gaps in the Special Counsel’s report, including counterintelligence, so that we address each item in full view of the public with the exception of classified matters. The executive must be fully accountable to the people; he governs only with their consent which is already thin based on his loss of the popular vote.

Will investigative and impeachment hearings get in the way of legislative business? No. Congress has investigative hearings all the time in addition to legislative business. The legislative work to date has been piling up at the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk because he is obstructing House Democrats by gatekeeping. Will any less legislation be passed by the Senate if the House dedicates any more time to investigative hearings? No, thanks to McConnell.

Read the Special Counsel’s report for yourself. Ask yourself if what you read represents the combined work of a candidate and president and his campaign and administration who are truly intent on serving the best interests of this entire country. Were these individuals willing to set their personal interests aside and work toward a more perfect union, establishing Justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty for all?

Or were they working for themselves and personal or familial enrichment, for their personal glory and entitlement, and for the benefit of some other non-U.S. entities to our likely detriment?

Begin the impeachment process. Let’s break some eggs.

~ ~ ~
A happy Easter to those of you who observe the holiday. Hope that those of you who observed Passover were able to do so with friends and loved ones.

This is an open thread.

Three Things: Big Day, Big Top

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

It’s going to be a big day under the big top. Attorney General Bill Barr has planned quite the circus, beginning right now with his so-called press conference. But first, three things, one of which includes hygiene for the day ahead.

~ 3 ~

Let’s face it: it’s Maundy Thursday, the weather in West Palm Beach is supposed to be partly sunny tomorrow and Saturday, and sunny on Easter Sunday. Which means Trump will likely be on Air Force One this afternoon, winging his way to Mar-a-Lago and the promise of golf at one of his courses because that’s about all he can focus on for more than the time it takes to send a tweet.

This is likely why he wants to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to golfer Tiger Woods after winning his latest green jacket at The Masters this past weekend. Trump said,

So shallow and self-centered, recognizing a fellow marital cheat and a golfing buddy, one who designed a Trump-branded golf course in Dubai.

And yet par for this pathetic hole.

~ 2 ~

I don’t write often about Trump-Russia because it’s Marcy’s beat — there’s little she hasn’t scrutinized and picked apart during the course of the Special Counsel’s investigation. But this one thing has stuck in my craw, especially after all the hubbub this past week about Julian Assange’s removal from the Ecuadoran embassy and arrest by Metropolitan Police-UK.

It’s in this email exchange from October 2016, about WikiLeaks’ 10th anniversary when Assange was supposed to have made a big announcement and didn’t. The following

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Steve Bannon
TO: Roger Stone
EMAIL:

What was that this morning???

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Roger Stone
TO: Steve Bannon
EMAIL:
Fear. Serious security concern. He thinks they are going to kill him and the London police are standing done.

However —a load every week going forward.

Roger stone

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Steve Bannon
TO: Roger Stone
EMAIL:

He didn’t cut deal w/ clintons???

Why did former Trump campaign chief executive and former White House adviser Steve Bannon express surprise that Assange hadn’t cut a deal with the Clintons?

Was it a given that Assange would have attempted to extort money from one or both of the Clintons to halt the release of hacked emails?

Why would Bannon in particular have thought this? Was it common knowledge in certain circles that Assange would use blackmail? Or has blackmail been one of the other unaddressed methods by which targets have been compromised and evidence simply hasn’t been shared because it’s classified?

Did Special Counsel’s Office ask any member of the Clinton campaign or Bill Clinton or any Clinton family support staff whether they had been contacted about hacked materials in an attempt to extort money or performance from them?

It seemed like odd hyperbole at the time in early August 2016 that Assange would accuse Hillary Clinton of electoral extortion, claiming she tried to scare the electorate into voting for her. But was it really a form of projection to muddle possible leaks about other extortion attempts? (Yes, the source at that link above is a right-wing outlet, but that’s the point: they carried water for this effort.)

Ecuadoran official said they are investigating whether Assange attempted to blackmail President Moreno. It looks more like a pattern of behavior based on WikiLeaks’ handling of Vault 7 and if Bannon’s email assumed an earlier attempt on the Clintons

~ 1 ~

Okay, I’ll skip a third non-Barr report item because we’re all a little short on patience. If you need something to preoccupy your time you can focus on taking action.

See Celeste_pewter’s Twitter thread for calls you can make, or check her TinyLetter site; once again she’s done the heavy lifting and prepared scripts for you.

She’s also laid out the anticipated schedule today for AG Barr’s three-ring circus:

9:30 AM: Barr and Rosenstein will hold a press conference on Mueller report

(Mueller not in attendance)

10:30 AM (approx): Trump will issue a rebuttal

11:00 – 12:00 PM: DOJ will provide hard copies of the report to Congress

TBD: Trump MAY give a press conference at this point

2:00 PM (approximate): Report posted on special counsel website (https://www.justice.gov/sco)

I’m setting up a list in my Twitter account to follow folks for analysis and feedback on the Trump-Russia investigation including today’s Barr report.

(And yes, I’m calling it the ‘Barr report’ because the method of its reception will have been substantially shaped by Barr.)

~ 0 ~

Lastly, the matter of hygiene: this site will be busy. Trolling may be heavy depending on what’s visible in the report and what is pointed out by Marcy in particular. If the site bogs down, please be patient.

If necessary, reach one of us via Twitter though you may not get an immediate response because we’re going to be busy.

Moderation will be firm and aggressive. We don’t have time for temper tantrums, trolling, or for internecine squabbles.

Keep all off topic discussion to this thread; if it gets too deep, like more than 200 comments, I will open a new thread for off topic material. Posts Marcy opens related to the report should remain on topic.

This is going to be a long day. Pace yourselves. Drink water regularly. Take a break from social media when you’re getting worked up. Digest this pile of elephant one bite at a time.

We have plenty of time after the circus’s acts have finished to sweep up and dig through the animal poo they leave behind.

This is an open thread.

[Photo: Emily Morter via Unsplash]

You’re Fired (Undocumented Trump Worker): What Odd Timing

[NB: Byline — check it!/~Rayne]

I’ve had this squirreled away in the cupboard; I was working on it just as the government shutdown ended. But now there’s good reason to dust it off and air it out.

~ ~ ~

The issue of Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) remains critically important even though government has been reopened and Trump received a pittance toward a wall.

The Washington Post reported on January 26 that undocumented workers were fired from their long-time jobs with Trump organization businesses.

What odd timing. Take a look at the sequence of events:

06DEC2018 — NYT, CNN other outlets reported the Trump organization employed undocumented workers.

22DEC2018 — Shutdown began at midnight

10JAN2018 — Citizenship applicant Matthew Helmsley was called a year earlier than expected by U.S. immigration for a pre-naturalization interview; he was asked after the interview if he was available on Saturday, January 19.

11JAN2019 — First government employee paycheck missed.

17JAN2019 — Trump announcement scheduled for Saturday, January 19, after a swearing-in ceremony for newly naturalized immigrants; the announcement regarded the ongoing government shutdown.

18JAN2019 — Media speculated about Trump’s proposal. After exchanging emails for a week with immigration personnel, citizenship candidate Helmsley received an email in that morning advising the swearing in would be at the White House the next day.

18JAN2019 — Undocumented immigrants terminated at Trump org facilities.

19JAN2019 — Trump’s proposal including tweaks to TPS and DACA floated some time between late Friday and early Saturday. House Democrats rejected the proposal ahead of Trump’s television speech — they insisted on funding and reopening government without conditions, and no money wall.

19JAN2019 — Just before his speech, Trump swore in Helmsley and a cohort of carefully selected naturalize immigrants, handpicked for political optics, in the Oval Office.

19JAN2019 — Trump gave a televised speech after 3:00 p.m., added limited TPS extension and modified DACA to his demand for wall funding.

25JAN2019 — Trump ‘caved’.

26JAN2019 — WaPo reports on firing of undocumented employees.

29JAN2019 — Original date scheduled for State of the Union address from House chambers

See that right in the middle? Undocumented personnel were fired roughly 24 hours before Trump made his special address making a counter offer.

The White House as well as the Trump organization knew more than a month before Trump’s counter proposal that undocumented workers were employed at multiple Trump business locations.

They waited until after the holidays to terminate them so as to avoid a stink.

They waited until they could use TPS and DACA as proposal items to demand wall funding, hoping the workers’ terminations would be lost in the noise about the shutdown.

And news media missed the timing.

Now here’s the other point the media missed within the last week: if Trump’s government funding proposal including limited TPS and modified DACA were offered immediately following termination of undocumented workers at Trump organization businesses — the two events coordinated and synced as if by one entity — is there any separation at all between Trump as president and Trump as head of the Trump organization?

If there isn’t, wouldn’t that make the DOJ’s so-called “narrow interpretation of a law ” this week, allowing federal officials to attempt to influence Trump by doing business with the Trump organization, really a permission slip for outright corruption via emoluments?

Meanwhile, DACA’s repeal remains up in the air, leaving roughly 800,000 residents up in the air. And TPS for Hondurans has been terminated effected November this year, forcing 86,000 to uproot from the U.S.

The Facts: There Is No Crisis and No Emergency, Just Trump’s Campaign

[NB: Check the byline. /~Rayne]

After mixing it up with a old conservative over spring break — someone who doesn’t watch Fox News but spends too much time with people who do — it’s clear Trump’s and Fox’s lies have deeply infected right-wing minds.

They believe Trump’s falsehoods about a crisis at the border, that there was reason for Trump to declare an emergency.

They’re also incapable of fact checking. They’re authoritarians and believe whatever current authority figure tells them; the motivation to validate authority doesn’t exist.

They appear unable to analyze what they do see to make an independent assessment of their own. It doesn’t occur to them to ask, What would be so bad a family with toddlers and infants would flee their home, walking over a thousand miles for more than a month and through a desert to escape?

They’re sheep — our country is regressing under the leadership of fascist sheep.

I wanted to cram a bunch of facts in this conservative’s head but I honestly don’t know if they’d bother to read anything I gave them because I’m not a Fox talking head.

~ ~ ~
Fact: Trend data from DHS’ Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) about so-called illegal immigrants border crossings indicates it has trended lower over the last 15 years:

(source: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Nationwide Illegal Alien Apprehensions Fiscal Years 1925-2018 pdf)

From another perspective there is no migrant crisis, shows Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) in this graph using CBP’s own data:

Fact: Trend data graphed by Pew Research drawn from DHS’ Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) about the so-called wave of asylum seekers Trump has called animals in his eliminationist rants reveals a wave of family units migrating from Central America, not Mexico:

Fact: Instead of performing a root cause analysis to determine why families and unaccompanied minors are so desperate to enter the U.S. to seek asylum, Trump wants to cut funding to Central American countries, which will exacerbate the underlying problems internal to the affected countries.

Fact: The largest number of families and children reaching the border came from Guatemala, fleeing crime and drought.

Fact: Guatemala’s volatility may have been exacerbated by multiple volcanic eruptions in 2018, affecting at least two million Guatemalans. The plume from a June eruption was visible from space:

Fact: Many Hondurans fleeing to the U.S. are also fleeing crime and violence; women in particular are fleeing because femicide has been a growing epidemic during the last six years, 95% of which has gone unpunished.

Fact: The U.S. ratified the U.N. protocol to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1968. This expressed the country’s intent to acknowledge and recognize the rights of asylum seekers. The U.S. has not retracted its ratification.

Fact: Asylum seekers can request asylum under Title 8 U.S. Code § 1158, on either side of the border:

(a) Authority to apply for asylum
(1) In general
Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where applicable, section 1225(b) of this title.

Fact: Trump said “the system is full, can’t take you any more,” which is in opposition to U.S. law on asylum.

Fact: Until it became legal problem for the Trump organization, Trump’s golf courses hired undocumented workers from Central America, some of them for years. This illegal hiring practice, out of compliance with decades-long rules about screening hirees, didn’t become an issue until Trump wanted to use DACA and Temporary Protected Status as a bargaining chit to obtain funding for his “fucken wall” during the government shutdown.

Fact: El Paso, Texas, isn’t in a state of crisis; its mayor attests to this, and asked Trump to stop lying about it. But Trump wanted to shut down the border at El Paso altogether because of his lie that the border is in crisis.

Fact: When told that closing the border as he requested would cause serious damage to the U.S. economy by throttling free trade, Trump said, “I don’t care.

Fact: Trump has insisted that families be separated at the border because he believes it will discourage them from seeking asylum in the U.S.

Fact: Trump, “ranting and raving” at White House and DHS staff, stressed the “border is my issue” while issuing unlawful orders to separate families at the border. He isn’t following through on carefully considered policy but on a campaign issue — one from 2016, and now one for the 2020 race.

~ ~ ~
The bottom line: Trump both as president and as a business owner has violated federal law.

He has done so, deliberately employing cruelty and at cost of human lives, in order to fulfill a campaign promise in 2016, as a campaign theme in 2018 to assist the GOP in mid-terms, and as a campaign stunt for re-election in 2020. As he said, the “border is my issue.”

He has issued unlawful orders as part of his ongoing campaigning under influence of former adviser anarchist Steve Bannon and white nationalist Stephen Miller, a current White House adviser.

The Republican Party aids and abets this — endorses this — as political practice as long as it fails to check the de facto leader of their party. Cruelty and indifference to non-white, non-English-speaking people including infants and families is now their brand along with disregard for treaties and laws.

In doing so, the Republican Party destroys any pretensions to legitimacy if it supports systematic unlawful behavior.

We need to ask if it is now fact that there is no Republican Party.

Trump’s Gone Full Jessep

[NB: The byline is mine. /~Rayne]

If you haven’t haven’t recently watched the 1992 film, A Few Good Men, it’s a good time to do so. Especially for this particular monologue delivered from the stand by Colonel Nathan Jessep, played by Jack Nicholson (spoiler alert: this scene is the climax of the movie):

The colonel gave an illegal order — a Code Red — to his men to dispense extrajudicial punishment to PFC William “Willie” Santiago after which Santiago died.

Up to this point Jessep has been a hard ass, bordering on rude. But this particular monologue depicts Colonel Jessep at his worst, when the mask slips off and the monster who can justify his worst impulses does so because his ego won’t permit any serious questioning of his authority.

This is Trump — from reports based on feedback from those in his presence, he’s gone full Jessep and whatever mask he’s worn has slipped off. He’s given illegal orders, in direct opposition to his oath of office and the Constitution, the law and a court order, when he demanded the separation of asylum-seeking families at the border while “ranting and raving” that “border security security was his issue.”

He believes he is the law, as if he’s king.

No one in the White House seems able to disabuse him of this concept — if they are trying at all.

A number of senior staff have been fired throughout Trump’s 26 months in office, the latest such termination resulting in the departure of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

It’s not clear whether the departure of Secret Service director Randolph Alles was for the same reason; he denies it but the timing is suspicious given the appearance of a purge across DHS leadership.

One employee whose continued employment suggests they aren’t explaining the limits of executive authority is White House counsel Pat Cipollone. His presence was noted in reports about a meeting in which Trump had a narcississtic meltdown about DHS’ inability to stop asylum seekers at the border. Why was Nielsen the sole target two weeks later instead of Cipollone?

~ ~ ~

In A Few Good Men, the story arc centers on the two Marines charged with Santiago’s death as a result of the Code Red. They argued they were following orders from their superior officer, and as we see in the climax, Col. Jessep finally admits he gave the order. The court renders its verdict:

The Nuremberg defense will not hold; an illegal order is illegal no matter the rank of the person issuing it, and obeying it is illegal as well. Government employees who commit illegal acts even at the order of the president violate the law as well as their oaths of office:

I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” (5 USC 3331)

Support and defend the Constitution. Well and faithfully discharge the duties of office. Obeying an illegal order fulfills neither of these.

Founding father John Adams said, “We are a nation of laws, not of men.” Walls are useless if they defend not the law and our country’s values, but one man’s sick, skewed ego.

The Rwandan Genocide’s 25th Anniversary

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. / ~Rayne]

25 years ago today — within hours after the assassination of Rwanda’s and Burundi’s presidents — Rwanda’s Hutus began systematic killing of minority member Tutsi and Pygmy Batwa.

By mid-July 1994, between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Rwandan citizens had been brutally killed — 70% of the Tutsi and 30% of the Pygmy population wiped out by xenophobic rage. It’s not clear exactly how many Rwandans had been slain during the roughly 15-week period because the deaths weren’t documented as they occurred.

The U.S. knew about the threat of violence having intelligence about Hutus seeking “a final solution” but chose to do nothing because the Clinton administration worried they might face another ‘Blackhawk Down’ scenario as they did in Somalia during the Battle of Mogadishu the previous October.

The UN pulled out and did nothing after 10 Belgians serving the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) had been killed during the first week of the genocide. They had been protecting Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana who was slain 25 years ago today; she was the country’s first and so far only female prime minister.

In an interview with Radio France later in the evening on April 6, 1994, she said,

There is shooting, people are being terrorized, people are inside their homes lying on the floor. We are suffering the consequences of the death of the head of state, I believe. We, the civilians, are in no way responsible for the death of our head of state.

Her children survived the attempts on their lives by hiding behind furniture as she and her husband went outside to meet Rwandan soldiers seeking her. They were later smuggled out by a UNAMIR volunteer to safety.

The violence had been fomented for years, its roots likely in the manner by which colonialist Belgium and Germany distinguished for arbitrary reasons the Tutsi over the Hutu, inculcating an idea of separation and otherness with the Rwandan people.

The mounting xenophobia was further fed by hate speech over broadcast radio programming, via Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines. Tutsi were depicted as alien, intent on subjugating the majority Hutu, and as non-Christian.

They were killed in horrible ways; in weeks ahead of the genocide, machetes had been imported in much greater quantities than in previous years. Tutsis were also subject to a broad campaign of torture by rape, resulting in maiming, unwanted pregnancies, and death in many cases, as well as a surge in HIV infections which remain with the survivors and those born after to this day.

~ ~ ~
Some may say that what the U.S. is currently experiencing is just politics, matters of opinion in which some like our president may get carried away with their rhetoric. But we’ve seen politics become deadly after systematic use and normalization of hate speech and eliminationist talk, often exemplified in Nazi, Germany of the 1930s.

We don’t need to look back a lifetime for an example of the deadly effects institutionalized hate speech can have on populations. People responsible for decisions that led to many deaths 25 years ago still walk among us. Survivors still bear witness to the genocide and the events that led to it.

We’ve already seen marked a marked uptick in hate crimes since the 2016 election because hate speech by American leaders gives implicit permission to escalate hate. Trouble is brewing here now, and media whether broadcast or social plays a role in its spread. It’s on us to call it out and reject it.

Hate speech and eliminationist talk is not acceptable. It is toxic and corrosive to a democratic society in which every human is equal under the law. Do not look away or ignore xenophobic talk; it is already excusing the loss of lives both American and Central American alike and it can get worse without intervention.

We owe it to the Rwandans who died 25 years ago to learn something from the hateful madness which took them.

This is an open thread.

Three Things: Hey You, Mr./Ms./Mx. Pissed-Off

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

I get it. You’re furious, en fuego, royally pissed off. You’ve traveled through shock and traversed anger, raging for days now since Attorney General Bill Barr issue that POS four-page letter chock full of holes big enough to drive a 40-foot dry van through again and again.

And now you’ve hit bottom, burned out and blue having reached another stage in the grieving process.

We all know this isn’t the end of it, no matter how much gaslighting and abuse the White House, its proxies, the right-wing horde, and asshats like David fucking Brooks spew. You know what you saw in the speaking indictments, plea agreements, and sentencing memos produced over the last two years.

We all know who ‘Individual 1’ is no matter how much he and his myriad minions and handlers would like us to forget his role as an unindicted co-conspirator who denied the public the right to know the truth about his past during the 2016 election.

At least one conspiracy to defraud the American public is right there spelled in black and white under our noses, and again in congressional records as part of Michael Cohen’s testimony before the House. Trump worked with Cohen to lie to the voting American public, violating campaign finance laws in doing so.

“If the people don’t have the facts, democracy doesn’t work,” as Judge Amy Berman Jackson told former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort during his sentencing hearing, another liar Trump brought into his team, allowing Manafort to change the Republican’s platform on Ukraine without a wide and open discussion among conservatives about it.

Trust your eyes and ears. You’re right to be angry and disappointed. Take a deep cleansing breath in and center yourself, feel that righteous burn of indignation, then let out the poison.

And then take another deep breath, roll up your sleeves, grab your phone, and let’s kick some ass.

~ 3 ~
What: Barr didn’t confine himself to his four-page POS summary on Sunday. Oh no. He had to make it really fucking personal for a huge swath of Americans by refusing to allow the DOJ to defend the Affordable Care Act. From the ABA Journal:

The DOJ’s new stance would strike down additional provisions that allow children to have coverage on their parents’ policies until age 26 and that guarantee “essential health benefits” such as mental health, maternity and drug coverage. The stance also would eliminate an expansion of Medicaid and free preventive services for people on Medicare.

Quite literally Americans could die because of this move.

Needed:
— Call your representatives and tell them you support the current ACA legislation in the absence of a better, Medicare for All replacement.
— Ask your reps to do what’s necessary to ensure the DOJ fulfills its mission to enforce the laws of this country, which at this time includes ACA.

You can see Barr is now setting a precedent for a unilateral executive branch which can pick and choose the laws it will enforce in spite of precedent backing existing laws. This can’t go any further.

Congressional Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

~ 2 ~
What: Betsy ‘Multi-Yacht’ Devos decided disabled Americans do not merit an opportunity to achieve; she’s proposed ending funding for Special Olympics.

That shallow, stupid wretch has no real idea what Special Olympics means to the disabled, especially children and their parents. One of my family members has worked for more than a decade at a Special Olympics camp, spending weeks with children who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to camp like abled children. The kids meet other kids like themselves, make new friends, learn new skills, hone their physical abilities, begin to see themselves as capable of so much more. And their parents get a much-needed respite from caring for children who may need around-the-clock monitoring.

But as the former director of the Office of Government Ethics says, the cruelty is the point. Devos is Cruella De Ville who will kill puppies for their coats given the chance. Pro-life, my foot; she cares not a whit what life is like for the disabled after birth.

She quite literally wants to axe Special Olympics and take the money to give to charter schools, which fail at around 25% rate. The money she will steal from the disabled will literally go down a rat hole and nobody except the charter school profiteers will benefit from this scam.

In fact the amount we spend as taxpayers providing additional support to Special Olympics could be offset easily if Trump spent four less weekends at his golf courses on our dime.

There are those who argue it’s really Trump who insisted on this cut and Devos is merely is grunt doing the scut work of hurting the disabled. Sure — but a person whose values are genuinely aligned with caring for fellow humans would have told Trump to stick this sidewise and quit their post instead.

The chances of this proposal passing the House are slim to none, especially after Devos was grilled by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) on Tuesday, but it’s a line in the sand we should draw.

Needed: Call your members of Congress in both houses and let them know this kind of cruelty to disabled Americans is unacceptable and it will not fix the inherent problem of making schools into privatized profit centers with an unacceptably high rate of failure.

Congressional Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

~ 1 ~
What: Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is appearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as Trump’s corrupt nominee for Interior Secretary.

If you have a moment or two, watch for the swamp monster — the one in the green mask sitting behind Bernhardt, not Bernhardt (because when you’ve seen one of the fleshy pink swamp monsters, you’ve seen many).

Needed: This guy is selling out our national resources. Call your senators and tell them hell no on this dirtbag, we don’t need another swamp monster helming the Interior Department.

Congressional Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

~ 0 ~
Don’t forget to check your phone’s battery charge. Get calling!

This is an open thread, by the way.

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