Category Archives: Immigration

You Can’t Argue with the Need to Perform

A story in a bunch of tweets from last week:

I keep seeing all these bewildered reactions whenever some massive Trump scandal or screwup or conspiracy is exposed. Why doesn’t this “stick?” Why doesn’t this change anyone’s mind? He’s going to let Paul Ryan gut their Medicare. Why doesn’t that matter? He’s hiring the entirety of the financial crisis and letting it run the economy. Why aren’t Trump voters feeling betrayed? Why isn’t THIS or THIS or THIS the breaking point for anyone who voted for him? Because none of that interferes with the central reason they voted for him. They keep telling you. They voted for him to give a big middle finger to women, black people, libtards, intellectuals, bureaucrats, feminazis, protesters, immigrants legal and otherwise, politicians generally and anything else that bugged them.

And he may be betraying every campaign promise but he’s not breaking the only one they cared about: The one to make them feel like they mattered again.

It’s performative. It’s the entire Republican thing, from before George W. Bush probably, and we keep wanting to make it make sense. Performances don’t make sense. You can’t argue me out of putting green and gold on and tromping up the stairs to Lambeau in 13 degree weather to watch my quarterback throw four interceptions while his receivers treat every oncoming football like it’s made out of bees. You can’t do it. I want to be a Packer fan. These people want to be FOR TRUMP.

And FOR TRUMP means they get to feel powerful. FOR TRUMP means they get to bully right back. FOR TRUMP means they get to tell their liberal sister-in-law that she’s a stupid bitch. FOR TRUMP means instead of respecting a black or brown person, they get to call that person names. FOR TRUMP means they get to turn off that nagging instinct, nurtured by the churches they say mean so much to them, that maybe they should help the big scary world that’s burning down outside their windows. FOR TRUMP means they get to feel like being mad is enough.

(Do some of them have genuine economic problems that could have been addressed by Democratic policies had Democrats not been sucking off every investment banker they saw? OF COURSE. That doesn’t address the reflexive FUCK YOU that is the response to anything Trump does now.)

It’s part and parcel of the performative aspect of politics generally. Try telling a movement pro-lifer that the best way to raise abortion rates is to outlaw abortion. They’re not going to argue the facts with you. They’re going to BE AGAINST abortion. They’re going to wear the T-shirt and they’re going to vote because they want to keep that part of the character they invented and put on like a suit. You can’t talk them out of their clothes, God’s sakes.

We used to say, all us internet grandparents who were around during the early days post-9/11, that this had given a lot of the population the excuse to be the assholes they’d always wanted to be. A lot of the bewilderment from well-meaning white progressives right now is the inability to accept that the simmering anti-lib dad anger, quiet nice-lady racism and selfishness of their parents and their parents’ friends wasn’t all that different from the white supremacists screaming in the street. When you get right down to it, they both always voted the same way. The former might be more dangerous, in the long run.

So what do you DO, a couple of people asked on Twitter. If facts don’t matter and arguments don’t matter and scandals don’t matter, do you just give up on these people? And my immediate reaction was yes, and with a couple of days to think about it I still think, kind of?

Kind of means you start treating them like the addicts they are. They’re high as kites on talk-radio distortions and you don’t sit down with a cokehead and calmly debate the merits of smoking up some pure clean LIFE instead. You get that cokehead into rehab if you can, but for God’s sake you stop giving him money. You stop feeding the beast with empathetic articles and moving to the right on social issues and other useless mollifications that I’m sure many highly paid consultants in DC are advising right now.

You find ways to save the people being hurt by the person all this performance put in power. You rally for the immigrants and you call your congressmen and you write to your senators and you volunteer at the shelter and you do what you can to save as many as you can. That’s where you put your energy. You take care of the person the rage-addicts hurt.

Maybe some of them will come around. When they do, when they get woke, you treat them gently, like newborns to the world of sense, and you give them work to do too. You don’t give them a medal for showing up but you give them a job. The more people have to do, the less time they’ll have to stew on the ways in which the world has wronged them.

And when comes the time to vote again? When that comes around? You make sure you and yours are THERE. Because there are more good people than bad, even if there are more quiet people than loud. You vote this shit down and out, you watch it die, and you move on.

A.

Save One

We are arguing about how much of the house is on fire, with the refugee/immigrant ban. We are arguing closet versus attic versus living room, instead of picking up a damn bucket and putting the fire out:

President Trump and his aides love to cite a small number and a big number in order to minimize the impact of the president’s executive order suspending the visas of citizens of seven countries.

But these figures are incredibly misleading, so let’s go through the math.

Let’s not, because it doesn’t fucking matter. I don’t care if this executive order affected one person.  I don’t care if this hadn’t affected ANYONE yet. In no possible world are any of our laws tested constitutionally based on how many people they affect. That’s not the measurement. That’s not the qualifier. You don’t get to say well, we only screwed over a dozen immigrant kids, so until we get to triple digits we’re cool. That’s not how any of this works.

Our laws were not designed to save as many as possible. Our laws were designed to save us all, and that means saving one. One person. One child. One family. One mother or father or brother or sister. Our laws were designed to weigh us all, one against the other, and say no one of us is worth more than any of the others.

It’s why our presidents, our congressmen, are subject to our laws. It’s why you can bring suit against those holding the highest offices in the land. It’s why you and I can — or should be able to — avail ourselves of the same legal system as someone who got here last week.

And that includes potential terrorists, for all the wingnuts in the cheap seats. I know you all think life is a nonstop episode of 24 and if President Trump doesn’t personally electrode a Syrian dude’s balls in the Roosevelt Room then we’ll all die in a nuclear attack, but a) that is not how anything is going to happen and b) at no point would such a scenario be endangered by said Syrian dude invoking a right to counsel. If Trump is hooking jumper cables to his nethers he’s already figured out that nobody can hear him scream.

Meanwhile, the non-terrorist families that just want to come here, get jobs, spend money at the local Wal-Mart and watch American TV are going to get handcuffed and deported back to the places we explicitly encouraged them to flee, and you’ll pardon me if I don’t want to wait until they’re a certain percentage of travelers or if they’re especially promising at geometry or any of the other bullshit narratives that have sprung up in the past 72 (holy shit, only 72) hours.

They’re human beings, and we are America. Let’s not go through the math.

A.

Bannon’s B3 Brownshirts & The Chaos Principle

It’s official: Donald Trump had the worst first week of any President* in American history. It was so bad that I debated with a friend as to whether he was already the worst ever. I still think it’s too early to tell since Buchanan and W are responsible for wars and economic calamity. Trump hasn’t passed Andrew Johnson either BUT he’s building a strong case for worst ever and he’s only been at it for 10 days. I don’t think our cause benefits from hyperbole and overstatement. You can only fight lies with the truth and delusion with reality.

I admitted the other day to knowing very little about higher maths. I have, however, heard of the Chaos Principle:

Chaos is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable. It teaches us to expect the unexpected. While most traditional science deals with supposedly predictable phenomena like gravity, electricity, or chemical reactions, Chaos Theory deals with nonlinear things that are effectively impossible to predict or control, like turbulence, weather, the stock market, our brain states, and so on.

It looks like Steve Bannon and his B3 Brownshirts are inspired by the Chaos Principle, at least by analogy. Team Trump is trying to inject so much chaos and confusion into our polity that repression will be required to maintain order. I seriously doubt if the Insult Comedian himself has such a plan: all he ever does is wing it without thought to the implications. Bannon, however, has emerged as first among equals in the West Wing. He’s capable of complex, devious, and downright evil thought. Bannon has Trump’s ear and the Dear Leader Wannabe seems to agree with the last person he spoke to.

In short, Bannon and his fellow white nationalists want to create the circumstances in which a right-wing revolution is possible. Those circumstances do not currently exist. Bitching about the government is as American as apple pie, it doesn’t amount to instant homegrown fascism. That is definitely a long-term threat but we have the mechanisms to stop it: people power and lawyers, lawyers, lawyers. Political courage on the part of elected officials seems to be in short supply but the longer this constitutional crisis lasts the bolder they will become. Talk of collaboration with the Trumpers has become much less common since they came to power.

The good news is that Team Trump’s Muslim ban was issued without co-ordination with the agencies obliged to enforce it and they didn’t even run it by their own lawyers. That makes it eminently susceptible to legal challenge. It was, apparently, pulled out of Rudy Noun Verb 9/11’s ass:

I’ll tell you the whole history of it. So when he first announced it he said, “Muslim ban.” He called me up and said, “Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.” I put a commission together with Judge Mukasey, with Congressman McCaul, Pete King, a whole group of other very expert lawyers on this. And what we did was we focused on, instead of religion, danger. The areas of the world that create danger for us. Which is a factual basis. Not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible, and that’s what the ban is based on. It’s not based on religion. It’s based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.

That is, of course, nonsense. The order discriminates against people because of their religion, and all the lies in the world won’t change that. The fact that an exception was made for Christians from the affected countries is proof of discriminatory intent as is Giuliani’s need to brag about his role in the ban. He’s really turning into his master. Giuliani’s success in masterminding the Comey coup has gone to his head, and he was already a raging egomaniac. This is terrific evidence for the legal eagles to pounce on. Thanks, Rudy. I can imagine Justice Anthony Kennedy’s head spinning as I write this. I am as likely to vote Republican as he is to uphold this executive order if it reaches SCOTUS.

This policy is based on Islamophobic fantasies, not reality. That’s a recurring theme for Team Trump’s Bannon wing. In addition to the Chaos Principle, they believe in what one might call the Goebbels corollary: the bigger the lie, the more believable it is. This is propaganda, not spin. The MSM is finally showing signs of coming to grips with that. It’s a pity that they didn’t do so during the late campaign. The MSM and the “Clinton is just as bad as Trump” crowd bear a lot of responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in. I hope the Steiners and Busters enjoyed the events of this weekend. They have a share of the blame. I may “Nazi punch” the next purity troll who tells me their vote didn’t matter because they were in a red state or some other lame excuse. Every vote in every election matters.

The Trumpers have clearly overreached. The order placing Steve Bannon on the National Security Council is the best example I can think of. That body has been moribund for many years BUT excluding the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sends a dangerous signal that Steve Bannon is running the show. It doesn’t get much worse than that but the order’s impact is symbolic for now. For now. That’s always the rub with this crowd.

One thing I’ve noticed about Bannon and his B3 Brownshirts is that they admire Soviet-style tactics. They’ve done some things that Stalin would have applauded such as placing what amounts to “political commissars” at cabinet departments and agencies. This sort of convergence of the far left and extreme right doesn’t surprise me at all.  This creeping Sovietism/Putinism is also reflected by their Holocaust remembrance day proclamation. It’s the first time an American administration has referred to the Holocaust without mentioning Jews. They’re pandering to the Holocaust denialists and minimizers. What’s next? An invitation for Davids Irving and Duke to visit the White House? Nothing would surprise me in the Chaos Principle era.

The one piece of advice I have for the nascent anti-Trump movement is to pace yourselves. The world is a complicated place and it cannot be changed in a day. This is going to be a long, hard slog and burn-out is a risk. Make sure to do whatever it is you do for fun It’s a lesson that New Orleanians learned during the post-Katrina/Federal Flood era. We were widely criticized for having Carnival in 2006. We knew better. It was necessary for our collective mental health. We continued rebuilding and pressuring the local, state, federal government for assistance but we took time out to enjoy life. It’s something that we can teach the rest of the country. There *is* a constitutional crisis now but stopping it won’t be helped by freaking out. Instead of freaking out: become better informed about American political history, and organize, organize, organize.

Vive les Maquis.

The Korematsu Case Revisited

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I remember very few papers I wrote as a college student. One exception is a paper about the horrific, anti-constitutional internment of the Japanese, including citizens, during World War II. It was an action initiated in panic by a racist Army General but ratified by some distinguished American liberals: President Roosevelt, Attorney General Francis Biddle, Justice Hugo Black, and then California Attorney General Earl Warren. It is a stain on all their memories and on American history. So much so that Congress and President Reagan formally apologized for internment in 1988. That right, Ronald Reagan knew it was wrong. There are ominous signs that the Trumpers do not.

TPM is usually the first political site I look at every morning. One headline was a real eye-opener, the textual equivalent of 2 cups of coffee, Trump Surrogate: Japanese Internment Camps A Precedent For Muslim Registry:

One of Donald Trump surrogate’s claimed Wednesday that the forced internment of Japanese Americans during World War II provided a “precedent” for the next administration creating a registry of Muslims living in the United States.

Carl Higbie, a former Navy SEAL and booster of the President-elect, told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly that such a registry was necessary until “we can identify the true threat” posed by Islamic extremists.

“We have in the past,” Higbie said. “We have done it based on race, we have done it based on religion, we have done it based on region.”

<SNIP>

“It is legal. They say it’ll hold constitutional muster,” Higbie said of the registry. “I know the ACLU is going to challenge us, but I think it’ll pass. And we’ve done it with Iran back a while ago. We did it in World War II with Japanese, which, call it what you will—”

I call it bigotry. That’s what I call it. Targeting a religious minority is also an egregious violation of the First Amendment. I am, however, glad that barking mad Naval Seal mentioned the Bush years. They were not big on the constitution either. It *can* happen here. In fact, it already has.

I have a a few questions. Will the “Muslim registry” apply to citizens? Is this partial payback for Khizr Khan? Trump is capable of such petty vindictiveness, after all. Who’s going to restrain him? Rudy? Kris Kobach? Jared Kushner? Not bloody likely.

Back to the post title. The Supreme Court upheld the Japanese exclusion order in Korematsu v. United States in 1944. Fred Korematsu, an American citizen, was convicted of “violating the civilian exclusion order.” SCOTUS upheld his conviction in an opinion by Justice Hugo Black with three Justices in dissent: Stanley Roberts, Frank Murphy, and Robert Jackson. It was not one of Justice Black’s finest hours but Justice Jackson’s dissent rings true in the wake of the comments by that barking mad Navy Seal:

Korematsu was born on our soil, of parents born in Japan. The Constitution makes him a citizen of the United States by nativity, and a citizen of California by residence. No claim is made that he is not loyal to this country. There is no suggestion that, apart from the matter involved here, he is not law-abiding and well disposed. Korematsu, however, has been convicted of an act not commonly a crime. It consists merely of being present in the state whereof he is a citizen, near the place where he was born, and where all his life he has lived.
<SNIP>
Much is said of the danger to liberty from the Army program for deporting and detaining these citizens of Japanese extraction. But a judicial construction of the due process clause that will sustain this order is a far more subtle blow to liberty than the promulgation of the order itself. A military order, however unconstitutional, is not apt to last longer than the military emergency. Even during that period, a succeeding commander may revoke it all. But once a judicial opinion rationalizes such an order to show that it conforms to the Constitution, or rather rationalizes the Constitution to show that the Constitution sanctions such an order, the Court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure and of transplanting American citizens. The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.

I added the bold face for obvious reasons. Korematsu has been discredited but never overruled. It still “lies about like a loaded weapon.” If the Islamophobes have their way, the chamber will be reloaded with their so-called registry. If that happens, all good people should try their damnedest to sign the thing in solidarity with those being oppressed. What’s next? A Yellow Crescent?

Don’t Talk to Me About Bubbles

I’m going to tell you a story and I swear every single word is true.

I work downtown in Chicago at least two days a week and on at least one of those days I eat lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant right near my office.

This place is owned by a Vietnamese family.

On the menu, which is on the wall, they advertise that some of the food is halal.

They serve Chilean wine.

Yesterday, when I was there, the older and younger cooks were yelling at each other in Spanish over what kind of music they were going to play in the dining room.

The younger cook won. Biggie. Big Poppa.

I’ve read a lot in the past week about how I live in a “liberal bubble.” How I don’t understand the world outside, the concerns of others, different from myself. How I need to do everything from “get out more” to “just move to a red state” to “talk to more people.”

Do you know how often I would LOVE to live in a bubble? When my upstairs neighbors are yelling about the Cubs game or a guy is trying to sell me video games on the street corner or the entire train car is engaged in ignoring-down someone who should really be getting mental health services or even another drink somewhere. (Nobody wants to call the cops, because we don’t want to hurt this guy further.) Do you know how often I think to myself, I’m tired of working this hard to live here?

There is no isolation here. No shield from difference. No ignoring the “other.” I can throw a rock from my house and hit four drug dealers and so can everyone else in my neighborhood.

It’s all in your face, all the time, everything that has led us where we are: Poverty. Inequality. A lack of help. An education system that is broken by racism and meanness about money. Gloriousness. Music. Food. History. Something new to learn every single second. Art in museums and on street corners, books stuffed to the rafters in the libraries.

And people. People people people.

I was at a wedding once in a small town in Kansas and the mother of the bride cornered me in the bathroom and talked about how lucky she was to live where she lived. There was, she said, no real community in the big city.

My next-door neighbor had called the week previous, in hysterics. She was hyperventilating and for a moment I thought something had happened to her son.

There was a dead mouse in her kitchen. She wanted my husband to come get it.

Same neighbor, the week Kick was born, left homemade chili and a supportive note at my front door. The woman who used to live upstairs pet-sat the ferrets and I walked her dog. Mr. A travels for work for weeks at a time and I’m never worried; there are half a dozen people in my building who’d come if I called. There are half a dozen people on the street at any given time: safety in numbers.

Kick was baptized at the church down the block. I’m an inconsistent attendee, but they welcomed us as if I parked in those pews full time. They extended their hands to our new, fragile little family and they blessed us, and I felt it in a way I’ve never felt faith before.

They have a food drive the first weekend of every month. People pile bags of food and envelopes of cash on the altar to feed the hungry.

I understand my way of life isn’t for everybody. Like I said, sometimes I’m not sure it’s for me and mine, not always. But the values that make it worth living are those in every community, large and small, across this country, values the “white working class,” the “small town America,” the “heartland,” instilled in me: Generosity, connection, joy. A profound sense of place, of knowing. A love of God, and of difference. A constant reaching out, over and over and over, in the face of every rebuff, knowing that we are more together than we are apart. Values that were so cruelly betrayed last week.

Don’t tell me I live in a bubble. Don’t tell me I don’t experience difference. It’s at the next desk in my office, talking about teaching kids to read. It’s my Iranian downstairs neighbors playing country music; you really haven’t lived until you’ve heard an elderly Persian woman yelling enthusiastically along with Kenny Chesney.

(And not for nothing, but some of us live in “bubbles” because we couldn’t get work in our red states of origin. I’ve read a lot of commentary in the past week about shallow liberals who just want to eat ethnic food to show off. For some people it’s about eating, period.)

This “bubble” is the wide world, the same one everyone lives in. We are all as isolated as we want to be. If you have three neighbors and you know them, good. If you have three thousand and you know as many of them as you can, good.

Nobody lives in a bubble, not unless they want to.

A.

Malaka Of The Week: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions

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Sessions and Trump do Alabama.

It’s time to play some inside baseball. A friend recently asked me why there have been fewer malaka of the week posts of late. He pointed out that there’s an abundance, even a surfeit, of malakatude. Here’s why: quite a few posts start off as malaka of the weekers but if I come up with a punchy-n-clever title I use that. Play ball.

I was astonished when I did an internal search a few weeks ago, and learned that Jeff Sessions had never been malaka of the week. I assumed he had been: he’s one of the worst Senators and the first member (literally in his case) of that body to endorse Donald Trump for President. (Sounds like a sentence Trump might want to grope.) Sessions been one of the Insult Comedian’s most outspoken and aggressive surrogates who is always willing to defend the indefensible. And that is why Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions of Alabama is malaka of the week.

Sessions has been in the Senate for 20 years. In that time, he’s been one of its few openly racist members: his idea of enlightenment is calling black folks nigras instead of you know what. His fanatical opposition to all that is good and espousal of all that is bad has had him on my radar screen for years. His pet cause is immigration, which is why he endorsed his fellow bigot way back on February 28th at a rally in Mobile. It’s leap year, which may be why he jumped the gun and endorsed his fellow Putin fan so early. That’s given this benighted peckerwood real clout with the candidate. No wonder Trump is losing.

In addition to his general malakatude, Sessions has been in the news after two of Trump’s recent controversies. At first, he was adamant that the grab them by the Billy Bush tape wasn’t about sexual assault:

Interviewed in the spin room after the presidential debate in St. Louis, in which Trump brushed off the comments as “locker room talk,” the Alabama senator noted that the real estate mogul already apologized for his “very improper language.”

“But beyond the language, would you characterize the behavior described in that as sexual assault if that behavior actually took place?” the Weekly Standard asked.

“I don’t characterize that as sexual assault,” Sessions replied. ”I think that’s a stretch. I don’t know what he meant—“

“So if you grab a woman by the genitals, that’s not sexual assault?” the Weekly Standard pressed.

“I don’t know. It’s not clear that he—how that would occur.”

He has subsequently crawfished but that quote shows his inclination to slavishly support everything Trump does or says. Sessions long ago succumbed to Trump’s domination politics. Notice the featured image at the top of the post: Trump quite literally lays his hand on his little buddy with the very Southern name, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. They look like a demented version of Gomer Pyle and Sgt. Carter. Of course, Carter had a crew cut and Gomer wasn’t a racist pinhead just a Southern fried sillybilly,  but it still works.

Sessions has also echoed his master’s “rigged election” talking point. I suspect he actually believes this bullshit: it’s what they did in the zip-a-dee-doo-dah days of the Old South, after all. The GOP has been peddling this line for years but are now shocked that Trump and his lackeys have taken this specious argument to its logical extreme. We all know that THEM PEOPLE steal elections and even return from the grave to vote for the demonic Democrats. How do we know this? Rudy Noun Verb 9/11 Giuliani told us and Good Ole Jeff Sessions agrees with him. Would Rudolph and Jefferson lie? In a heartbeat.

While researching this post, I stumbled on to a classic 2010 Wonkette post: Vile Racist Jeff Sessions: It’s His Day To Shine. Here’s a sample of its beautiful viciousness:

Who is this vile, lisping piglet known as the “top ranking Republican” on the Senate Judiciary Committee calling everybody and everything (mostly Elena Kagan) Communist and Anti-American? Why it’s Alabama heartthrob Jeff Sessions, the Reagan-era U.S. attorney in Mobile who, when nominated by the Gipper to be U.S. District Court judge in southern Alabama, was revealed to be a complete racist and Bircher-style paranoid — the kind of trash who would tell black colleagues that he thought the Ku Klux Klan were “okay” until he discovered some of them were “pot smokers.”

Through the course of his confirmation hearings, black and white colleagues described Sessions’ constant, blatant racism: calling the NAACP “anti-American,” aggressively prosecuting fake “voter fraud” in black neighborhoods while ignoring actual fraud in white polling stations, calling a black U.S. attorney “boy,” and describing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a “piece of intrusive legislation” — a quote he stood behind during his hearing.

How little things have changed. And that is why Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions of Alabama is malaka of the week. Believe it.

Since I mentioned dead voters, I’ll give a  certain rock combo the last word:

Trump’s Mexican Bait & Switch

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The political press knows who and what Donald Trump is: a flim-flam man. But they fall for his act time and time again. The New York Times is particularly susceptible to this carny barker’s blandishments. They had to do some radical rewriting of their Trump Wednesday article as you can see in this tweet:

There’s a disconnect at the Gray Lady between its political writers and news reporters. The latter have done some outstanding work about Trump’s slumlord father Fred and the Insult Comedian’s massive business debt. The tone of their political coverage, however, resides in MoDo-land, which is a realm that nobody should even want to visit let alone live. It’s a place where Anthony Weiner’s penis is of vital importance and where bad weather clichés dominate coverage of the Clintons. It’s also a place where the paper of record gets conned by the Insult Comedian over and over again.

Trump pantsed the MSM yesterday with a classic bait and switch. His impromptu visit to Mexico City baited the MSM into believing that he was somehow “moderating” his views. They fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Pardon the cliché but it fits. The switch came with his ranty, red-faced, angry harangue in Phoenix. Again the MSM fell for it. The press is supposed to be probing and skeptical but the political press corps was a gullible mark for Trump’s con game. Repeat after me: Every flim-flam man needs a sucker.

Press coverage of Trump’s meeting with wildly unpopular Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was analyzed through a lens of low expectations. Trump didn’t kick EPN in the balls and behaved like a facsimile of a human being so he was described as “looking Presidential.” The aftermath of the meeting has been murkier: EPN’s people and Team Trump have traded accusations of mendacity. Team EPN say the “wall” was discussed and that EPN told the Insult Comedian that Mexico would not pay. Team Trump maintains that it was not discussed because that would be inappropriate and rude. I am not making this up. The rudest man in America was too polite to mention his phantasmagorical wall? Neither side has any credibility with me so it’s tempting to say a pox on both their walls. There are more witnesses on EPN’s side so I’m giving him a slight edge. For more on the Mexican side of the equation get thee to Al Giordano’s Twitter feed. Al knows his shit about Mexican politics, y’all.

It was a surreal Wednesday watching the MSM fall for a huckster’s con and witnessing a Mexican President meet with the only guy more unpopular in his country than he is. I had to pinch myself at times to verify that it wasn’t sinsemilia flashbacks or some such shit. It’s proof positive that the one thing Trump is good at is working the media. They think it’s in poor taste to call him a liar so they don’t. They also do not recognize Trump’s Mexican sojourn for what it is: a stunt. Stunts are ephemeral and soon forgotten. Stunts are the physical comedy of the PR world, Trump was immediately back at work as an Insult Comedian at his Phoenix gig. To paraphrase Grace Slick, stunts don’t mean shit to a tree.

Having laid the bait for the gullible political press, Trump switched gears with a truly hateful speech reminiscent of his Trumpvention acceptance harangue. Once again, the MSM expected a “pivot” and got vintage “they’re all coming to rape and murder us” red meat for the xenophobia crowd. A certain Gret Stet hater loved it:

I think the word pivot should be banished from the political lexicon. Besides, when a Democrat moves to the center they’re making flippy floppy but it’s a pivot when a GOPer does it. Enough already. Basta ya. Das ist genug. I don’t know about you but it doesn’t sound better in the original German…

I’m glad that I suspended Godwin’s Law for the duration of campaign 2016. Everything about Trump’s speech reminded me of Triumph of the Will from the staging to the wild hand gestures to the almost hysterical tone of the speaker. The next time someone tells Hillary to stop shouting, I will kick them in the slats.

I’m not the only one who needed to discard Godwin’s Law. The MSM does too. Their coverage of Trump is clueless: they keep expecting him to be a normal human being instead of what he is,  a monster. Above all else, they need to stop falling for his con artistry and apply more skepticism to his words and deeds. Yesterday’s Mexican bait and switch should have been covered for what it was: a sham and a farce. It’s time for them to call a hater a hater and, more importantly, a liar a liar.

Hillary Clinton’s Alt-Right Speech

It’s no secret that I’m an ardent Democrat and staunch Hillary Clinton supporter. She’s a helluva tough woman who has endured 25 years of vicious attacks and has always, to paraphrase the old Kern-Fields song, picked herself up, dusted herself off, and started all over again. I have never been prouder of her than I am today. It took guts for Hillary to call out Donald Trump over his ties to white nationalists/supremacists.The speech was timely and well-delivered. It was also effective. Trump is  squealing like a stuck pig on his Twitter feed. And some people claimed Good Cop Kellyanne Conway took his phone away. They were wrong.

The more squeamish quarters of the punditocracy have been squirming ever since HRC’s speech. It’s impolite to say such things; just as one should never call one’s opponent a liar. Donald Trump doesn’t abide by the Marquess of Queensbury Rules and neither should his opponent. He *is*a liar. He *is* a racist. He *is* a misogynist. He *is* a con man. He *is* everything horrible that has been said about him. He *is* a menace.

Trump gave racialists/racists a seat at the table by hiring Breitbart Dude as his campaign CEO. David Dukkke has been one of his most ardent defenders. It may be impolite to tell Republicans that they’ve allowed the lunatic fringe to take over their party but it’s the truth. While it’s true that this has been coming on for years, the short-fingered vulgarian has accelerated the process. Reagan and Bush the elder denounced David Duke in the late 1980’s. Trump pretended not to know who he is in 2016. Reagan and Bush maintained a facade of plausible deniability when it came to the racists in their party as opposed to Trump’s implausible claim that Hillary Clinton is the bigot, not him. It’s just more projection by a sociopath. It’s what they do.

In addition to burying Trump, I want to praise Ms. Clinton for discarding euphemisms by calling a racialist a racist. After the break is  the transcript of her very important speech via TPM. I have omitted her introductory remarks since it’s the longest quote I’ve ever posted at First Draft. It’s also the most important.

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Tweets Of The Day: Jeet Heer Say Edition

Jeet Heer is a talented New Republic writer and an amusing tweeter. He also has one of the greatest names ever. It’s so punworthy that even I should not abuse it, not that you’d know that from the punny post title. Take my word for it. It’s not heersay…

The topic du jour is the Insult Comedian’s immigration “policy.” If any of you knows what it is, please tell me. It seems to change hourly. What Trump really has is a series of attitudes on immigration: the latest one is Mr. Kinda Sorta Nice Guy. I still haven’t the foggiest idea of what his policy is but it has pissed off Ann Coultergeist and that’s not a bad thing at all.

Jeet Heer was following last night’s Trumpian chaos and had a bit of fun at Coultegeist’s expense:

I am officially glad that I gave up Godwin’s Law for the duration of this campaign. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to post that tweet or this video:

That’s right, it’s already happened, even if the dread Coultegeist isn’t in it. You can’t have everything, Jeet.

All Trump has done with his latest position is confuse people. Will it last? It seems to depend on who he spoke to last. His campaign gets more farcical by the day. It’s also turning into a cop show cliché: they have Bad Cop (Breitbart Dude) and Good Cop (Kellyanne Conway.) The MSM will hype this change as-you guessed it-a pivot that will change everything. It changes nothing: his supporters have drunk the orange Kool-Aid and most everyone else thinks he’s unstable and perhaps even batshit crazy.

Trump’s “positions” are so chaotic and changeable that they gave me an earworm. I’ll give Neil Finn and Crowded House the last word:

DNC Finale Wrap Up: She Won’t Stay Throwed

Clinton-Kaine DNC, 2016.

Best balloon drop ever. Photograph via CNN.com.

I’m old. I’ve watched every DNC since 1976 and this was the best one ever. The themes of the programming came together in a glorious final day. Instead of being dismissive, many Conservative pundits lavished praise on the convention. I actually retweeted something Jonah Goldberg of the NRO wrote. That’s right, William Fucking Buckley’s National Review:

He, of course, reverted to Cartoon Hillary Hate during her speech but Goldberg’s reaction showed how effective the DNC was. It was an attempt to make this election America vs. Trump. The speeches of the President and HRC reinforced this underlying message beautifully.

One thing bugged me about the Conservative praise. They called patriotism and optimism “Republican values.” They’re American values. I love my country despite its manifest flaws. It’s my flag too and if I want to wave it, I will. Since they’re woefully ignorant of history, I’d like to remind them that Ronald Reagan was a Democrat for much of his life. And that Franklin Roosevelt was his hero and political role model. In addition to being the greatest liberal President of all time, FDR was a war President whose speeches were laced with patriotic images. Repeat after me: liberals are patriots too.

I’m going to say one thing about the Busters before moving on. They don’t understand how badly they came off. Their much vaunted purism came off as rudeness. They also seem bound and determined to repeat the mistakes made by the anti-war left in the Sixties:

I guess Twitter *can* be useful no matter how irritating it can get. It’s time for me to explain the post title.

Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver of Missouri, who’s also a United Methodist pastor, gave one of the best afternoon speeches. He took the DNC to church with a powerful testament to Hillary’s tenacity in the face of her enemies.

“Now here’s a warning to those who might be tempted to spend the next four years trying to knock Hillary Clinton down. You better get ready for a woman who won’t stay throwed,” Cleaver said as he grew more and more impassioned. “They threw her down as the first lady, but she didn’t stay throwed! They threw her down as a U.S. senator, but she wouldn’t stay throwed! They threw her down as a secretary of state, but she wouldn’t stay throwed! They threw her down in this very campaign—this campaign—but she won’t stay throwed! No, she ain’t gonna’ stay throwed! She won’t stay throwed! She won’t stay throwed!”

That’s more exclamation points than have ever appeared in one of my posts but Rep. Cleaver was riffing. This remarkable passage was ad-libbed. Let’s  throw down some segments about the rest of the finale.

A Reaganite Dissents: Bruce Elmets worked at the Reagan White House as a speechwriter and spokesman. He still reveres the Conservative icon. Mr. Elmets, quite correctly, regards Donald Trump as an affront to human decency. He opened with the Bentsen-Quayle colloquy as applied to the small fingered vulgarian, then delivered a blistering attack on the Insult Comedian:

He contrasted Reagan’s famous demand of Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall with Trump’s plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.

“Reagan saw nuance,” he said. “Trump sees the world as us vs. them, where somebody with brown skin or a foreign-sounding name is likely to blame for our troubles. Reagan knew that a leader needs diplomacy to steer a safe, prosperous course forward. Trump is a petulant, dangerously unbalanced reality star who will coddle tyrants and alienate allies.”

As a Californian, Reagan was a moderate on immigration, and would have been appalled by Trump’s proposal to expel Muslims from our country. That brings me to the finale’s most emotional moment.

The Wrath of Khan: Sorry, I’m a Trekker so I could not resist this sub-header. The Khan in question is a grieving Muslim father from Charlottesville, VA. Khizr Khan’s son, who was born in the USA, was killed in action in Iraq. I wasn’t planning to post a transcript of his remarks but it’s important for everyone to read his words:

Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed. We believed in American democracy — that with hard work and the goodness of this country, we could share in and contribute to its blessings.

We were blessed to raise our three sons in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams.

Our son, Humayun, had dreams of being a military lawyer. But he put those dreams aside the day he sacrificed his life to save his fellow soldiers.

Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son “the best of America.”

If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America.

Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country.

Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words “liberty” and “equal protection of law.”

Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities.

You have sacrificed nothing and no one.

We can’t solve our problems by building walls and sowing division.

We are Stronger Together.

And we will keep getting stronger when Hillary Clinton becomes our next President.

I may not be a Vulcan but I rarely cry.  I completely lost it when Mr. Khan held his pocket constitution aloft and asked, “Have you even read the U.S. Constitution?”

I cheer-wept when he did that. I never cheer-weep. I remained verklempt, which led me to post this on Facebook in the wee, small hours of the morning:

Along with Mr. Khan, Emmanuel Cleaver, and Hillary Clinton, I won’t stay throwed. Donald Trump is a menace and an existential threat to our Democracy. His propensity to wing it and say, then deny, outrageous shit makes him unfit to hold office at any level let alone the highest office in the land. Speaking of which:

Madame President: It’s going to be a long, hard slog but I remain cautiously optimistic that will be her title come January, 2017. She appeared in all white as a tribute to her suffragist/suffragette foremothers. She dressed for comfort in a pants suit as if giving the finger to those who comment endlessly on her appearance. Much of the convention was devoted to making a case for the Real Hillary as opposed to the Cartoon canard created by her enemies.

Her speech was magnificent, a roaring tribute to the old-time Democratic religion. Yes, Virginia Hipster there were liberals before Bernie. She invoked the name of the greatest Democratic President of all to castigate Trump:

Well, we heard Donald Trump’s answer last week at his convention. He wants to divide us — from the rest of the world, and from each other. He’s betting that the perils of today’s world will blind us to its unlimited promise.

He’s taken the Republican Party a long way … from “Morning in America” to “Midnight in America.”

He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.

Well, a great Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, came up with the perfect rebuke to Trump more than eighty years ago, during a much more perilous time.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

HRC is not the natural orator that the current Oval One is, but it was a well-written, well-delivered speech that was as substantive as all get out. She’s a policy wonk and proud of it. I saw a woman liberated, and comfortable in her own skin at the podium last night. She has embraced the historic nature of her nomination. I saw Jane Sanders in the gallery during HRC’s speech. She looked moved. She had to be. She knows how far we’ve come as well as how much farther we need to go.

HRC said something that President Obama dared not say in his first acceptance speech:

So let’s put ourselves in the shoes of young black and Latino men and women who face the effects of systemic racism, and are made to feel like their lives are disposable.

That was a remarkable statement in a remarkable speech by a remarkable woman. Perhaps I should find another superlative but that one will have to do for now.

One quote that will endure was a zinger at her opponent followed by a quote from a FLOTUS of the past:

Imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.

I can’t put it any better than Jackie Kennedy did after the Cuban Missile Crisis. She said that what worried President Kennedy during that very dangerous time was that a war might be started — not by big men with self-control and restraint, but by little men — the ones moved by fear and pride.

Indeed, madam.

I’m proud to be an American and a Democrat this week. Neither my party nor my country are perfect. That’s an aspiration, not an achievable goal. We’re human being thus inherently imperfect. It’s what has bugged me the most about the Dead Enders to my left. We’ve been told, by what my friend Ed Branley calls “non-partisan progressives,” that the party needs to be more inclusive. Did you see the floor at the DNC? I saw America there. The Democratic Party has now nominated a black man and a woman. How is that not inclusive? Children born during the Obama-Clinton era will not think there was anything unusual about having a black or female President. How great is that, y’all?

Are we perfect? Hell no, every party and political leader has a weak spot; for Senator Sanders it’s gun control; for Ms. Clinton it’s her vote on the Iraq War. That’s why you have to judge Presidents by the TOTALITY of their record. After all, Franklin Roosevelt established Social Security, but also signed the order interning Japanese-American citizens. Woodrow Wilson enacted much of the early 20th Century progressive agenda but was a segregationist. Lyndon Johnson was responsible for the Civil and Voting Rights Acts, and Medicare but took the country into a divisive, futile and bloody war in Vietnam. Great virtues and great flaws in one person, party, or country are not uncommon. That’s life in the real world.

I have no illusions that some of the Hillary haters will ever come around. The image created by right-wingers and furthered by some on the left has become what our friends in France call an “IDEE FIXE.”Literally a fixed idea.  It’s defined as “an idea that dominates one’s mind especially for a prolonged period.” The synonym is obsession.

It’s hard for people to let go of an obsession and the notion of Hillary as Nurse Ratched is indelible for many. All I know is that people who have never helped anyone in their lives think she’s a horrible person. They’re in the grip of an idee fixe. I pity them and hope they can let go to deny the White House to a man my late Republican father would not have allowed in his house, let alone voted for.

We can do better, y’all. We can do better. I’ll give President Obama the last word:

Look, Hillary’s got her share of critics. She’s been caricatured by the right and by some folks on the left; accused of everything you can imagine – and some things you can’t. But she knows that’s what happens when you’re under a microscope for 40 years. She knows she’s made mistakes, just like I have; just like we all do. That’s what happens when we try. That’s what happens when you’re the kind of citizen Teddy Roosevelt once described – not the timid souls who criticize from the sidelines, but someone “who is actually in the arena…who strives valiantly; who errs…[but] who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement.”

Hillary Clinton is that woman in the arena. She’s been there for us – even if we haven’t always noticed. And if you’re serious about our democracy, you can’t afford to stay home just because she might not align with you on every issue. You’ve got to get in the arena with her, because democracy isn’t a spectator sport. America isn’t about “yes he will.” It’s about “yes we can.” And we’re going to carry Hillary to victory this fall, because that’s what the moment demands.

Once again, I fibbed about the whole last word thing. The idea that the Democrats should meet Donald Trump’s challenge with anger is nonsense. We cannot out-anger Trump nor should we try. That’s the road to defeat. Optimism trumps anger even in tough times. We need a President who won’t stay throwed.

Wingnut vs. Wingnut

I cannot believe I’m about to praise Senator Mike Lee (R-LDS) but there’s a first time for everything. Why? He’s been out-wingnutted by some dipshit NewsMax teevee yakker:

“Hey look, Steve, I get it. You want me to endorse Trump,” Lee (R-Utah) told NewsMaxTV host Steve Malzberg. “We can get into that if you want. We can get into the fact that he accused my best friend’s father of conspiring to kill JFK. We can go through the fact that he’s made statements that some have identified correctly as religiously intolerant. We can get into the fact that he’s wildly unpopular in my state, in part because my state consists of people who are members of a religious minority church. A people who were ordered exterminated by the governor of Missouri in 1838. And, statements like that make them nervous.”

<SNIP>

The host pointed specifically to Trump’s insinuation that Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was somehow involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy as relatively trivial in comparison to Clinton’s scandals, but Lee didn’t see it that way.

“Right, right. He said that. He actually said that. He said that without any scintilla, without a scintilla of evidence. Now that concerns me,” Lee said.

Lee ritualistically said he could not vote for Hillary Clinton but the notion that accusing someone of being party to the Kennedy assassination is “relatively trivial” is obscene. I’m no fan of Tailgunner Ted or his nutbar factor-10 father but that’s a serious accusation. It’s a crime against American history to casually drag anyone into the event that changed the country forever. Apparently, Hillary’s email and Vincent Foster’s death are more important than the murder of a President.

In addition to praising Mike Lee, on this matter and this matter only, I’d like to offer some rare praise for the Mormon Church and its members. They have been consistently hostile to the Insult Comedian’s inflammatory comments on immigration and minority religious sects. It’s good to see that someone in what Gore Vidal famously called the United States of Amnesia has some historical memory. Persecution of one religious minority can easily turn into persecution of others.

Praising Mike Lee and the LDS church brings to mind that old expression “even a blind pig finds an acorn every once in awhile.” Why they would want to do such a thing remains mysterious to me but I am not well-versed in rural ways. So it goes.

All the Times Nothing Happens

I started a new job in April, one that necessitates my taking the L downtown each day. I’ve been riding the train off and on since we moved here, and never had a problem except when with out-of-town friends or family members who already think I am about to be raped and murdered every day here in the urban hellhole.

Like I bring my mom on the very touristy Red Line, and of course that day there’s a guy peeing off the end of the platform and singing.

Yesterday the train was crowded, rush hour bodies crammed next to one another as we all tried not to notice the closeness and the coffee breath and the summer sweat. I could see, over a young woman’s shoulder, that she was reading Game of Thrones. Beside her a little girl was reading Harry Potter.

At every platform, we crushed in closer.

If you thought about what holds the world up, you’d go stark raving mad inside a second.

Passengers on the train called 911 to report the stabbing, and an officer was already near the 47th Street Red Line stop as the train pulled up, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

The suspect stepped off the train, saw the officer and surrendered, Guglielmi said.

Police still are conferring with prosecutors on charges. The weapon was recovered at the scene.

It’s not how often something happens here, I tell out of town friends and family. It’s how often something doesn’t. We gather in ways that would make us targets all the time here. Every morning commute is the next packed nightclub floor. Anyone with a gun could … anyone with a bomb could … anyone with a knife.

This many people, this close together, this often, and nine times out of ten the worst thing that happens is someone’s wallet gets lifted.

I’ve seen musicians jam on the train, total strangers dancing along. I’ve seen a whole car, Mr. A included, get involved in an argument about the precise ethnicity of Jesus, and collectively ignore a ranting panhandler into calming down, and help a woman whose stroller got stuck in the gap between the car and the steps. People have offered me water when I was hot and when it’s below zero everyone huddles under the warming lights and makes the why the hell do we live here face.

This isn’t me saying it isn’t that bad. It’s me saying that we exist in a state of fragile truce, at all times. If you thought about it too much, if you saw it moving past you, you wouldn’t be able to stand it.

We exist, in this country, in every country, in inescapable interdependence. Contact is inevitable, leading to information bleed. I make accommodations, every day, for others. So do you. We do it without knowing it, looking past things, moving over, bending down.

What happens if that just stops?

This happens:

The first time I watched that video I looked at the two assholes yelling abuse at a dark-skinned man, in front of a woman wearing a hijab.

The second time I watched it, I looked at everyone else.

Yelling back. Saying stop. Saying this a disgrace. Saying that’s not fair. Saying that’s not right. Saying we’re not like this.

And it’s easy to say we are, because we are. I know the same Trump supporters you know. I’m a middle-class white chick and I don’t know all of the America you know, but three days after 9/11 I saw unemployed shitheads paint their chests red, white and blue and yell about “dune coons” up and down the street, and threaten good people, and do more than threaten.

It’s not that we’re not like this. It’s that we’re like this. And we’re like the people who yell back, too.

A.

Outrage Fatigue

Oh for fuck’s sake.

Do your damn job. Your damn job is to report on the story you see in front of you.

It isn’t your job to worry about what is “sticking” and what is not. It isn’t your job to worry about what will spur a Congressional hearing, and what will not. It isn’t your job to wonder if this thing today will “take down” somebody who you’ve discovered is a horrendous bastard who is going to hell. It isn’t your job to notice, despairingly, that every ugly thing that’s discovered about a politician makes his poll numbers go up.

All this bullshit, this “outrage fatigue” and “people will start to tune it out” and blah blah blah, it’s just worrying about your influence. It’s worrying about whether you, Mr. Upstanding Journalist, can Create Change by Breaking the Scandal That Brought Down the Powerful. It’s worrying about your brand, your image, your status, making you afraid that if you publish a story that so-and-so is a  war criminal who is breaking the law on the regular and people do not rise up and topple him, YOU will look bad.

When you worry that something isn’t “sticking,” you are worrying about who will LISTEN. That isn’t your job, to make sure someone will listen. Your job is to SPEAK.

It’s hard covering an endless flood of bullshit, just as it was difficult in the dark days of George W. Bush? It’s hard making time for each and every dumbass thing politicians like George W. Bush foisted on the country, and Donald Trump is threatening to foist? It’s a major bummer?

Guess what else is a major bummer?

Being the only Muslim kid in your kindergarten class and hearing your fellow five year olds talk about how your family is a bunch of terrorists.

Spending three tours of duty in Afghanistan, getting your left leg blown off, only to come home and have to wait 3 months for benefits to kick in.

Watching your grandbaby drink from a lead-poisoned tap because you can’t afford to move.

Hearing politicians spend hours and hours, days and days, discussing how mean they can be to one percent of the population that just wants to be left the fuck alone.

I swear, this is the election of everybody’s goddamn feelings and I’m about ready to send us all to bed without supper. Bernie bros muttering about conspiracies and elites, Hillary stalwarts complaining that young women haven’t paid their proper dues by being born after the Real Struggle, Republican “thinkers” writing 3,000-word essays about how awful they feel about having to lower themselves to associate with racists and plebes … These are groups of people who are going to be okay under Presidents Sanders, Clinton or even Trump, and they are filling up the Internets with high dudgeon over how they are Being Treated. Which, except for the recent incident of violent threats, is NOT A REAL THING. Almost none of it fucking matters.

You know what does? 

“I can’t even begin to picture how we would deport 11 million people in a few years where we don’t have a police state, where the police can’t break down your door at will and take you away without a warrant,” said Michael Chertoff, who led a significant increase in immigration enforcement as the secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.

So give me a fucking break with this crap about it’s hard for the media to get their shit together when people are this evil in these quantities. It’s not hard. They just have to get over themselves, which in and of itself is a luxury. Your hardest day involves an existential crisis, half a bottle of Chardonnay and some soul-searching.

Your next hardest involves realizing that nobody gives a shit about your feelings, your brand, your image, your influence, or anything else about YOU. Focus on the damn story in front of you, and if you can’t, if you’re too tired and it’s too hard, get out of the chair. I got ten people in a line who’ll kill for the shot you have.

Schmucks.

A.

Just take that thing off the wall

In his book “Dealing,” author Terry Pluto detailed a pivotal moment in the rebuilding of the Cleveland Indians franchise. The team had begun rebuilding after a long period of prosperity, using young players and absorbing losing seasons in the process. The team adopted a vision statement that spoke of professionalism, positive attitudes  and an “all for one” attitude. The message hung on the walls of the team’s offices and was a guiding principle for how the team conducted itself.

During this rebuilding process, General Manager Mark Shapiro acquired an incredible player named Milton Bradley (the fun line about him was “He’s a gamer!”). He was exactly what the Indians needed on the field: A young, inexpensive five-tool player who had unrelenting potential. Bradley was also a nightmare when it came to his personality. He was angry, brooding and virtually uncoachable. He had been suspended, reprimanded and more. In short, he was like riding a mechanical bull stuffed with TNT.

The situation came to a head in 2003 when Bradley lost his temper at his manager during a game. He screamed at skipper Eric Wedge, busted up the dugout, changed clothes in the clubhouse and took a cab home. Bradley had been told this was his last chance, so Wedge and Shapiro talked about what to do next. Wedge wanted Bradley gone, but Shapiro was concerned about losing the team’s best player. Wedge worried more about what this would say to the team as a whole if one set of rules applied to Bradley and another to the rest of the team. In his closing argument, Wedge pointed to the vision statement and told Shapiro:

“We could just take that thing off the wall.”

In other words, if we’re not going to do what we say we believe in, why bother having a vision statement at all?

Bradley was traded shortly after this. They lost a quality player but the Indians kept their soul.

It’s never easy to believe in something when it might actually cost you something. Theories are great, but actions are difficult and we as a people seem to be finding that out the hard way in this country. We like to say we’re “The Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave,” but we haven’t been acting like it lately. The attacks on Paris have left us with little more than a new shade of color on our Facebook profile pictures and a “don’t hurt us next” attitude regarding Syrian refugees. The “bravery” we speak of is a false front that in one breath tells us that if we just have more guns, we’ll be able to fight off anything. In the next breath, we have people saying refugees can’t come here because, well, THEY might get one of those easy-access weapons we used to like…

We like to say we’re a melting pot of all people. But how do we square that circle with the 29 (and hopefully not counting) governors who have loudly declared that Syrians are not welcome in their states? Among those in the mix, is Adrastos’ Gret Stet leader Gov. Bobby Jindal, who noted, “We don’t want these refugees in our state.”

If only there were some kind of historical parallel involving Louisiana and the need to massively relocate people in a time of crisis that was not the direct result of these people’s actions and how people felt about them… Maybe then PBJ would be more easily able to see how important it is to have a place for people to go when disaster is befalling them on every front…

We are great at the idea that “all men are created equal,” although we’re also good at the “would you let your sister date one of them?” statements as well. We are fantastic at the origin story myths of “My great-grandfather came here from (Fill in the name of an oppressive shithole) and began a life for his family.” We’re even better at the “dirty, filthy Jose-Come-Latelies who will cram their low-riders with free healthcare” jingoism. When our families did it, it was called “coming to this country” but when other people want to do it, they’re “immigrants.”

(To be fair, not every group of people headed to our shores has the best of intentions. Castro famously claimed during the Mariel Boat Lift of 1980 that he had flushed the toilets of Cuba on the United States. If you watch the documentary “Cocaine Cowboys,” you get a pretty scary version of what happened after that.)

Theories are great, like the one posted on the base of the Statue of Liberty. A gift from France, the statue serves as a beacon to the nearly 4 million annual visitors who bask in the pride we feel about who we are. A bronze plaque mounted there reads, in part,

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

It doesn’t have caveats or provide religious tests. It doesn’t say, “You must be at least THIS awesome to ride this country.” Instead, it welcomed all of us. It welcomed the English, the Irish, the Italians, the Germans, the Polish, the Czechs and more. It welcomed my great-grandfather and great-grandmother who met over here as “old maids” (they were in their early 20s) and spent the next 72 years married. It has endured generation after generation of Group A being suspicious of Group B’s arrival until Group B spent enough time here to become “normal.” Group B would then immediately become suspicious of the arrival of Group C…

If we don’t have enough food, shelter and work for these people who are seeking a better life, perhaps we can find enough empathy and courage to make up for it until we do.

If we are afraid they’ll get their hands on guns and other weapons, maybe we can start rethinking how we hand these things out like Halloween candy instead of barring the gates.

If we think that we’ve finally reached “maximum density” for our population, so much so that nothing from the outside can come in, maybe we could consider looking into a “king of the mountain” philosophy and start shedding some dead weight. (I’ll suggest Trump as a first cut…)

If we can’t do any of those things and let freedom ring a little bit around here, maybe we can at least take that thing off the wall.

Hysteria Is As American As Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet

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It’s happening again: the hard men of the Republican party are scared to death of Syrian refugees. They’ve turned it into a meme and a campaign issue. The best response I’ve seen thus far came from President Obama:

“These are the same folks oftentimes who suggest that they’re so tough that just talking to Putin or staring down ISIL, or using some additional rhetoric somehow is going to solve the problems out there. But apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion,” he said. “First, they were worried about the press being too tough on them during debates. Now they’re worried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me.”

I’ve already written about David Vitter’s attempts to use this as a wedge issue in the Gret Stet Goober race. It’s unclear if it will work or if voters will give Diaper Dave a wedgy, but Team Vitter took it one step further yesterday. Here’s what Gambit’s Clancy DuBos had to say about it:

I got a phone call this afternoon from Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand regarding an email he received today (Wednesday, Nov. 18) from the Louisiana Republican Party. The email, like U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s entire gubernatorial campaign these days, falsely and deliberately tries to foster mass hysteria about Syrian refugees in Louisiana. It is, in my opinion, the most irresponsible, desperate, even despicable piece of campaign hysteria I have ever seen — and I’ve seen a lot. Worst of all, the GOP has the gall to solicit money at the end of the email.

“Somebody’s going to get killed” because of this kind of thing, Normand said to me. He’s right. Catholic Charities, the arm of the Archdiocese of New Orleans that is helping resettle Syrian refugees in Louisiana, already has received threats, which Louisiana State Police Supt. Mike Edmondson confirmed yesterday (Nov. 17).

Ironically, David Vitter’s wife Wendy is the general counsel for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which means she also is the lawyer for Catholic Charities — the people who are bringing in refugees. Apparently the senator is so desperate that he doesn’t even mind throwing his wife and Archbishop Gregory Aymond under the bus for a few cheap political points.

For the record, the Syrian man that Vitter and the GOP say is “missing” and “unaccounted for” is totally accounted for. He had to fill out multiple forms before moving around in Baton Rouge, let alone before moving to Washington D.C. to be with his family. (See The Advocate‘s story HERE confirming all this.) It’s noteworthy that The Advocate story came out a full day before the GOP sent the hysterical email, which means they had to have known they were spreading lies in order to foster hysteria — and raise money.

This whole episode shows just how desperate Vitter has become. Apparently there is no lie he won’t tell, no line he won’t cross, no life he won’t put in jeopardy if that’s what it takes to win. He has been called “Bobby Jindal on steroids,” but that’s an understatement. He’s more like Frank Underwood on steroids.

I’ve said FU to Bitter Vitter many times over the years, but this is reprehensible even by his loathsome standards. It’s well documented that Vitter only values human life in vitro and doesn’t give a shit if his rhetoric leads to someone getting hurt. FU sideways, asswipe.

The country is in the throes of its latest bout of hysteria over THE OTHER. It’s nothing new in our history. We’ve had two red scares, repeated bouts of anti-immigrant hysteria, and dizzying flights of xenophobic frenzy since the founders were in knee-pants.

I’m on the record as a full-fledged member of the pro-immigration camp, but there’s a common sense approach to this problem that should satisfy most people except for vote hungry Republican politicians and unrepentant bigots. Only 2% of the immigrants are military age males between the age of 18-30. It is not unreasonable to assume that ISIS/ISIL/Daesh will try to infiltrate a few young fighters into our country. They’re not stupid, after all. That 2% should be subjected to an even more rigorous level of scrutiny before being granted entry. Is that method foolproof? Hell no, but it strikes me as an attempt to instill some common sense into the situation. As always, Charlie Pierce sums it up nicely at his joint.

The level of hysteria on the Right is reminiscent of the cosmic freak out after 9/11. The chickenhawks whipped up hysteria to suit their purposes, but the initial fear was not purely irrational. Who the hell wants to be blown up by some mook wearing a bomb belt? The difference this time is that the White House is trying to extinguish the xenophobic blaze, not adding fuel to the fire with inflammatory rhetoric. It’s a time when it’s good to have No Drama Obama as the Oval One.

The good news about the current hysteria is that it will eventually dissipate. It’s happened before. Remember the so-called Ebola crisis? Republican politicians and the MSM responded in a similar fashion, but eventually that wave of hysteria died with a whimper, not a bang. I even created an Ebola Hysteria category here at First Draft. It was last used over a year ago. This too will pass:

It’s time to circle back to the post title. In various forms, hysteria has been with us throughout our history. American hysteria often involves a toxic mixture of gullibility and xenophobia. Many people assume the worst of others, and believe who or what they want to believe i.e. Fox News. It’s why conspiracy theories are so popular in a country that’s never experienced a military coup. It’s why I’ve come to the conclusion that, as in the old Chevy teeevee commercial, hysteria is as American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.

Denying Birth Certificates to Children

There’s really no level of mean we won’t go to, to prove we just want to be mean: 

Six U.S.-born children and their Mexican citizen mothers who lack legal status were the original plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed by the Texas Civil Rights Project. The lawsuit has since expanded to 17.

The state has said it is enforcing laws already on the books requiring specific types of identification that the women don’t have. The state says it does not accept the Mexico government-issued matrícula consular ID card from parents wanting to obtain their child’s birth certificate.

Families have also said they have been unable to present non-U.S. passports to obtain the birth certificates.

“We have a system in Texas in which people who are born here are being relegated to a second-class status because of who their parents are,” said Manny Garcia, executive director of the Texas Democratic Party. The state’s elected offices are held by Republicans and the attorney general, Ken Paxton, who has been enforcing the identification requirement, is Republican.

Which is the same party that will tell you, in a voice from the depths of hell broadcast through the mouth of Scott Walker, that a child conceived of rape or incest is blameless for the actions of his or her biological parents. But apparently if that baby’s parents are illegal immigrants, put its day-old ass on a bus to the border, it’s obviously got the Mexican cooties or something.

A.

Throwing Shade

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Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid may be bruised and battered but he knows how to throw shade while wearing shades. It’s what our current Congressional politics have boiled down to since the Republicans took control of both houses. Remember all the naifs who proclaimed that the GOPers would have to compromise and get shit done once they were in the majority? I guess none of them have been paying attention since 2009; either that or their crystal balls are cloudier than the sky in New Orleans today.

The latest wingnut shade is being thrown on two fronts; both of which illustrate the extent to which the Republican party has gone batshit crazy and both kinda sorta involve immigration and the administration’s “lawlessness.”

First, the GOPers are threatening to defund the Homeland Security Department if the President doesn’t make nice with them and cave on his executive orders on immigration. This is beyond bonkers: Dubya and chickenhawks in both parties pushed for this department after the event Rudy cannot stop talking about. It was a CYA move for the Bushies after they ignored warnings that a big attack was coming. For Congressional neo-cons such as Holy Joe Lieberman and Senator Walnuts, it was an exercise in dick waving and measuring. It’s a pity that Don Lemon wasn’t around to cover that, he knows from dickishness.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the war loving, border fence worshiping party wants to shut down Homeland Security when there are semi-plausible terrorist threats against shopping malls and other assorted targets that may or may not have Targets. Of course, if ISIL knew anything about Merica, they’d have made the threat during the holiday season and given Bill-O confirmation of the so-called war on Christmas. So much for protecting the “homeland.”  (A phrase that’s too Teutonic for my taste but that debate’s long over. ) Way to go, Congressional wingnuts, you’re contradicting yourselves again.

Speaking of nutty contradictions, Republicans are trying to shut down the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as the next Attorney General. This one is even funnier than the DHS shutdown threat because right wing bete noir, Eric Holder has averred that he’s staying in office until his replacement is confirmed. They cannot even put their hatred of President Obama’s “lawlessness” on Holder long enough to get rid of the *other* black man they love to hate. It’s an excellent example of ideological purity run amuck. It reminds me of the Daffy Duck toon Duck Amuck with Tailgunner Ted as Daffy.

Let’s move from Congressional shade throwing to some sensational shade thrown by former CBS newsman Eric Enberg at the gas-filled windbag who lies on a nightly basis on Fox News. You know who, the man we call Bill-O, the human hot air balloon:

Eric Engberg, a CBS correspondent who was also in Buenos Aires at the time, defended Corn in a Facebook post on Friday and said, “It was not a war zone or even close. It was an ‘expense account zone.'”

Ouch. It’s a pity that Bill-O’s blues won’t lead to his ouster or even suspension but it’s been great hearing some teevee news vets calling him out for what he is: a lying sack of shit. Make that chicken shit.  Of course, Fox News is the world’s largest sack of shit so that reporter threatening, loofa wielding malaka Bill-O will stay on the air. I guess one could say that he’s been David Cornholed…

Back to Harry Reid, I like the new look. It makes him the Jack Nicholson of the Senate. Jack, of course, wears shades indoors for different reasons than Leader Reid. But I’ve never compared Harry to Jack before so he’s almost as cool as the coolest septuagenarian in the country. Eat your heart out, Joe Biden.

 

 

The GOP’s Candidates Aren’t Good Enough for the GOP

They all suck, apparently, because they all want to turn America into Amnesterica or some shit: 

Of course, most GOP contenders who support an ultimate pathway to citizenship, or at least a process of normalization, condition their support on things like further securing America’s Southern border and making illegal immigrants pay a financial penalty. But nearly all support the general principle: most of the 11 million illegal immigrants who violated America’s laws in making their way into the country should be allowed to stay and work in the country so long as they haven’t committed any further crimes.

Well, who else you gonna vote for, chump?

Cruz is INELIGIBLE and Carson and Santorum are both pro-Amnesty or pro-legalization…Carson is for gun control. The only hope we have is for Senator Sessions to run. He’s the only one who can win.

Ah. Sorted.

A.

Pulling Up The Drawbridge

As a second generation American, family and immigration are inextricably linked in my mind. I’ve had family on my mind this week as my much loved Uncle Pete died at the age of 94. He was technically an in-law because he was married to my father’s sister Mary for some 69 years. 69 years, imagine that. The reason I’ve always gone by Peter was because of my Uncle: he was Pete, I was Peter. Case closed. Like my father, Uncle Pete was the son of immigrants and was very proud of his Hellenic heritage. The Greek side of my family instilled in me a love of my roots and a profound sense of empathy for immigrants from all walks of life.

A few notes about my Uncle before I move on to the latest immigration kerfuffle. He was a World War II vet who had a lot of stories to tell about his experiences. I think most of them were true but he was a car dealer so you never know. I remember him at large family parties, weddings and whatnot as the relative who loved Greek dancing. It’s the sort of dancing where everyone joins hands and follows a leader of sorts. Uncle Pete was usually the guy up front leaping about and stealing the show. I remember a time when my Aunt and Uncle were visiting my family in California. I was off to another Grateful Dead show and Uncle Pete pulled me aside and asked, “Do they dance at these things?’ I told him that they did, he smiled and said: “I hope you learned a few moves from me.” He then slipped me a twenty dollar bill and kissed me on the forehead.

Debates about immigration are as old as the republic. Things really got ugly when the Irish started arriving. Many Americans thought they were part of a papist plot to take over the country. That’s one reason the loathsome Know Nothing party was born, to keep the Pope out of the White House. They did a decent job: we have still only had one Catholic President.

Nativist and anti-immigration sentiments may be as old as the republic but immigration laws are not:

Prior to 1875’s Page Act and 1882’s Chinese Exclusion Act, there were no national immigration laws. None. There were laws related to naturalization and citizenship, to how vessels reported their passengers, to banning the slave trade. Once New York’s Castle Garden Immigration Station opened in 1855, arrivals there reported names and origins before entering the U.S. But for all pre-1875 immigrants, no laws applied to their arrival. They weren’t legal or illegal; they were just immigrants.

Moreover, those two laws and their extensions affected only very specific immigrant communities: suspected prostitutes and criminals (the Page Act); Chinese arrivals (the Exclusion Act); immigrants from a few other Asian nations (the extensions). So if your ancestors came before the 1920s and weren’t prostitutes, criminals, or from one of those Asian nations, they remained unaffected by any laws, and so were still neither legal nor illegal. This might seem like a semantic distinction, but it’s much more; the phrase “My ancestors came here legally” implies that they “chose to follow the law,” yet none of these unaffected immigrants had to make any such choice, nor had any laws to follow.

The 1892 opening of Ellis Island didn’t change these fundamental realities. Ellis arrivals had to wait in line and answer a list of questions, and could be quarantined if they had a communicable disease or were visibly insane. But if they weren’t in those aforementioned few illegal categories, they still weren’t affected by any law, made no choice of how to immigrate. Moreover, many arrivals during this period came not through Ellis but across the borders, which were unpatrolled and open.

Only with the 1920s Quota Acts did Congress establish national immigration laws encompassing most arrivals. But those acts were overtly discriminatory, extending the Exclusion Act’s principles by categorizing arrivals by nationality and drastically limiting certain groups; South Carolina Senator Ellison Smith put it bluntly: “It seems to me the point as to this measure is that the time has arrived when we should shut the door.”

The 1920 law was aimed at all sorts of  “undesirables” from Jews to Italians to Asians to Greeks to name but a few. Isolationism and bigotry were big in the 1920’s. Congress was protecting the country from radicals, lazy Mediterranean sorts, non-Protestants of all faiths, and the yellow peril.

The laws were modified in 1965 make them less discriminatory and more family friendly. I recall hearing some tales of chicanery in my own family involving relatives who came to America right after World War II when Greece was engulfed in a lunatic Civil War between right wing royalists and Communists who were role models for the Pol Pots of the world. I am not making this up: both sides were horrendous and the lesser of two evils won.

It pains me when folks whose families emigrated to our country to escape poverty, war, and oppression forget where they came from. They’re fond of claiming that “my people came here legally,” but Ben Railton pointed out in the TPM piece I quote from earlier, it ain’t neccessarily so.

Here in Louisiana, we’re still being bombarded with political commercials. Many of the pro-Cassidybot ads focus on safeguarding our borders from lazy welfare bums. It’s another page from the 2010 Vitter re-election campaign and it seems to be working. It makes it easier for me to overlook my reservations about the incumbent when her opponent and his owners are running such a despicable campaign. It’s made worse by the fact that the Cassidybot is a lapsed liberal who converted to wingnuttism and xenophobia to win office.

The reaction to President Obama’s sensible executive order is predictable. The wingers are howling at the moon and demanding the “dictator’s” head on an impeachment platter. It doesn’t matter that Presidents Reagan and Bush the Elder issues similar common sense and compassionate executive orders when they were the Ovals Ones. The GOP’s base base never lets the facts get in the way of a good tantrum.

This issue is about justice, fair play and the American Way. It’s ironic that the so called family values party is once again so blinded by bigotry and hatred that they support tearing families apart because they’re the OTHERS. Many of our families were once the others; mine was. I wish more people would remember where they came from and stop pulling up the drawbridge.