This Is Bad. Let’s Fix It.

The president had a senior Iranian official killed on the basis of a non-existent “imminent” threat. He tried to have at least one other official killed but the guy survived. This charade led to almost 200 people being accidentally killed (“collateral damage”). Now he’s made up a story about four of our embassies being attacked (the Secretary of Defense said it wasn’t true but since the president may have believed it, everything’s fine). Individual-1 also announced that Saudi Arabia deposited a billion dollars in a bank account to pay for American troops (aka “mercenaries”), although nobody seems to know which bank account (one of his?). House Democrats have asked the Secretary of State to come over and explain the situation. He says he doesn’t plan to appear.

Nancy Pelosi seems to be ready to send at least one article of impeachment to the Senate, even though there’s no evidence the Republicans will allow a fair trial. They say the trial shouldn’t allow new evidence, because Clinton’s impeachment trial didn’t, even though (1) there was no need to allow new evidence in Clinton’s trial, since everybody involved gave evidence before the House impeached President Clinton and (2) this president (the bastard being impeached) told everyone with direct knowledge of his behavior not to give evidence to the House! “I didn’t allow my senior advisers to testify before the House, so it’s too late for them to testify before the Senate.” That’s some “catch”, that Catch-23.

How about some good news?

There was an online seminar (yes, a “webinar”) run by a progressive religious group this weekend. The topic was volunteering in the next election. Usually,  200, maybe 300, people sign in. There were 500 this time. Perhaps we should be more optimistic about November.

On that subject, there are reasons to think that Elizabeth Warren may be the best candidate to unify the Democrats. That’s what former presidential candidate Julian Castro said when he endorsed Warren this week. A new poll in Iowa says she has the highest favorability rating of anyone in the race:

Warren’s improved standing overall in the Iowa poll comes on the heels of a stronger showing in recent national polls and is bolstered by an increasing positive favorability rating (75% have a favorable view, the best in the field, and she is one of only four candidates who have improved their net favorability since the June CNN/DMR poll), as well as a growing percentage of likely caucusgoers who say she is either their first choice, second choice or someone they are actively considering. All told, 71% are at least considering Warren’s candidacy, ahead of the next best candidate on that score by 11 points (Biden at 60%).

Finally, a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Will Bunch, who voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Pennsylvania primary, is now supporting Warren:

If the stakes were high in 2016 — when I naively and foolishly believed that [Individual-1’s] campaign was the last throes of a doomed white supremacy, and that America was ready then for a political revolution — then they are off the charts in 2020….Saving the American Experiment requires a new president who will stop the downward spiral of authoritarianism….

I plan to vote for Warren [in the primary] for two reasons. One is simple, the other a bit more abstract. For starters, the two-term Massachusetts senator has run the best campaign, pure and simple. Her accidental rallying cry was handed to her by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who blocked Warren’s principled stand against the nomination of unqualified attorney general Jeff Sessions on the Senate floor and added, “Nevertheless, she persisted”.

Since announcing her candidacy last year, persistence has been the hallmark of Warren’s campaign. She’s stuck to her plan and remained true to herself even as the Beltway crowd wrote her off again and again, and in doing so she’s remained a top contender in spite of those naysayers. Her decision to shun big donors for small contributions and play up personal voter contact …was ridiculed even as her money and support grew. Rather than ignore her biggest stumble — the Native American heritage missteps — she’s owned it through unprecedented outreach to indigenous voters.

Yes, Sanders’ half-century-plus of consistency as a democratic socialist is remarkable, but the story of Warren’s political conversion from somewhat conservative Republican to fiery progressive after she saw firsthand the unfairness of America’s bankruptcy laws is just as compelling and relatable, arguably even more so. Yet Warren and her team know that — with the nation in crisis — personal fortitude, an appealing campaign style and a good personal story aren’t enough.

Warren’s diagnosis of what ails the United States — massive political corruption and a rigged economic playing field against the middle and more struggling classes — is right on the money, pun intended. It’s why she was the first Democratic candidate to see the need for impeaching Trump, and why she’s had a forceful reaction to the president’s reckless actions toward Iran. But it’s also why her detailed plans — for a wealth tax on America’s kleptocracy to help fund universal health care and higher education and eliminate crippling college debt — are her centerpiece and biggest selling point.

The TV talking heads seem to take special pleasure in nitpicking the details of Warren’s plans, in a manner that’s not applied to any of the other candidates. But here’s the thing: her supporters know … to take her plans seriously but not literally. Whatever is typed in a report in 2019-20 won’t be what emerges from the sausage grinder of Capitol Hill. What matters is that President Elizabeth Warren will fight for those sweeping goals with persistence … and passion.

In addition, … I think a Warren nomination would ensure the most passion from the activists — primarily women — who led the Women’s March and the airport resistance to [the Muslim] travel ban in 2017 and knocked on millions of doors to get us a Democratic House in 2018. Although Warren isn’t yet winning among young voters or nonwhites, I believe she has a potential for growth that simply is not there for youth with Joe Biden or for both groups with Pete Buttigieg. Her stance as an ultra-liberal, reform-minded capitalist is arguably a better place to be in November 2020 than Bernie’s lifetime socialism.

So why isn’t Warren the clear front-runner? I blame two things that are deeply intertwined: fear and misogyny. In politics, the second most dismaying thing so far about 2020 — after [the president’s] growing instability — has been the fear bordering on a paralyzing panic that has overcome the Democratic electorate that I’ve just joined. This weekend, that much anticipated Des Moines Register/CNN poll, while showing Sanders and Warren at the top, also showed that — at what should be a time for choosing — “not sure” more than doubled from 5 to 11 percent.

Democrats seem to be focused not on the strength of their field but on making long mental lists of each candidate’s supposed weaknesses against Trump in the fall. No one has suffered from this exercise more than Elizabeth Warren. Her experience is written off as old age (despite boundless energy and mental acuity), her policy chops downgraded as schoolmarm-ish wonkery, and her enthusiasm for the campaign sometimes described as dorky. A lot of this can be boiled down to one word, or maybe two. Sexism. Or, misogyny.

Just because Gandhi didn’t actually say, “Be the change you want to see in the world” doesn’t mean that it’s not great advice. When I said earlier that I and my perceptions of America’s problems have changed since 2016, nothing has changed more than my awareness of the pervasive and highly toxic effect of the prejudice and often thinly disguised hatred of women that permeates far too much of society.

You see it at [the Toddler’s] Nuremberg-style hate rallies, which are animated by angry chants of “Lock her up!” toward Hillary Clinton long after any political threat from Clinton had dissipated. Or in the current trial of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, the poster child for a litany of men in media, politics, entertainment and high tech who got away with unhindered sexism and sexual abuse for decades. And you see it in the way that Warren’s chances of winning in 2020 are dismissed, by voters who agree with her ideas but are certain she’ll be “Hillary-ed” if she gets the nomination.

This infuriates me, and if you care about women’s place in American society it should infuriate you as well. In the current wave of fear gripping Democrats, too many voters are throwing up their hands and saying, in essence, misogynists will tip this election … so how can we get a few more white dudes onboard. I find that morally appalling….

America will not be saved by fear. It will be saved by courage. We’ve seen courage from scores of women who’ve come forward to accuse … powerful men. Now, given the nattering nabobs of negativism who’ve weighed in on a Warren presidency, it will also take a type of courage just to vote for her.

In 2020, electing the best and most qualified candidate would also mean electing the first woman president in American history — 100 years after women’s suffrage and, morally, ridiculously overdue. What a powerful statement! Instead of cowering in fear, Democrats should be counting their blessings in having two revolutionary candidates for president, and a dozen others who’d be 100 times better than the current occupant. But among that strong field, it’s Warren — and what she stands for — that offers the fierce urgency of now. Simply put, voting for her on April 28 is the change I want to see in the world.

Her Dream Candidate Exists

Quote:

If I was going to invent a dream candidate, she would be grounded in small-town, rural or heartland America but able to hold her own in the citadels of power on the coasts. She would comfort the afflicted with the same passion with which she afflicts the comfortable, and she would understand the causes of those afflictions and have good ideas about how to remedy them. She would be moved by compassion but wouldn’t ask us to rely on compassion; she would have tangible strategies for widening our distribution of income, healthcare, education and opportunity, and she would be smart about the intersections of race, gender, class and the rest.

She would have been around long enough to remember that since the 1980s the government has dismantled a lot of systems that made us more safe and more equal, and she’d be fresh enough to imagine new ways out of the consequences of that catastrophic dismantling. Also she would have to be funny and have big plans to address climate change. OK, she already exists, and I’m talking about Elizabeth Warren. She is, to me, a better candidate for president than I ever expected we’d have.

My … dreamiest dream candidate would be a woman of color with Medusa hair who could turn the entire Republican Senate to stone with a glance, but Warren is who’s left in the race, and she is magnificent, and superheroes from Megan Rapinoe to Roxane Gay agree. Also, she pretty much turned Wells Fargo’s CEO into stone in a 2016 Senate banking committee hearing, more than a decade after she became one of the most outspoken experts telling Wall Street why it’s vicious and half a decade after she endorsed Occupy Wall Street. The strength of her candidacy is shown by how she’s made it to the front of the race despite misogyny from across the political spectrum, the wrath of the billionaires pouring money – and themselves – into the race, and the smears and distortions of the mainstream media.

Really I see her as a combination of three superpowers: wonkiness, radicalness and what for lack of a better term I would call Big Structural Mom Energy. The wonkiness is how she set new standards in primary campaigns with those famous plans – far more detailed, with the costs accounted for, than was usual before she arrived. The depth with which she understands the economic system – taxes, banks, bankruptcies, credit cards, home and student loans, redlining – is the depth with which she can change it.

That wonkiness is how she got here, how she looked long and hard at the data around how things work and found her own path forward from where she started out. It’s true that she didn’t start out as a progressive, and she was registered as a Republican during some (not all) of her formative years, but she never voted for Reagan, and she did vote for McGovern in 1972 and Carter in 1980 and other Democrats while she was supposed to be a Republican.

I’m from the urban coastal immigrant-Jewish left myself, which does not actually make me virtuous, but lucky in that I didn’t have to travel far to land in progressive positions (and gives me a front-row seat on how much misogyny and meanness the left can include). The word radical comes from a word for roots; Warren has certainly been radical in her analysis of root causes since 1975, when her first law-review article savaged an anti-busing court ruling. Way back then, she was delving deep into how the law blocked equal educational opportunity, and she weighed in on the side of Detroit’s black families and the urban poor generally.

Her radicalness now includes, first of all, a willingness to make big changes, whether it means breaking up big tech or taxing billionaires or bringing healthcare coverage to everyone. Our first and most urgent priority must be addressing climate chaos, and the great obstacle to doing anything about it is corporations and the elites who profit from them. Warren has shown no fear of going after them and no fear of the kind of massive structural change we need to address the climate crisis. (In addition to supporting the Green New Deal and promising to ban fracking and stop fossil fuel extraction on public land and coastal waters, she just released a Blue New Deal for the oceans.)

At the heart of her campaign is kindness as an emotion, as a value – and as a basis for policy

What I call Big Structural Mom Energy could also be called radical compassion. It lies in the homey delivery and quality of attention she brings to, for example, the young queer woman in Iowa she encouraged and hugged earlier this month. Warren, who has said more about trans rights than any other candidate, has made her credo clear, over and over: that everyone matters, and matters equally, and that the systems that shape our lives should value, defend and give everyone opportunity equally. She got a lot of attention for her comic answer to the question about what she’d say to someone opposed to marriage equality, but after the laughter was over, she said something she’s said in many forms in her campaign: “To me, that is the heart of it. That was the basis of the faith that I grew up in, and it truly is about the preciousness of each and every life.”

It’s about equality, but not just economic equality: as understood from a deep engagement with where the dangers lie, where the suffering is, whether it’s black maternal mortality or the plight of refugees or the burden of student loan debt. At the heart of her campaign is kindness as an emotion, as a value – and as a basis for policy. As she put it in her call with Megan Rapinoe: “We really believe in equity. We believe in racial equity, we believe in gender equity, we believe in everybody gets a chance in this country.”

All this makes her, in my eyes, not just the best candidate to undo the damage of the Trump era but the best candidate to make this country live up to its promises, potential and ideals in ways it never has before.

Unquote.

That is Rebecca Solnit writing in The Guardian.

The bad news is that many of us don’t want this country to “live up to its promises, potential and ideals in ways it never has before”. Others don’t think a woman could or should do the job Warren is seeking.

As a result, we may get the candidate we deserve, not the one we need.

A Bright Spot on the Distant Horizon?

Things are not getting better in Washington. To put it mildly. The T@@@p administration continues to resist any congressional oversight. Democrats direct witnesses to appear, sometimes issue subpoenas, the administration refuses to cooperate and the disputes vanish into the glacially-slow bowels of the federal courts.

The Treasury Department has refused to give the president’s tax returns to Congress, as required by law. The Director of National Intelligence is refusing to transmit a whistle blower’s complaint to Congress, even though it pertains to national security and the law says Congress shall receive it. The Judiciary Committee finally got a T@@@p associate to appear yesterday and it got very little coverage, even though the witness confirmed that the president obstructed justice. There is now more evidence that the administration’s last appointment to the Supreme Court lied to Congress and the FBI’s vetting investigation was a sham. The leading Democrat in the Senate doesn’t want to talk about it.

Congressional committees can hold people in contempt and fine them thousands of dollars a day or put them in jail. They have gone to court instead. The Speaker of the House could create a special committee devoted to impeaching the president, but she resists even saying the word “impeachment”. Meanwhile, the Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry is just one item on their agenda. They may have another hearing next week.

Meanwhile, the president is using money Congress appropriated for the Defense Department to build his wall. It’s going to damage environmentally-sensitive areas along the border. The Justice Department is investigating automakers because they agreed with the state of California to protect air quality. Now the president wants to remove California’s ability to set its own air quality standards, as California has been permitted to do for decades. T@@@p is also threatening to round up homeless people in Los Angeles and put them who knows where, even though he has no authority to do so. His Immigration and Customs Enforcement police force is training for urban warfare. And there may be war around the Persian Gulf.

There are too many scandals and other offenses for most mortals to keep track of. Unlike Hillary’s emails, which were beaten to death, journalists and pundits jump from one topic to the next. Los Angeles writer Amy Siskind continues to document as much as she can at The Weekly List, but there is too much to digest (if you’re interested, she accepts small donations to support her work).

So is there a bright spot on the horizon? Here’s a hint.

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She gave a speech in New York this week. Up to 20,000 people attended. She called for big, structural change to address the corruption in our politics (she called our president “corruption in the flesh”). She believes that corruption is the fundamental reason Washington doesn’t work for average people. She spent four hours after the speech having her picture taken with a very long line of people. When complimented on her stamina, she said she stayed for four hours but so did the last guy in line. Polls now show her in second place for the Democratic nomination. The latest poll in Iowa, where the first votes will be cast, has her in the lead. Her campaign slogan is “Dream Big, Fight Hard”. She’ll make a great president if we make it that far.

Destroyed By Madness?

Tom Sullivan of the Hullabaloo blog summarizes. Quote:

… The trend lines were there — from the Birchers and Goldwater to Nixon and the Southern Strategy, from the parallel rise of the Christian right and movement conservatism, to Reagan, to “Rush Rooms” and the Gingrich revolution, and from birtherism to climate denialism to Trumpish authoritarianism.

It is quaint to think George W. Bush’s tax cuts, malapropisms, and war cabinet once seemed the apotheosis of the conservative project. The momentum of that project would carry the right’s explosive-laden artillery shell beyond its intended liberal targets. Plutocrats would get their tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks, but at risk of bringing the shining city on the hill’s walls down around them and us…

The movement conservative leaders thought they had built upon a philosophy of lower taxes and small government was simply a facade. Their own internal polling told them their voters had no interest in it. The culture wars the party fueled as a useful tool in advancing their donors’ objectives was their base voters’ true philosophy:

This would seem to confirm the conclusions that liberals have long harbored. The Republican Party’s political elite is obsessed with cutting taxes for the wealthy, but it recognizes the lack of popular support for its objectives and is forced to divert attention away from its main agenda by emphasizing cultural-war themes. The disconnect between the Republican Party’s plutocratic agenda and the desires of the electorate is a tension it has never been able to resolve, and as it has moved steadily rightward, it has been evolving into an authoritarian party.

The party’s embrace of Trump is a natural, if not inevitable, step in this evolution. This is why the conservatives who presented Trump as an enemy of conservative-movement ideals have so badly misdiagnosed the party’s response to Trump. The most fervently ideological conservatives in the party have also been the most sycophantic: Ryan, Mike Pence, Ted Cruz, Mick Mulvaney, the entire House Freedom Caucus. They embraced Trump because Trumpism is their avenue to carry out their unpopular agenda.

… As dead as irony is in the Age of Trump, the irony remaining is how a movement in reaction to the social transformations of the 1960s now mirrors, and in many ways exceeds, the worst excesses of which it accused civil rights “communists” and long-haired hippies with their drugs and godless “moral relativism.”

Now it is the Republican base addicted to drugs, looking for an angry fix, and making obeisance to a false prophet as the party’s elite grovel for a seat at his right hand. What conservatives need now is not pundits or preachers, but poets.

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness …”

End quote. 

Or psychiatrists. Anyway, he’s being poetic. He knows they weren’t the best minds to begin with.

Eviction vs. Conviction

We hear a lot about criminal justice in America and how it adversely affects the lives of black men in particular. A similar story should be told about housing in America and how it adversely affects the lives of black women. Lots of black men get convicted. Lots of black women get evicted.

Katha Pollitt’s 2016 review of “Evicted”, by Matthew Desmond, in The Guardian:

What if the dominant discourse on poverty is just wrong? What if the problem isn’t that poor people have bad morals – that they’re lazy and impulsive and irresponsible and have no family values – or that they lack the skills and smarts to fit in with our shiny 21st-century economy? What if the problem is that poverty is profitable? These are the questions at the heart of Evicted, Matthew Desmond’s extraordinary ethnographic study of tenants in low-income housing in the deindustrialised middle-sized city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

You might not think that there is a lot of money to be extracted from a dilapidated trailer park or a black neighbourhood of “sagging duplexes, fading murals, 24-hour daycares”. But you would be wrong. Tobin Charney makes $400,000 a year out of his 131 trailers, some of which are little better than hovels. Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher who is one of the only black female landlords in the city, makes enough in rents on her numerous properties – some presentable, others squalid – to holiday in Jamaica and attend conferences on real estate.

Desmond follows the intertwined fortunes of eight families and a host of minor characters. Arleen Belle and Doreen Hinkston are black mothers clinging to the edge of low-wage employment; Crystal and Trisha are fragile young black women whose upbringing was violent and chaotic; Lamar is a genial black father of two who lost both his legs to frostbite when he passed out on crack in an abandoned house; Scott is a white male nurse who lost his licence when he stole opioids from his patients; Larraine, also white, is a slightly brain-damaged sweet soul. It is sometimes a little hard to keep up with the storylines as they weave in and out of the text, but no matter. What is important is that Desmond takes people who are usually seen as worthless – there is even a trailer-dweller nicknamed Heroin Susie – and shows us their full humanity, how hard they struggle to retain their dignity, humour and kindness in conditions that continually drag them down.

The main condition holding them back, Desmond argues, is rent. The standard measure is that your rent should be no more than 30% of your income, but for poor people it can be 70% or more. After he paid Sherrena his $550 rent out of his welfare cheque, Lamar had only $2.19 a day for the month. When he is forced to repay a welfare cheque he has been sent in error and falls behind on rent, he sells his food stamps for half their face value and volunteers to paint an upstairs apartment, but it is not enough. People such as Lamar live in chronic debt to their landlord, who can therefore oust them easily whenever it is convenient – if they demand repairs, for example, like Doreen, or if a better tenant comes along. Sherrena liked renting to the clients of a for-profit agency that handles – for a fee – the finances of people on disability payments who can’t manage on their own. Money from government programmes intended to help the poor – welfare, disability benefits, the earned-income tax credit – go straight into the landlord’s pocket and, ironically, fuel rising housing costs. Public housing and housing vouchers are scarce. Three in four who qualify for housing assistance get nothing.

Even in the Great Depression, evictions used to be rare. Now, each year, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of renters are put out on the street. Even a paid-up tenant can be easily evicted. Arleen loses one apartment when her son Jori throws a snowball at a passing car and the enraged driver kicks in the front door, and another when the police come after Jori when he kicks a teacher and runs home. Any kind of trouble that brings the police can lead to eviction, which means women can lose their homes if they call 911 when their man beats them up. Think about that the next time someone asks why women don’t call the cops on violent partners.

As Desmond shows, the main victims of eviction are women. Why? They are paid less than men for doing the same job. They are less able to make deals with their landlord, who is almost always a man, to work off part of their rent with manual labour. The main reason, though, is that women are raising children as single mothers. They not only have all the costs and burdens of childrearing, they need bigger apartments – which, since landlords dislike renting to families with young children, are harder to find and a lot harder to keep. Other sociologists – Kathryn Edin, for example – have found that single mothers often get help under the table from their children’s fathers, but Arleen, Doreen and Doreen’s adult daughter Patrice get mostly trouble from men, who are variously abusive, addicted, vanished or in prison. In one of the book’s many small sad moments, Arleen claims she receives child support in order to seem more stable and respectable to a prospective landlord. In fact, she gets nothing.

Desmond lays out the crucial role housing plays in creating and reinforcing white privilege. In Milwaukee, one of the most segregated cities in the US, all black people suffer from housing discrimination and all white people benefit at least a little from the racial dividend – a landlord who will rent to them but not to black people, for instance, or offer them a nicer apartment. Black people have the worst housing in the worst neighbourhoods – the great fear of the trailer-park people, who are all white, is that they will end up on the black side of town. Eviction hits black women hardest of all, and the bleak benches of housing courts, which deal with disputes between landlords and tenants, are full of black women and their children: “If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighbourhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.”

An evicted woman watches as a removal company moves her property out of her rented apartment on to the pavement.
An evicted woman watches as employees of a storage company remove her belongings to place them on the pavement in front of her rented apartment. Photograph: Sally Ryan/Zuma Press/Corbis

What are the social costs of eviction? It puts incredible stress on families. It prevents people from saving the comparatively small sums that would let them stabilise their situation. They are always starting over from scratch, losing their possessions in the chaos of removal, or putting them in storage and losing them when they can’t pay the fees. An eviction on your record makes the next apartment harder to get. Eviction damages children, who are always changing schools, giving up friends and toys and pets – and living with the exhaustion and depression of their parents. We watch Jori go from a sweet, protective older brother to an angry, sullen boy subject to violent outbursts who is falling way behind in school.

Eviction makes it hard to keep up with the many appointments required by the courts and the byzantine welfare system: several characters have their benefits cut because notices are sent to the wrong address. Eviction destroys communities: when people move frequently, they don’t form the social bonds and pride in place that encourage them to care for their block and look out for their neighbours. “With Doreen’s eviction, Thirty-Second Street lost a steadying presence – someone who loved and invested in the neighbourhood, who contributed to making the block safer – but Wright Street didn’t gain one.”

“There is an enormous amount of pain and poverty in this rich land,” Desmond writes in his conclusion. That is easy to say, and many books by journalists and academics have done so. By examining one city through the microscopic lens of housing, however, he shows us how the system that produces that pain and poverty was created and is maintained. I can’t remember when an ethnographic study so deepened my understanding of American life.to all and safeguarding our independence.

It Isn’t Unbelievable. It’s Happening.

I mean, it’s unbelievable. I think members of the Republican Party are in a coma right now, is what I think. And at some point they’ll wake up and say, What’s happened? [Laughs] And then we’re going to tell them, and they’re going to go, Really?

The interviewer: Is it a coma because of their allegiance to President Trump? 

There’s a tribal instinct, and a willingness to only absorb that that supports what you currently think. Anything that is dissonant information should be rejected. And I think it’s true for both political parties, to be honest with you.

That’s John Kasich, former congressman and governor of Ohio, being interviewed in The Washington Post. He’s one of the few well-known Republican politicians willing to criticize the Abominable President.

To be honest, Kasich isn’t being honest at all.

We know that today’s Republicans are wide awake. They know they’re supporting a would-be dictator, because the evidence is so obvious. From Jonathan Freedland of The Guardian:

Put simply, the leader of the world’s most powerful nation is behaving like an authoritarian dictator, one who threatens democracy in his own country and far beyond.

Mr. Freedland admits that the president’s buffoonish behavior is a major distraction, but goes on to cite his demonization of a vulnerable minority, which has led to “breaking up families [and] caging children in hot, fetid, disease-ridden camps”; his blatant profiteering from the presidency; his desire to create “a hereditary dynasty” (as if his daughter truly belongs among the world’s leaders); his fawning over murderous, overseas “strongmen”; his obstruction of justice; his stunning dishonesty…. The list goes on and on and on. Yet professional journalists continue to treat him with respect.

I have no doubt that most Republicans would fall in line behind a competent would-be dictator, as long as they believed he would guarantee their hold on power and they wouldn’t face retribution if democracy were restored. They are quite comfortable with authoritarianism.

Secondly, it simply isn’t true that “both sides” are the same. Kasich’s knee-jerk “both sides do it” recklessly minimizes how extreme the Republican Party has become. It’s been shown that people on the left get their news from a wider variety of sources, including what is now called the “mainstream” or “reality-based” media. We are also less likely to follow a leader. In fact, one recent study places the Republican Party (the red circle) at the extreme right among the world’s political parties. The Democrats (the blue circle) are much closer to the middle.

Untitled

John Kasich is sometimes asked about running for president in order to give Republicans an alternative to the incumbent. It’s unlikely he’ll do so because he doesn’t think he would win. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi thinks the president should be in jail, but won’t start an impeachment inquiry because she doesn’t think the Republican Senate would convict him. Digby Parton of the Hullabaloo blog sums it up:

Our history is replete with ugliness. Progress has been made in fits and starts. But we are going backwards at warp speed at the moment. People with the worst impulses of the American psyche are in power and they are out of control.

We are quickly becoming a global pariah. And for good reason.

She then tells about a lawyer born in Iran who has lived in Germany for 40 years and is a German citizen, who was denied a visa to attend the funeral of his son, a student who died in a car crash in America, where his mother lives. The German lawyer was approved for a 10-year long visa when Obama was president. This month he was denied entry by U.S. officials, who decided, based on no evidence, that he was using his son’s death to immigrate to America. She continues:

Meanwhile, we are putting little children in cages and leaving them in dirty diapers without enough to eat. 

The president says they should decide not to come to America and then this wouldn’t happen to them. Basically, he’s punishing babies and children for the actions of their parents. 

And his followers — tens of millions of our fellow Americans — are applauding that sadistic policy. 

Yet the leaders of the opposition appear to be completely impotent…. They’re coasting — while the country hurtles backwards. 

Congress’s main phone number is (202) 224-3121.

Our Concentration Camps

I’ve found it very difficult to read about the way our government is treating refugees and children at the border. Without going into details, The Salt Lake Tribune, a newspaper in Utah, one of America’s most conservative states, describes the situation in an editorial entitled “Yes, We Do Have Concentration Camps”: 

Yes, we do have concentration camps.

They are not work camps. They are not death camps. At least, not on purpose. Our government is not building massive gas chambers and industrial crematoria. It is not conducting sick medical experiments on members of an unfavored class.

But that does not mean that the places into which we are herding tens of thousands of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers are not properly called concentration camps. Because that is precisely what they are.

When some in the public eye dare to tell that truth, as the media-savvy Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did the other day, enablers of the administration’s cruel policies cry foul. They say that using correct terms such as “concentration camps” — or, worse, invoking the term “Never again” — unfairly equates what is going on now at our southern border with the Nazis’ “Final Solution” — the deliberate murder of millions of people.

It is true that we are not doing that. We are doing this. The two are not morally equivalent. And we probably don’t have reason to fear that this is necessarily going to become that.

But, then, we never do.

Because that starts as this. Some of the people who study, and some of the people who survived or are descended from survivors of the Holocaust, are pointing out that that crime against humanity did not arrive overnight.

It worked its way up, from nasty political speeches (check) to politicians seeking and gaining power with promises to protect the purity of the nation from foreign invasion (check) to denying basic human rights and decency to people of an unfavored class (check).

The same warning is being raised by past residents of the internment camps — concentration camps — in which we confined Americans of Japanese origin or descent during the dark days of World War II.

The places where these tempest-tossed humans are being held are kept deliberately uncomfortable and largely out of view of the public, the press, members of Congress and even the courts. The whole point is to keep them beyond the reach of the rights and protections that, by our Constitution and international treaties, are afforded to all persons, not just citizens.

The people being held there are cold, hungry, dirty and often sick. Children are separated from parents. Children are caring for children. Medical care is not to be found. A few — not millions, but a few — have died.

The administration [in the person of a Department of Justice lawyer] actually told the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals the other day that it is under no obligation to provide refugee children with soap, toothbrushes or anywhere to sleep but cold cement floors in overcrowded cages. They’ve already cut off funding for education, counseling and recreation.

The argument that our government’s failings don’t matter because the migrants have broken the law is legally and morally bankrupt.

People have a moral right to seek a better life, and a legal right to seek asylum. If our border and immigration system isn’t up to the task, that’s not their fault, it is ours.

Federal officials, from the White House on down, work for us, spend our money, act in our name. We hold them to account, not the huddled masses. Complaining that we shouldn’t have to deal with this crisis is like carping that forests shouldn’t burn and rivers shouldn’t rise.

And what are the elected officials from Utah — home of a global church, the welcoming Utah Compact and a population generally decent when it comes to refugees — doing?

Well, Sen. Mitt Romney has a bill to boost the use of the E-Verify system that is supposed to tell employers if job applicants are legally allowed to work in the U.S. Not a bad idea, probably, but kind of like bringing a roll of paper towels to a hurricane.

Good, caring, moral Utahans, and their elected representatives, should be shouting bloody murder over this extended and deliberate abuse of human rights…

Our nation is operating concentration camps for refugee children. We need to stop denying that and decide if we are comfortable with that fact. And how we will explain it to our children.

The president and his administration have committed so many outrages that it is difficult to keep up. The barrage of corruption and cruelty can make decent people numb. When challenged on this atrocity, the president denies there’s a problem or blames the Democrats. When questioned, members of his cult blame the children’s parents. Democrats in the House of Representatives have passed legislation to fix the problem. Republicans in the Senate have refused to consider it. Last week, lawyers and a physician visited two of the camps in Texas and made news when the doctor compared them to “torture facilities”. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez made news when she called them “concentration camps”.

Maybe more Americans are now paying attention. Maybe that attention will be translated into meaningful action (including impeachment — how many grounds do we need?).

Charles Blow of The New York Times wrote his own piece this weekend under the title  “Trump’s Concentration Camps”:

Folks, we can use any form of fuzzy language we want, but the United States under Donald Trump is currently engaged in an unconscionable act. He promised to crack down on immigrants and yet under him immigrants seeking asylum have surged. And he is meeting the surge with indescribable cruelty. Donald Trump is running concentration camps at the border. The question remains: what are we going to do about it?

Of course, they’re not just Trump’s concentration camps. As the Salt Lake City editorial says, they’re ours now too. Is there any doubt that we need to act in order to shut them down?