The Widdershins

Posts Tagged ‘refugee


Posted on: June 21, 2018

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I have spent the last 2 days thinking about what the subject of my weekly post here would be. Honestly – I’m just at a loss for words. The revelations about the concentration camps Donald Trump is building for children – including babies – just kind of takes my breath away and leaves me speechless. Over the last couple of years, as we have watched Trump rise, many of us began comparing him to the Nazis, seeing parallels between his rise to power and Hitler’s. There are many who really believe in Godwin’s law that comparisons to Hitler are inevitable and once you compare someone to Hitler you’ve lost the argument. Except we’ve now jumped the shark and even Mike Godwin himself has cancelled his own law. “By all means, compare these shitheads to Nazis. Again and again. I’m with you,” he tweeted in August 2017. I don’t think you need to have millions of people burn in ovens before you say: “You know, maybe it’s not too early to call them Nazis.” As awful as Trump has been, I just was not ready for “concentration camps for babies” awful. Though it should be noted Hillary Clinton warned us about that too: in one of the debates she said Trump intended to take children away from their parents. But who would believe such a thing was possible! All the pundits who laughed at Hillary, called her “over prepared,” and openly shilled for Trump are now dismayed that Trump would do such a thing. Well, she tried to tell you. When Hillary said “I’m the last thing standing between you and the apocalypse” – perhaps the hyperbole wasn’t that big.

So here we are, with baby concentration camps courtesy of Donald Trump. Kirstjen Nielsen, who was at the center of Dubya’s catastrophic Katrina response, has thrown herself into this with body and soul. Trump will wrap this disaster around her neck and throw her overboard soon. She will be the latest casualty of Trump’s magical ability to grind people and their reputations into dust. People like Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, General MacMaster, Rex Tillerson, James Comey, etc. etc. Don’t feel bad for them. Each and every one was a willing participant in this charade. So it will be with Kirstjen Nielsen when Trump blames her for everything and fires her. The disgraced secretary who had no idea most people in Sweden were white will crawl away licking her wounds and not peep a bad word against Trump. And let her crawl away all the way into hell. I am not a religious man, but times like these make me hope there is, in fact, a God who damns evildoers to hell. Because that’s where people like Donald Trump and Kirstjen Nielsen belong: in the fires of hell, for all eternity, amen.

Happy Friday Widdershin friends. Here’s hoping your Friday is going better than John Boehner’s Thursday went, but then again, it would have to be better.

Sad Boehner

There are some days when these posts just write themselves. This is one of those days. Given my pronounced lack of imagination, there is no way I could come up with the storyline of the last twenty-four hours in the House of Representatives. And given the outrageous turn of events, neither could the writers of House of Cards, Game of Thrones, or for that matter, Veep. Yesterday for John Boehner was a real FUBAR — fudged up beyond all recognition.

Imagine for a moment, it was the first day for your new management team given Eric Cantor’s defeat in last month’s Virginia primary. If you are John Boehner, you have a new Republican Majority Leader in Kevin McCarthy and a new Majority Whip in Steve Scalise. While it was their first day on the job, it was also their last day before their 5-week August recess/vacay.

Just the day before, Boehner had passed legislation enabling him to sue the President for his “lawlessness” in signing Executive Orders. All the House had to do was pass a simple watered-down bill to address that pesky refugee problem on the southern border and then it was off for some much deserved R&R for being the least productive Congress in history. What could go wrong?

Emboldened and hearing the call of the sun to bring back that irradiated orange glow, Boehner even held a press conference to say of that pesky refugee problem, “Congress must act because it is better to do something than do nothing.” Then fifteen minutes later — fifteen minutes — John Boehner and his newly minted leadership team did nothing — they pulled the bill. And to add further humiliation, members of the House blamed the President saying he should deal with the problem through executive authority. This after having voted less than 24-hours previously to sue him for using executive authority.

Sneaky Ted Cruz2How could all this happen? Look no further than that meddlesome Canadian, nee Texan, Ted Cruz. It seems as though Cruz held a pizza party for the Tea Party types on Wednesday night and played the game, How Mean Can We Be to Children (or UACs in the vernacular, standing for “Unaccompanied Children” because to actually say children is quite unseemly). Cruz, a McCain proclaimed wacko bird, has once again infused himself in the do-nothing Tea Party caucus as some phantom Speaker to purposefully and needlessly blow-up the process but for no other reason than self-aggrandizement.

Of course Ted Cruz isn’t a solo act. He is acting at the behest of the Heritage Foundation and cheerleaders like Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard. You know — the same intellectual jug heads who brought us the Iraq War, the government shutdown, Iran war mongering, and constant caterwauling for military intervention in Syria, Libya, and the Ukraine.

So what does Cruz want for all this mischief? He wants the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) implemented by Obama to be repealed. DACA allows children, who were brought here by no act of their own and have been here since 2007, to apply for temporary relief from deportation and work permits. Operative words: Apply for temporary relief.

These children, knowing no other country than the U.S. and who are Americans by all accounts except those on paper, are innocent victims in all this. They broke no laws. They were brought here by their parents. Many have enlisted in the armed services and served with distinction.

But innocence is no inoculation to being used as a pawn for the political maneuvering of Cruz and the thirty to forty Tea Children in Holding CellPartiers who are causing all these problems. If for a moment these intellectual pygmies could see through the miasma of hate for these “others,” they would realize their actions will brand them as nothing more than the “deportation party.“ They want to deport, without a hearing, the thousands of children who have found their way north from Central America and for good measure, additionally deport hundreds of thousands of children who have grown up American whose only sin are to have parents who wanted them. In their Tea Party lexicon written by Frank Luntz, deportation has become “reuniting children with their parents in their home country.”

After the drubbing Mitt Romney took in the 2012 election, the Republican Party realized in their autopsy report they had to come to grips with immigration. What the RNC never seemed to fathom is something has to be dead to perform an autopsy. In the wake of that report, the Senate passed a comprehensive bipartisan immigration bill, but it still sits growing moss in the House of Representatives. Now with thousands of children sitting in the balance, John Boehner has once again fallen victim to the maniacal machinations of the self-serving Ted Cruz.

Why is this happening? A year and a half ago we said on these pages that impeachment would be the Republican bumper sticker rallying cry for these midterm elections. The Boehner lawsuit is the first step in the process. Cruz knows with money running out for the care and housing of these refugee children, Obama will have to act and therefore, Executive Orders concerning immigration will become the predicate for yet another trumped-up impeachment circus.

Unaccompanied-Minors-Chart1-640x748Once again these radical conservatives may have gone too far though. Just this week the Public Religion Institute released a poll finding 70% of Americans support aiding the refugee children as we determine who qualifies to stay in the U.S. Only 26% support summary deportation. Even George Will in all his crotchety, “get off my lawn” lily-white translucency is in favor of giving these children safe haven from the war lords, drug cartels, and sex traffickers.

Even if the House acts today at some point, the outcome will be more punitive than charitable, more xenophobic than tolerant, and certainly more politically calculated than generous in spirit. Not to worry, Ted Cruz playing “Slow White” to the thirty “intellectual dwarfs” of the Tea Party will have fled the stage leaving in his wake the telltale signs of mean-spiritedness, vengefulness, and the suffering of child refugees just to make sure we know he played his part.

As a people, we are better than that — or at least some of us are.

This is an open thread.

Good afternoon Widdershins. I hope your Tuesday is a good one.

So much news! Everywhere you look there is another headline screaming or better said, everywhere you look there is a pundit screaming in order to hear his head rattling. As is my chronic condition of being unable to focus on any one subject, I’m exercising a fielder’s choice and offering up a grab-bag of topics.

Picture from a few hours ago...

Picture from a few hours ago…

Turning first to the Middle East, we so often forget that Israeli politics can be even more divisive than our own. True to form, where there is canyonesque political division there is opportunity. Such is the case with young Mr. Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. I’m sure you have seen Mr. Dermer on any number of talk shows extolling the regrettable virtues of raining bombs down on a captive population of civilian Palestinians while asking the unanswerable question of, “Would any country suffer rocket sieges without protecting itself?“

If you noticed a pronounced lack of accent in the 43-year-old’s rapid fire debate delivery, it is because he was born in Miami where his father was a conservative Democratic mayor. He went to the University of Pennsylvania for its Wharton business school and happened into a political class taught by Frank Luntz. After graduating, he briefly worked for Mr. Luntz and became completely immersed in GOP politics. Through networking at a speed that would put the Hadron Large Collider to shame, he is now known as “Bibi’s Brain” for his close relationship with Netanyahu. The article is well worth the read to remind us “all politics is local” — it’s just that the definition of local has been enlarged.

Children approaching borderBack home with the refugee situation everyone has dubbed a “border crisis,” there is an enlightening opinion piece by El Paso county judge, Ms. Veronica Escobar. Judge Escobar’s opinion, backed up by a Rio Grande River of facts, is that:

…There’s no crisis. Local communities like El Paso have done an amazing job of assisting these migrants. Rather, the myth of a “crisis” is being used by politicians to justify ever-tighter restrictions on immigration, play to anti-immigrant voters in the fall elections and ignore the reasons so many children are coming here in the first place.

Her essay is persuasively written and is well worth the read.

For three weeks now, I have been focused on this child refugee opportunity facing the country. I deem it an opportunity since great leadership can’t select its circumstance. Will we meet the challenge?

Comprehensive immigration reform could be had in the time it would take for John Boehner to hold a roll call vote in the House since the bipartisan Senate bill sits there languishing. But instead, the Tea Party’s tribalism is producing an immigration policy of total undifferentiated deportation. It is deportation without a whiff of due process protection for these children who have trudged through the desert to reach our border.

Along with deportation, the only other facet of immigration policy these nativists will countenance is further One childmilitarization of the border with troops and walls and armed aggression. All the while forgetting, these are children — children who are endangered by drug lords, war lords, or sex traffickers.

I’ve yet to hear the first explanation of the unavoidable circumstance where children, already spent from their desert trek, are stopped at the border by armed American soldiers and turned away with nowhere to go. There will be maybe ten at first, then twenty, then perhaps hundreds. How do we caption that picture for the world stage? We, as a country and as a people, are better than that — or at least most of us are.

Turning north to yet another instance of reining in the “others” there were two differing decisions regarding the Affordable Care Act by two different federal Circuit Courts of Appeal. The issue was whether or not the subsidies are available to those who have enrolled in healthcare plans through the federal exchange versus state exchanges. The case is Halbig v. Burwell and the divergent opinions were from the D.C. Circuit and the Fourth Circuit.

This one is easy — the opinion by the D.C. Circuit, a 2-1 decision attempting to cripple the ACA with a cockeyed reading of the statute, is wrong or as one of my professors used to say, “It couldn’t be wronger.” It will be summarily denied effect by a full en banc panel of judges when it is reargued.

ACA Legal ChallengesThe D.C. opinion was a political opinion. It ignored a basic legal concept taught in first year law school from the case of Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council. Simply put, a court should defer to a federal agency when there is a discrepancy in statutory language rather than declaring the legislation a nullity. I guess the two D.C. appellate judges missed that day in law school.

Crossing the street from the D.C. Court of Appeals to Capitol Hill, our old friend Paul Ryan is at it again. He just can’t help himself. In an unending quest to breathe life into the vacuous heartless fictional philosophy of the atheist Russian émigré Ayn Rand, he unveiled yet another anti-poverty plan. To be fair, a portion of the plan is laudatory — increasing and extending the Earned Income Tax Credit to the working poor, but that nugget comes at the price of basically “eliminating dozens of programs and block granting a capped amount to the states.”

This state block granting of aid to the poor is where most observers have a massive anal bleed — me included. Block granting aid to the states, the very same states forbidding what is essentially free healthcare to the poor through Medicaid expansion will then be charged with using unfettered block grants as they see fit to help the poor. What could possibly go wrong!?!

After we give the poor people life coaches, P90X is next...

After we give the poor people life coaches, P90X is next…

A piece of Ryan’s plan has gotten little play: A mandatory precursor to receiving any aid is that a poor person would have to craft a “life plan.” In conjunction with a government worker or a deputized non-profit organization, a poor person would have to agree to benchmarks, timelines, sanctions, and cutoff dates for receiving “opportunity grants”.

You read that right — the darling of the small government crowd, the doyen of the government is too big and can’t do anything right crowd, Paul Ryan is proposing the poor must now have “life coaches.” Even conservatives love-struck with Ryan are saying he’s gone a chapter or two too far in his Ayn Randian quest.

Quite surprisingly, since corporations are now people, there’s no mention in Ryan’s proposal for “corporate life coaches” to set timelines for the sun-setting of corporate welfare. I’m sure the oversight was inadvertent.

Sarah and KimSpeaking of failed vice presidential nominees, the long wait is over my friends. For those of you jonesing for more Sarah Palin, your prayers have been answered. For only $99.95 a year, you can subscribe to Sarah teevee — all Sarah, all the time with her wit and wisdom irradiating like an aurora borealis backlit test pattern.

For those of you who think it might be a coincidence that Kim Kardashian also announced a new “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood App” costing $99.95, could it be Sarah and Kim are the new power couple — the Palashian? Don’t forget Kim’s baby is named “North” for no apparent reason until now. Or might it just be Sarah and Kim are the same person? They certainly have the same outlook when it comes to celebrity — it’s great to be paid to be famous.

I could go on and on with other tidbits in the news, but I’ll turn over the discussion to you — this is an open thread.


Good afternoon Widdershins. Unfortunately, the cheeriest thing I can bring myself to say is, “It’s Tuesday.”

By now, if you are anything like me, you are saturated in the ethnic separatist horror manifested by blowing 298 innocent souls out of the sky or by the millennium of tribalism being played out by proxy pawns along the Gaza Strip. No paltry words of mine can salve the grief stricken suffering as it plays itself out before our eyes.

Murrieta Buses

Forgive me for not focusing on those stories, but the images of the shouting, anger-seething hordes stopping those buses of refugee children have inspired quite a bit of thought over the past week. Inspired isn’t quite right. Those images merely reinforced something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time.

In many ways those images are consistent with our long history of ugly prejudice. We always seem to find a way to dressed up prejudice as a concern for public health or an assault upon our national sovereignty. Our entire 19th and early 20th century was infected with attacks on immigrants as diseased intruders upon the American body politic.

In 1832, the Irish were accused of bringing cholera. Later, the Italians were stigmatized for polio. In 1900, the Chinese immigrants in San Francisco’s Chinatown were quarantined out of an unfounded fear of bubonic plague. Not to paint with too fine a brush, but we portrayed Asians as feeble and infested with hookworm. Mexican were diagnosed as lousy. Eastern European Jews were pronounced vulnerable to trachoma, tuberculosis was dubbed the “Jewish disease”, and they were handed the “wastebasket” diagnosis of having generally “poor physique.” In the early 1900s newspapers announced every incoming ship was brimming with syphilitic and leprous heathens.

Buses American FlagsSo the images of the angry mobs attacking buses of children fresh from their jaunty thousand mile desert trek is but a vivid reminder of our heritage of unfocused nativist fears. In reality though, given the mandated required screenings by Homeland Security, these refugee children in all likelihood are better inoculated than American children given the new fear-mongering around vaccines. In short, the odds these migrant children could cause a general infection of anything are slim to none, and slim isn’t crossing the border.

Given that this nativism — this tribalism, isn’t new, it can’t explain away what I sense as a shift in the general ethics of Americans. A few weeks ago I wrote about the differences among values, morals, principles, and ethics. For those of you paying attention you will remember ethics is how we treat one another when we live along side one another. It is my contention the generalized hate, anger, and fear that used to be endemic toward emigrants has now, just like a mutating virus, “jumped the immigration barrier” and infected us as a society at an even broader level. That level is the “others.”

The “others” is a non-specific designation diagnosis. It can be the poor. It can be the uninsured in search of Medicaid. It can be families headed by single women. It can be the jobless or the disabled or gay. The “others” can be race or ethnicity based. It can be women looking for reproductive health care. The “others” no longer have helpful telltale immutable characteristics. Truly, this evolving animosity toward “others” is a work of equal opportunity hatred. It used to be enough to be American, but not so any more.

In order to bolster this theory, I offer you a recent article entitled, The Data of Hate. I don’t often recommend particular articles, but I urge you to click and read it. It’s fascinating and self-described as where “Big Hatred meets Big Data.”

The author is a Ph.D. economist from Harvard who spent a year studying — America’s most popular online hate site. It was founded in 1995 by a man inconveniently named Don Black, a former Ku Klux Klan leader. According to Quantcast, over the last year roughly 200,000 to 400,000 Americans visited the site every month. To bolster its pedigree, a Southern Poverty Law Center report linked nearly 100 murders in the past five years to registered members. Unsurprisingly, one of its most popular “social groups” is “Fans and Supporters of Adolf Hitler.”

What is surprising is this: The Stormfront members are seemingly normal — or relatively speaking, as normal as No New Taxes No New Illegalsmembers of a “social hate site” can be. Members like to read. They are news and political junkies. Members engage in long threads praising Breaking Bad and discussing the comparative merits of online dating sites. And quite surprisingly, they like to read The New York Times. This last data point will be quite the non sequitur to the NYT’s Sulzberger family since “powerful and clever Jews” seem to engender a preeminent amount of hatred on the site.

What is most frightening, at least to me and my theory of this new-found generalized animus, is the relative youth of the members. Seventy-six percent of the Americans on Stormfront who self-identify age are under thirty years old. Again, 76% of the American members are under 30.

Without belaboring my point, don’t expect this new generation of haters to anxiously await every January’s “white sales” in order to pick up high thread count flat sheets. This new generation of hate won’t be as easy to recognize as the Klan was. “For instance, Stormfront member VikingMaiden88 seems like a perfectly nice and intelligent young woman, but her hatred is real. She praises a store for having ‘100% white employees’. She says the media is promoting a ‘Jewish agenda’. And she says she finds Asians ‘repulsive physically, socially, religiously, etc.”

It is my assertion these Stormfront members, through their unfocused anger, are no different in many ways than those who take to the streets in protest over the “47% of takers.” Without any fiscal basis, isn’t cutting food stamps to the poor merely a visceral product of anger? Isn’t withholding Medicaid to Seven Million poor Southerners punishing the “others“? Cutting unemployment benefits while at the same time refusing to pass a jobs bill is nothing more than indicting the victims of the Great Recession as “others.“ And add any qualifier to a single woman — as poor, as unemployed or as a mother, and there is automatic condemnation of being a double “other.”

Child RefugeesThe images of the angry mobs stopping the buses of children were poignant reminders of the ugliness of nativism. While I said I wasn’t going to dwell on the horrors of Malaysian Flight 17 or Gaza, aren’t they just potent examples of the invidious nature of tribalism writ large? The learning they provide is simple: We would do well to weigh the cost of allowing this type of unquenchable enmity to grow unchecked. We should learn from our historical disgraces of blanket prejudice lest we are all one-illness, one job, one child, or one trait away from being an “other.”

This is an open thread.






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