Everyday Erinyes #66

 Posted by at 2:15 pm  Politics
Mar 182017
 

Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage.  These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that.  Even though there are many more which I can't include.  As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

One of the detainees released from Guantánamo by President Obama before leaving office was Abdul Zahir.  It's not clear how long he was held after the government conceded that he was not the man they had intended to arrest, another Abdul (not Zahir) who shared a nickname ("Abdul Bari") with him.  This is as if white supremacist terrorists had bombed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), not on account of public lands, but because they were under the impression that it was Black Lives Matter (BLM).

I don't want to go into everything that Zahir suffered while in Guantánamo, though it would make a column by itself – possibly two.  Rather, I want to emphasize, with the author of the linked column, that release after fourteen years of being unlawfully detained (and tortured) may be a step in the right direction – but it does not by any means constitute justice.

Moving on could be difficult for Zahir. Many former Guantánamo and CIA black site detainees continue to face mental health problems even after being released, such as depression and post-traumatic stress. That makes it difficult for them to readjust into normal society. This means true justice for Guantánamo detainees entails more than just releasing them to another country. It also must include redress for the torture inflicted upon them and the physical, mental and emotional problems resulting from that abuse.

However, true justice does not currently seem within reach for current and former Guantánamo detainees. There arecurrently 41 detainees in Guantánamo, including 26 held in indefinite detention — people whom the government does not have enough untainted evidence to prosecute but claims are too dangerous to release.

I think that the details of Abdul Zahir's suffering (though I didn't share them), as well as the sufferings of those still detained (though I don't have those details) make this a case for you, Tisiphone.  I should note also that the photo here shows protestors, NOT actual current or former detainees.

Next, I'd like to share a story from California (but which I'm sure has its counterparts all over the US and likely the world). 

In what is commonly called “pay-to-stay” or “private jail,” a constellation of small city jails — at least 26 of them in Los Angeles and Orange counties — open their doors to defendants who can afford the option. But what started out as an antidote to overcrowding has evolved into a two-tiered justice system that allows people convicted of serious crimes to buy their way into safer and more comfortable jail stays.

An analysis by the Marshall Project and the Los Angeles Times of the more than 3,500 people who served time in Southern California’s pay-to-stay programs from 2011 through 2015 found more than 160 participants who had been convicted of serious crimes including assault, robbery, domestic violence, battery, sexual assault, sexual abuse of children and possession of child pornography.

California law allows someone convicted of a misdemeanor to serve his/her time in the county jail of the county in which convicted, with judicial discretion.  But judges are allowing the privilege to felons, and extending it past county lines, neither of which is an option specified in the law.  Perhaps what shocked me most in this story, though, is that there are cities with jails which actually ADVERTISE their services on their websites"The Pay to Stay Program assists persons interested in serving their commitments over a series of weekends, who need a program that permits them to attend work daily or who are simply searching for a less intimidating environment.  Options such as these provide the opportunity to preserve career standing, maintain family support obligations and the ability to serve a commitment in safety and with dignity."

Some people are saying, like John Eum, a detective with the LAPD, that "The whole criminal justice system is becoming more and more about: How much money do you have? Can you afford better attorneys? Can you afford to pay for a nicer place to stay?”  Others, like be, believe that this has always been the system, but it is certainly coming more and more out into the open.  Alecto, is there anything you can do?

With 65 prior Erinyes columns under my belt, plus one special edition, you may wonder just what it would take to render me speechless.  Well, wonder no more.  It is not a huge atrocity with blood and guts and explosions.  It it just so darned petty that I can't find words for it.

A ban on crayons. That’s what it came to at the visitors’ center at the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas, one of three immigration detention centers that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) currently uses to house mothers and children who’ve been stopped seeking asylum in the United States. Six volunteer lawyers who work with detained families wrote a letter to ICE explaining why they liked to bring crayons when they met with clients: “Having children color and draw provides a distraction for children while their mothers relate incidents of trauma, violence and abuse. Other children sit outside the interview rooms and draw at the tables, so they are not forced to listen to their mothers’ harrowing narratives nor witness their mothers’ fragile emotional states during these interviews.” But ICE determined some of the children were doing “damage” to tables and walls in the visitors’ center while coloring. The crayon ban was just another blow to children already essentially being housed as prisoners by the federal government. The latest memos from the Department of Homeland Security outlining plans for enforcing the executive orders on immigration issued by President Donald Trump mean the numbers of children and mothers being detained this way (in America) will only swell.

A. ban. on. crayons.

My. God.

Megaera, could this possibly be the definition of "grudging"?

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/4042940

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Mar 182017
 

I slept very poorly, because of severe coughing and people drag racing in the street.  Pardon my brevity.  Today’s only article from me.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 4:33 (average 6:03).  To do it, click here. How did you do?

Short Takes: Bill Maher

President Crazypants

 

Uh Oh! My coffee pot is spying on me.

New Rule: Collective Responsibility

 

He makes a good point.  RESIST!!

Cartoon:

0318Cartoon

Now gutted

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Mar 172017
 

A GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING THE DUTCH 2017 ELECTIONS

In this more personal As Seen From Afar I’d like to put the perspective upside-down and try to explain the results of this week’s election to those who have followed it from afar, worried that the Dutch might end up with ‘another Trump’ by voting for populist Geert Wilders of the Party voor de Vrijheid (PVV), lit. Party for the Freedom.

First of all, let me explain why it was very unlikely the Dutch would end up with a second Trump, and to do so I have to delve into the history and rules of our election system a bit, so bear with me for a moment.

One major difference between the American and the Dutch system is that officially our head of state is our King so we do not elect a President as head of state; our head of government is the Prime Minister, or Premier, who also isn’t directly elected. We have a parliament, which consists of two chambers and of which the Second Chamber, or Lower House, is the basis for a government. It has 150 seats, which are filled through elections using a party-list proportional representation: all votes are equal and every vote counts as one.

So far,  so good, as we say. After the elections, usually the leader of the party that “wins” the election, i.e. most seats in the 2nd Chamber, also gets to have a go at forming a government. If he (until now it has always been a ‘he’) succeeds, that person becomes the Premier, the head of government. Of course the Premier has little or no power/authority compared to an American president: no presidential decrees. Appointing ministers in the Premier’s cabinet is usually a complex game between his party and others.

You may have noticed I used a lot of ‘usually’ and quotes, and that brings me to the second reason why Wilders could not have become the Dutch Trump. As described above, the 2nd Chamber has 150 seats, to be filled by all the fractions that get enough votes to fill one or more seats. But here’s the rub: this year there were 28 parties to choose from and of those 13 made it into the 2nd Chamber. This means that seats are scattered among parties and a majority government can only be formed by forming a coalition, as usual.

2 3 do 16 mrt. 2017 NRC Handelsblad NRC Digitale editie

2 3 do 16 mrt. 2017 NRC Handelsblad NRC Digitale editie

The graphic above has Dutch text, but I’ve added it to give you an idea of how elections have developed in the Netherlands from 1959 onwards and to illustrate why the Dutch were not as alarmed about the prospect of a Premier Wilders. The top graph represents all fractions and their seats in the past three elections, the red-barred graph on the left the number of fractions since ’59 and the one below the minimal number of fractions needed to form a coalition since then.

Foreign reports on the issue often portrayed the election as a fight between the Geert Wilders and the Premier at the time, Mark Rutte (VVD), where in fact is was Wilders against 27 other parties. With our tradition of coalition governments not one Dutchman expected a Canadian Trudeau-effect of a majority win, not even Wilders himself I should think. He could of course have become the largest party, and before the campaigns started that seemed a reasonable possibility. But it’s effects were further countered by all major parties promising to decline to form a coalition government with the PVV, denying Wilders the possibility of ever becoming a Premier.

2015-03-17 22:40:37 DEN HAAG – VV-fraction leader Geert Wilders (L) en Premier Mark Rutte after a debate

Trump’s election success in November 2016, which undoubtedly greatly influenced Wilders’ polling numbers, pushing him beyond that of Mark Rutte’s VVD, had made Wilders very cocky, crowning himself Premier even before the election campaigns were anywhere in sight. He adopted a lot of Trump’s rhetoric and communicated a lot through tweets and bullied some of the press. But as Trump’s star started to fade when he took office this year, so did Wilders’.

Wilders was responsible for most of his own decline. During the campaigns he was conspicuous by his absence; he didn’t join in the debates where more parties were present except for the last  debate between Rutte and himself only, he did few rallies – perhaps cautious because his earlier conviction for insulting a group of people and enticement to discriminate, and he had little contact with his base, which he could partly attribute to failing security measures. He was asked to release his party program, like all other parties do, but could offer no more than one sheet of paper with a few bullet points and a few [to be filled in later]s, but no plans whatsoever and ending with a damning “etcetera“. By election time Wilder’s polling numbers had come down already, and even though our own media tried to whip up a bit more tension by referring to the “forgotten voters”, Trump and Brexit, that never resulted in the anxiety felt across our borders.

So, with a poll attendance of over 80% – no, the Dutch have not all turned away from politics – Rutte’s VVD has lost seats but has come out on top with 33 seats, and Wilders has won 5 seats but hasn’t matched his peak of 2010 of 24 seats with only 20 now. Rutte is expected to form a new government, Rutte III, together with numbers three and four.

So is all well now in The Netherlands? In my opinion, not really. While populist Wilders may seem to be slowly on his way out, quite a few new right-wing populist have taken his place by way of Denk (3 seats, popular among Turkish-Dutch), Forum van Thierry Baudet (2 seats, popular among Alt-Right), and 50Plus has doubled in size (4 seats, popular among the elderly). Labour has been annihilated, while the CDA, a Christian coalition, had chosen to aggressively fill the nationalistic and anti-Islam shoes that Wilders had failed to fill in debates and thus has managed to resurface and to become the third-largest party after Rutte’s VVD and Wilders’ PVV. Rutte’s party is called a liberal party in Europe, which is not to be confused with American liberals; the VVD sits firmly on the right of the political spectrum and has been responsible for the austerity that nearly bled us dry in the past. In all likelihood the new government will consist of right wing VVD and CDA and centrum party D66 with an additional small party to obtain a majority, which will be a further shift to the right, while at the same time it has to govern with an unruly opposition of a diversity of Social Democrats and populist parties.

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Mar 172017
 

Happy St Paddy's Day

Well tomorrow is St Paddy's Day and the green beer and blarney will be overflowing.  You certainly should be familiar with blarney after listening to Drumpfenfarten and his minions.  So dust off your dancing shoes because tomorrow it is time for an Irish jig!

Jig Zone Puzzle — It took me 4:43 (average 7:27).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

I enjoy doing these puzzles so much that I thought I'd throw one in from time to time.  I will be choosing a puzzle that we haven't, to the best of my memory, had before.

Short Takes

The New Yorker — Notching the first major achievement of his Presidency, Donald Trump has broken the world record for unconstitutional travel bans, the White House confirmed on Wednesday.

In an official statement announcing the new world record, the White House called Trump’s second unconstitutional ban “especially impressive” because it came only thirty-eight days after his first.

PHOTOGRAPH BY OLIVIER DOULIERY / BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY

“In addition to the world record for unconstitutional travel bans, President Trump has also smashed the speed record for signing them,” the statement read.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, touted the new world record in a press briefing that sometimes resembled a victory lap.

“After the first unconstitutional travel ban, a lot of people questioned whether the President could follow it up with another unconstitutional one so quickly,” a gloating Spicer said. “I think he silenced a lot of doubters today.”

Does Drumpf do anything that is not unconstitutional!  This smells a lot like straight reporting Andy!

OtherWords.org —

Khalil Bendib/ OtherWords.org

Having only recently discovered Khalil Bendib's work, I find it quite good and as JD remarked on the last one, worth more than a thousand words.

Common Dreams — Just as his unverified wiretapping claims were seemingly dispelled, President Donald Trump stuck his foot further in the mire and is now facing accusations he may have let slip highly classified information during a televised interview Wednesday evening.

When asked by Fox News host Tucker Carlson why he hasn't gone to the agencies he is "in charge of," to "gather evidence" to support his claim that President Barack Obama tapped Trump Tower, Trump said: "Because I don't want to do anything that's going to violate any strength of an agency. You know we have enough problems. And, by the way, the CIA—I just want people to know—the CIA was hacked and a lot of things taken. That was during the Obama years. That was not during us."

That information, it appears, was not for the public.

On Thursday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, which has asked the administration to provide evidence of the alleged tap, accused Trump of "leaking" classified information.

Click through for the rest of the read.  Drumpfenfarten would argue red is green, and green is red.  He hasn't a clue what he is talking about.  Evidence?  I doubt there is any that is credible, and the ravings of a twitterhead should not be considered credible.  Even members of his own party are calling him out.

Huffington Post — A presidential budget isn’t so much a policy proposal as a statement of an administration’s moral vision for the country. The budget presented by President Donald Trump on Thursday is a document fundamentally unconcerned with the government’s role in improving the plight of its most vulnerable citizens.

That message is clear in the budget’s topline proposals and its deeper details. Trump calls for a $54 billion boost in defense spending and immigration enforcement. More border patrol agents, more Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, more fighter jets that don’t work, and a border wall with Mexico. To offset those fresh expenses, he wants to take an ax to a host of anti-poverty programs ― everything from public housing to food programs helping elderly people with disabilities.

This was an ideological choice. When explaining why it would eliminate a $35 million affordable housing program, the administration declared the endeavor simply wasn’t the government’s business: “This program is duplicative of efforts funded by philanthropy and other more flexible private sector investments.”  …

That Trump’s budget is devoid of even modest nods to social welfare is not something that the administration is trying to hide. Instead, they’ve turned the argument on its head. At a press briefing Thursday afternoon, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney was asked how he could justify cutting programs for the elderly and the poor while ramping up spending in other areas. In response, he insisted that, on the contrary, taking food from the mouths of hungry children should be seen as an act of “compassion." 

“I think it’s one of the most compassionate things we can do,” Mulvaney said, referring to reducing anti-poverty spending. The government, he declared, has an urgent moral priority to ensure that “the single mom of two in Detroit” doesn’t pay for programs that don’t serve “a proper function.”

For a so called moral document, this budget is very immoral!  Since when does taking food from hungry children constitute compassion?  And Meals on Wheels benefits the elderly and those with disabilities who cannot get out. It is also a social lifeline and contributes to better health outcomes.  This administration is morally bankrupt and the budget proposal proves it.  I wonder if the Republican Congress will  rubber stampthe proposal.  There are indications that not all are onboard the Drumpfenfarten train.

 

 

My Universe —

 

 

 

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Mar 172017
 

Did I actually put “republicans” and “fun” in the same sentence?  I know, I know – but to be honest, it’s actually other folks making FUN of republicans.  So we’re good.

The week’s festivities started with Paul Ryan giving his Trumpcare/WeDon’tCare PowerPoint presentation for AHCA – and folks had a field day with memes.  So let’s enjoy some of their handiwork

First, let’s admit that they tried to incorporate some good points into their AHCA plan …

And it does try to offer some sound advice …

And it is elegant in its underlying simplicity at cutting costs …

But surprisingly enough, Paul Ryan actually gave an honest summation of the GOP’s AHCA plan – he concluded that it’s a …

Then Kellyanne Conway stepped up to TRY to “help” out Twitler with his bald-faced lie that Pres. Obama had his “wires tapped”, by claiming Obama wasn’t just limited to spying only by having “wires tapped” … he could also be using a microwave oven camera.

Conway actually learned of the microwave’s sinister photographic powers from her own oven:

And the sad duty of informing Pres. Obama of Conway’s odd, but extremely serious, charge of ordering microwaves to become a Snapchat spy on Twitler fell to Hillary.  Fortunately, she was up to the task:

But in all fairness, if you take a closer look at your microwave’s Control Panel, you can see there’s some possibility to Conway’s claim

But being skeptical, I decided to go right to the source and ask MY microwave if it was spying on me – and this is the reply I got from my oven:

So maybe Obama HAS been infiltrating Trump Tower …

  

I’ll leave you with this sobering clip.  Wanting to be thorough, I setup one of those “Nanny Video Cams” that record exactly what does go on in the kitchen when I’m not around.  To say the least, I was flabbergasted!

So who knows – maybe Conway was correct.

Nah – not a chance in hell.  I was just toying with you.

 

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