Apr 092017
 

I have been busy working on my mother's estate and getting ready to file her income taxes for last year.  Add teaching and physio and a few other things, life has been busy.  Now I have to arrange a visit to the dentist because I broke a tooth on Friday.  On the other hand, it is always a joy to come home to my three furbabes.

Short Takes

NY Times — Judge Neil M. Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate on Friday to become the 113th justice of the Supreme Court, capping a political brawl that lasted for more than a year and tested constitutional norms inside the Capitol’s fraying upper chamber.

The moment was a triumph for President Trump, whose campaign appeal to reluctant Republicans last year rested in large part on his pledge to appoint another committed conservative to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016. However rocky the first months of his administration may have been, Mr. Trump now has a lasting legacy: Judge Gorsuch, 49, could serve on the court for 30 years or more.

“As a deep believer in the rule of law, Judge Gorsuch will serve the American people with distinction as he continues to faithfully and vigorously defend our Constitution,” the president said.

The final tally was 54-45 in favor of confirmation.

The confirmation was also a vindication of the bare-knuckled strategy of Senate Republicans, who refused even to consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Judge Merrick B. Garland, saying the choice of the next justice should belong to the next president.

Click through for the rest of the article.  Well, I think we all knew that Gorsuch would be confirmed if McConnell used the nuclear option and changed the Senate tradition of 60 votes for confirmation to SCOTUS to a simple majority.  McConnell did, and Gorsuch was. When the appointment is for life, in this case for at least 30 years, there should be a requirement for 60 votes to confirm.

Otherwords.org  Well in keeping with the above article, here is Khalil Bendib's take.

Cartoon removed pending clarification.

Strange fruit on the tree of liberty.

There will interesting times ahead with Gorsuch on the bench.

Otherwords.org If you didn't guess already, I am a fan of Khalil Bendib's work.  A picture is worth a thousand words, or maybe more.  With the failure of Drumpf's healthcare bill recently, he is beginning to tally up quite a list of failures.  Stay tuned for more!

Cartoon removed pending clarification.

Our "deal-maker" president isn't nearly as good as getting things done as he proclaimed.

And of course, before the healthcare failure, there was not one, but two attempts at banning Muslims from specific countries.  The first ban was quashed by Washington state US District Judge James Robart.  Of course, not to be outdone by a judge whom Drumpf castigated, Drumpf brought forward a second ban and it was shot down in spectacular fashion by Hawaii's US District Judge Derrick Watson.  Drumpf just tweaked the original ban and it was sent to the trash heap.  One can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig! 

Cartoon removed pending clarification.

You know what they say about putting lipstick on a pig.

YouTube — And now a few words from John Oliver.

 

John does have a way with words.

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Feb 282017
 

It has taken me longer to get this out than I'd like, but finally it is done.  I have been getting ready for my mother's memorial service and the arrival of my brother and his wife this Friday.

Short Takes

Metro News — Former prime minister Brian Mulroney and musician David Foster made for an unlikely Canadian duo to entertain Donald Trump and guests at his Florida estate Saturday night.

With Foster, the famed songwriter and producer, on the keyboards, Mulroney took to the stage and performed, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” to audience that included Trump.

It was an encore performance for Mulroney, who famously sang that tune with President Ronald Reagan at the so-called Shamrock Summit in Quebec City in 1985.  … 

Mulroney, dressed in a black tuxedo, came on stage and joked, “Mr. President, I hope this doesn't fracture Canadian-U.S. relations. . . I apologize in advance for it.”

Mulroney was the Prime Minister of Canada from 17/09/84 to 25/06/93 and the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party (Harper dropped the word 'Progressive' from the party's name during his later tenure and took it much further right.) so there is an ideological relationship to the US Republicans.  However despite that, I find it repugnant that Mulroney would stoop so low to sing at Mar-a-Lago, even at a fund raiser.

Vice.com — President Donald Trump's administration name dropped two terror attacks that happened on Canadian soil this week, but neither one was the recent mosque shooting that killed six worshippers in Quebec City.  …

Trump's list happened to include the 2014 attack on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. As any Canadian with an internet connection will recall, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau managed to kill one soldier before being shot dead by authorities.  …

What does this all mean? Media are playing a dangerous, racialized game with their editorial choices, according to Naureckas. With Zehaf-Bibeau swiftly branded a Muslim convert harbouring radical opinions about Middle East politics, the Ottawa shooting was perhaps an easy narrative to sink into—an outsider that hated the "dominant" culture. On the other hand, the slow and contradictory release of info from Quebec City, muddled by anti-Muslim truther conspiracies, was not as easy bait for American networks.

"It's hard to escape the conclusion that the story isn't as big because the victims are Muslim, that Muslim life is not considered as important as Christian life," Naureckas told VICE. By the same token, he says on some level attacks by Muslims are generally seen as more threatening than people motivated by white supremacy.

Make no mistake . . .the Québec massacre of 6 praying Muslims and the wounding of 9 others in their mosque was a terrorist attack by a young anti Muslim man who followed Drumpf.  A number of sources have noted that domestic terrorists are responsible for more attacks and deaths in the US than any Muslim attack.  The Oklahoma bombing in 1995 killed 168 and wounded over 680 people.  If I recall correctly, there have been 19 domestic terrorist attacks and no Muslim terrorist attacks in the US. 

NY Times —On Friday night, Fox News aired an alarming six-minute segment in which the host, Tucker Carlson, interviewed a documentary filmmaker about a crisis of violence in Sweden ignited by the recent wave of Muslim migration.

“The government has gone out of its way to try to cover up some of these problems,” declared Ami Horowitz, the filmmaker.

“That is grotesque,” Mr. Carlson responded.

One of his viewers agreed, and in that moment was born a diplomatic incident that illustrates the unusual approach that President Trump takes to foreign policy, as well as the influence that television can have on his thinking. After watching the program, Mr. Trump threw a line into a speech the next day suggesting that a terrorist attack had occurred in Sweden the night before.  …

But the episode underscored that Mr. Trump obtains, processes and uses information differently from any modern president. He watches television at night and tends to incorporate what he sees into his Twitter feed, speeches and interviews.

“It begs the question of where the president gets his information as he articulates his administration’s global approach,” said Mark Brzezinski, the ambassador to Sweden under President Barack Obama. “To do so in an improvisational way, based on snippets picked up from cable news, is a major mistake.”

Faux Noise versus the intelligence community professionals — so which would you trust to provide accurate intelligence data?  Turns out, the noted attack was not the night before and it was an attack by neo Nazis on an refugee centre.  What is of further concern, Faux Noise is one of the media sources allowed in the WH press briefing room while other, more respected companies were shut out.

Washington Post — The reporter who helped expose an infamously paranoid, manipulative and destructive president said Sunday that Richard Nixon had nothing on Donald Trump.

“Trump's attacks on the American press as 'enemies of the American people' are more treacherous than Richard Nixon's attacks on the press," former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein said Sunday on CNN.

Trump's comments — made publicly, whereas Nixon attacked his enemies in private — brought to mind “dictators and authoritarians, including Stalin, including Hitler," Bernstein said.  …

Bernstein — whose reporting of the Watergate break-in and cover-up helped bring about Nixon's resignation — said Trump's rhetoric is potentially more dangerous than Nixon's attacks on the news media.

“There is no civic consensus in this country like there was at the time of Watergate about acceptable presidential conduct," Bernstein said on “Reliable Sources."

“Trump is out there on his own, leading a demagogic attack on the institutions of free democracy," he said. “We are into terrible authoritarian tendencies."

When a respected journalist like Carl Bernstein says "Richard Nixon has nothing on Donald Trump", we know things are not good and we should sit up and listen.

CBC — A lawyer is governed not just by normal criminal and civil law, but by clearly defined ethics, interpreted by quasi-judicial boards of his or her peers. The same self-regulation is practised by most other professions.

Not journalism. There is no uniform qualification for a reporter, no uniform code of behaviour. Journalism has vigorously resisted any efforts to legally define journalism, or any sort of peer review.  …

A huge swath of journalism doesn't even bother pretending self-regulation.  …

Apparently, one of U.S. President Donald Trump's favourite sources of political news is a fellow named Alex Jones, who has, among other things, asserted that the Sept. 11 attacks were an inside job, and that the Sandy Hook massacre of schoolchildren never happened.  …

To the president of the United States, Jones is a real journalist, as opposed to most of the rest of us, whom he now characterizes as a cesspool of lying, dishonest purveyors of fake news and outright falsehoods, or, most recently, "enemies of the people."

Drumpf really needs to be schooled in the meaning of journalism versus opinion and conspiracy theories (à la Alex Jones).  He also needs to realise that just because he does not like the slant of a story, it is not "fake news".  Drumpf lives in his own reality which bears no resemblance to ours.

Canadian Press — Some 1,200 people considered to be among the most vulnerable refugees in the world are to be housed in Canada by the end of this year, the Trudeau government announced Tuesday — a move praised by Conservative MP Michelle Rempel as a message to the world that the persecuted Yazidi population needs to be a greater priority for safe-haven countries.

Nearly 400 Yazidi refugees and other survivors of Islamist extremists have already been accepted over the last four months, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said in announcing the initiative, which is expected to cost $28 million.

But unlike the thousands of refugees fleeing violence in Syria who were greeted by flashing cameras and intense public exposure, the Yazidis have been entering the country with no fanfare. That won't change, say government officials who are protecting the identity of the asylum seekers because of just how vulnerable they are.

"Some of these women haven't even told their own families about what they experienced" at the hands of their persecutors, associate deputy immigration minister Dawn Edlund told a news conference alongside Hussen.

The Yazidi are a persecuted people whose religion puts them at odds with the Islamic State.  There have been mass graves of men and boys while women have been made into sex slaves.  Despite all this, the Yazidi have not been a priority for resettlement . . . until now. 

Youtube — John Oliver covers Obamacare and the Republican plan to repeal and replace it.

Listening to John tell it like it is is funny, but also spot on.

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Everyday Erinyes #63

 Posted by at 7:16 am  Politics
Feb 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.

So – which one of you ladies is in charge of devious?  Megaera possibly.  Well, Megaers, we have a real doozy of devious right here.

Trump is caught between two camps. His supporters count the end of deportation protections as a key component of his promise to strengthen immigration enforcement. In campaign speeches, Trump repeatedly promised to end the program on “day one” of his presidency and called the protections “unconstitutional executive amnesty.”

On the other side…. Some Republican strategists are concerned that suspending DACA could energize Latino voters and liberal activists in key congressional districts during the midterm elections next year.

But senior Trump aides … have examined at least two options that would not directly involve Trump, according to two immigration policy advisors to the White House: a lawsuit brought by states, and new legal guidance that details who is a priority for deportation.

$!@#%&*)(+.  (That's my personal opinion.  Condensed.)

The "legal guidance" mentioned above would be from none other than Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.  It would be what you would expect.  As for the states, yes, there are plenty which would gleefully join in a lawsuit suchas is proposed.  However there are also some which would willingly file as amici curiae on the right side.

Faithful America does have a petition which is pertinent.

If you read TomCat's open thread yessterday, and watched/listened to Keith, you know some of the crap ICE is already doing (and there is more in last week's Erinyes.)  This, however, kind of frosted me –

Diagnosed with PTSD …served two tours in Afghanistan and pleaded guilty for cocaine conviction and is a resident and VETERAN… Perez may likely get deported.

Judge reviewing the case and Tammy Duckworth has written a letter on his behalf. 

Daily Kos user "Vetwife" has this to say –

I do not condone this veteran’s activity but he fought for America and was willing to take a bullet.   Now America or a so called America cannot say, “ We owe you a place here with your family”? 

And I must say I agree.  Tisiphone, maybe you can look into this whole topic?

You may or may not know that a lot of veterans who were non-citizens mistakenly thought that their oath to protect the nation made them a citizen.  That has never been true, although a lot of us think it ought to be, and ought always to have been.  In theory, I guess, it should be pert of a recruiter's duty to make that clear.  In practice, many recruiters believe their duty is to sign up their quota.

Frankly, too, there is so much going on that it is difficult to stay even marginally focused.  If you read over TomCat's posts for the last few days, you already know that ICE has gone nutters.  If you read or see any news, you know that Thursday was to be a "Day without Immigrants" to make a point – amy you probably also know that one pink slip today (not sure whether there was an actual pink slip or if they were just told) read:  "You and your family are fired.  Love you."

How much of the immigration brou-ha-ha is to distract us from the Pumpkin Psychopath and his – "handling" – of classified information, ya think?  Two tidbits have managed to achieve a little notice, not from prior Russian influence, but simply happening now.  The first is that he has intelligence so worried what he might do with information that they are simply not giving it to him.  I don't mean the truncated briefings that Mother Jones has brought up – I mean they are deliberately withholding things.

And his sheer carelessness with classified information is now way beyond the wunsecured-obsolete-smartphone stage.  Last week he left a key to classified information in plain sight on his desk while meeting with the CEO of Intel.  AND REPORTERS.

Then there was the debacle at Mar-a-Lago where he was transacting classified business, in person and on the phone, clearly audible – with whatever member of the club just happened to feel like coming over.  One of them thought it would be fun to have his picture taken with the nuclear football – so he did – and posted it on Facebook!  (It was nice of the UK Independent to scramble the face – but anyone can go to google and find it with the face intact; you don't have to be on Facebook.)

Alecto, since this is happening constantly, perhaps you can step in?

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/4037577

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Everyday Erinyes #62

 Posted by at 7:11 am  Politics
Feb 112017
 

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."

The Marshall Project has a series called "Case in Point," in which Andrew Cohen examines a single case or character which sheds light on the criminal justice system.  Jules Letemps is such an individual with such a case, and, while it certainly sheds light on how people may be sentenced and spend years in prison for stuff they didn't do – and there are way too many of those cases – this one also sheds light on immigration in the United States.

The article gives a good deal of backstory, which is, if depressing, worth reading.  But the gist of the case is this:

Letemps came to Florida in 1981 on “humanitarian parole,” a temporary status granted to those fleeing their country for urgent humanitarian reasons. He had fled Haiti on a boat with his father and sister, among thousands of Haitians who emigrated due to political unrest and economic turmoil….

When he arrived in Florida, Letemps moved in with his mother (shown right) in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood, where she had arrived the year before. He got jobs picking tomatoes and selling food at an airport kiosk. He soon left Miami to work at an orange grove near Orlando. There he started dating a woman and in 1986, she got pregnant. Letemps claims this was what led to his drug charge. “I couldn’t help her because I didn’t have a good job,” he said. “I bought 20 dollars worth of dope so I could sell it and make some money, but then the police arrested me.”

Letemps pled guilty to delivery of cocaine, and was sentenced to the five months he had already spent in jail. Immigration officials took no action against him. It was [a] later sexual assault conviction that brought him to ICE’s attention.

When he came to Florida, he was 17.  When he was 26, he left his home, his (pregnant) partner, and his two daughters to go to work at a dealership where his job was washing the cars.  He never got there.  Nor did he ever come home.  He was stopped by a police officer, fingered by a crying woman as her rapist, arrested, and charged.

He was assigned a public defender but no interpreter.  He was found guilty and given four concurrent life sentences, and has been in prison ever since.  He gradually lost contact with everyone except his mother, Pierrecina Aureus.  Siblings, nieces, nephews, his partner, his daughters – none knows him now.

In 2010, Centurion, a non-profit legal service which has works on exoneratatons, took on his case.  Their lawyers discovered in the file of the trial a seroligical test of a semen stain on the victim's robe, which completely excluded Letemps as the rapist.  THE EVIDENCE HAD BEEN IN THE RECORDS ALL THE TIME.  Apparently the public defender misunderstood it.  It was never presented to the jury. 

The Florida State Courts initially ruled that Centurion’s appeal came too late, but the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted them permission. In July 2015, a federal district judge ordered a new trial. And in October 2016, the state dropped all charges.

Centurion knew there would be immigration issues, so they brough on immigration attorney John Pratt.  Since his initial entry status was "humanitarian parole," and the felony conviction would have revoked that, he is now categorized as an "arriving alien" in court proceedings, not entitled to a bond hearing before a judge.  Only DHS can let him go.  Or not.  In November they denied that, so he will likely be detained until his immigration status is resolved.  He is now 53, so he has been in prison a little over half his life.

“Based on Mr. Letemps’ criminal past, ICE determined that his detention is warranted,” wrote [ICE} spokesperson [Tammy] Spicer in an email.

Alecto, I think this has been going on long enough.

Speaking of immigration, the Baltimore Sun raises a question about all the – stuff – that happened last week, when the executive order/Muslim ban was thrown into the mix at every United States airport.

When we worry and wonder about authoritarian regimes that inflict cruelty on civilians, we often imagine tyrannical despots unilaterally advancing their sinister agendas. But no would-be autocrat can act alone. As a practical matter, he needs subordinates willing to carry out orders. Of course, neither Donald Trump nor Steve Bannon personally detained any of the more than 100 people held at airports over the weekend pursuant to the administration's executive order on immigration, visitation and travel to the United States. They relied on assistance.

They refer to incidents such as the 5-year-old child handcuffed and detained, separated from his mother, for several hours.  The mother traveling with two children who was handcuffed, detained for 20 hours without food, separated from her children (who were US citizens.)  The 65-year-old mother of a US serviceman detained for 33 hours and denied the use of a wheelchair.  I expect we all heard about all of these.  They point out:

The men and women who work for the federal government completed these and other tasks and then returned to their families, where perhaps they had dinner and read stories to their children before bedtime.

Authoritarians don't need monsters.  They need people who will follow orders dutifully, even if the orders are monstrous.  And the Sun continues that we all need to ask ourselves what we will do.  Because it's so much easier to do nothing than to do something.  "If we do nothing, that is a choice. It means we accept a government that has demonstrated it is capable of inflicting cruelty on the innocent and defenseless."

Megaera, Tisiphone, come and visit all of us this week.  Help reinforce our spines so that we will have the backbone to keep resisting all the way.

The Furies and I will be back.  We are considering adding a special, one-time, "delusion edition" between Saturdays.

Cross posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/4036175

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Jan 272017
 

I slept better last night, but I still feel quite tires from my exertions earlier this week.  I have a few slow days, before medical mayhem returns next month, and I’m going to take advantage of them.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 5:51 (average 7:00);.  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From The New Yorker: Donald J. Trump’s personal war with Mexico escalated further on Friday after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto cancelled his meeting with Trump and scheduled one with Meryl Streep instead.

“The American people are a great people, and no one personifies that greatness better than Meryl Streep,” Peña Nieto said in an official statement.

The summit with Streep was widely seen as a prelude to Mexico establishing full diplomatic relations with the Academy Award-winning actress.

At the White House, Trump’s advisers were reportedly considering a host of retaliatory measures, including Steve Bannon’s proposal that the President of Mexico be told to “shut up.”

Dang, Andy!! Will Fuhrer Drumpfenfarten declare war?  RESIST!!

From Exposed by CMD: Public education advocates are demanding another hearing on Trump nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, after her dismal performance in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee (HELP) January 17th and after the late release of her ethics report on January 20th.

The report, available here, details some 102 companies that might pose a conflict of interest for DeVos and sheds new light on the nominee’s investments and ethics.

While most Secretaries of Education have an extensive resume as school administrators or as educators, DeVos has neither. DeVos is married to the billionaire heir to the Amway fortune, Dick DeVos. Together they have spent millions advancing a radical school privatization agenda, including taxpayer vouchers for private and religious schools, and electing politicians across the nation willing to advance that agenda. DeVos was asked about her experience for the job by Democratic senators who were only allowed 5 minutes each.

What a horrible choice! Remember, Democrats cannot block her nomination without three Republican votes. The most they can do is delay it for one week.  RESIST!!

From Daily Kos:

According to the New York Times, at least six journalists were charged with rioting after they were detained while covering some of the more “violent protests”* taking place near Trump’s inauguration parade.

The journalists were among 230 people detained in the anti-Trump demonstrations, during which protesters smashed the glass of commercial buildings and lit a limousine on fire.

The charges against the journalists — Evan Engel, Alexander Rubinstein, Jack Keller, Matthew Hopard, Shay Horse and Aaron Cantu — have been denounced by organizations dedicated to press freedom. All of those arrested have denied participating in the violence.

“These felony charges are bizarre and essentially unheard of when it comes to journalists here in America who were simply doing their job,” said Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of Pen America. “They weren’t even in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were in the right place.”

The journalists in question are being arrested for being around the violent parts of the protests—a guilt by proximity.

While all but one of the journalists is a lefty, only one (Horse) is an self-avowed anarchist, who may have been as much a participant as a journalist. Expect charges to be dropped for Rubenstein. He’s as right-wing propagandist for Trump’s owner, Putin. Perhaps Cantu is the best accredited. He writes for The Nation. Guilt by proximity is criminal. If they committed the acts themselves, charge them. If not, apologize!  RESIST!!

Cartoon:

0127Cartoon\

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Resisting a Racist!

 Posted by at 10:35 am  Politics
Jan 102017
 

As I explained in today’s Open Thread, there is nothing Democratic Senators can do to block the confirmation of Jeff Sessions (R-KKK) as Attorney General and head of the renamed Department of Injustice.  Democrats changed the Senate Rules in 2013 to require only a simple majority to confirm cabinet appointees and judges (except SCOTUS), because Republicans were blocking them all.  However, at least some brave protestors disrupted Sessions’ confirmation hearing.

01103jeff-sessions-protesters

Moments before the start of Sen. Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing on Tuesday, chaotic scenes broke out in the Senate Judiciary Committee, as two demonstrators dressed as Ku Klux Klan members shouted in protest against Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general. They were swiftly escorted from the room.

"You can’t arrest me! I’m white!" one of the protesters said as officials removed them from the hearing.

The incident comes as civil rights groups urge Senate Judiciary Committee members to reject Sessions’ nomination, many of whom point to his past efforts to block black judges from serving on the federal branch as evidence he is not fit to lead the Justice Department.

Breaking with longstanding senate tradition, Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, will join civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia, on Tuesday to testify against Sessions’ appointment…

From <Mother Jones>

This had just happened, so this was the best video I could find.

Kudos to the protestors!

This is the acid test.  If Senate Republicans confirm Sessions, they won’t stand up to the Fuhrer over anything else.

RESIST!!

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