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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Mr. Trump to the ‘dreamers’: Drop dead. - The Washington Post

"PRESIDENT TRUMP has often spoken and tweeted of the soft spot in his “great heart” for “dreamers,” the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought to this country as children. This supposed concern has now been revealed as a con.

Offered bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would have protected 1.8 million dreamers from deportation, in return for a down payment on the $25 billion wall Mr. Trump assured voters that Mexico would finance, the president showed his cards. The deal was a “total catastrophe,” the president said, punctuating a day in which the White House mustered all its political firepower in an effort to bury the last best chance to protect an absolutely blameless cohort of young people, raised and educated as Americans.

Despite the withering scorn heaped on the bipartisan plan by Mr. Trump, with a hearty second by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), eight Republican senators backed it, giving it a total of 54 votes — six shy of the 60 required for passage. Had Mr. Trump stayed silent, or suggested he could accept a modified version, the bill may very well have passed. But he turns out to be far less interested helping the dreamers — helping anyone, really — than in maintaining his anti-immigrant political base...."

Mr. Trump to the ‘dreamers’: Drop dead. - The Washington Post

'Black Panther': Why the relationship between Africans and black Americans is so messed up - The Washington Post

'Black Panther': Why the relationship between Africans and black Americans is so messed up - The Washington Post

Fact-checking Trump's error-filled tweetstorm about the Russia investigation - The Washington Post

"In a tweetstorm that started late at night Saturday and continued into Sunday morning, President Trump railed against the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Here’s a quick guide to his many misstatements and misleading claims in this Twitter barrage.

Trump claims he “never said Russia did not meddle in the election” and then repeats a line in which he essentially disputed that by saying that a 400-pound hacker sitting in bed could have been behind the interference. One might argue that undermines his statement, but in any case, there are numerous instances of Trump suggesting that the Russian intervention in the election was a hoax ginned up by Democrats. He has also denounced the investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign had worked with the Russians, even after meetings and conversations were revealed. But from the start, he has consistently sought to minimize or dispute any possible Russian role in the election.

Here are numerous examples, in the form of a timeline up until Inauguration Day. Note, for instance, that when The Washington Post reported on Dec. 9, 2016, that the CIA had concluded that Russia, in its efforts, favored Trump — a fact confirmed by the special counsel’s Feb. 16 grand-jury indictment of 13 Russians and three companies in a long-running scheme to criminally interfere with the 2016 election — Trump said on Fox News, “I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it.” He asserted the source of the story was not the CIA but Democrats.

According to The Fact Checker’s database of Trump claims, Trump in his first year as president then 44 more times denounced the Russian probe as a hoax or witch hunt perpetuated by Democrats..."

Fact-checking Trump's error-filled tweetstorm about the Russia investigation - The Washington Post

Black Panther review: the grown-up Marvel movie we’ve been waiting for - The Verge

"...Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is different. Not only is it a long-overdue embrace of diversity and representation, it’s a film that actually has something to say — and it’s able to do so without stepping away from the superhero dynamics that make the larger franchise work. It’s gripping, funny, and full of spectacle, but it also feels like a turning point, one where the studio has finally recognized that its movies can be about more than just selling the next installment. In the process, the studio has ended up with one of the most enthralling entries in its entire universe..."

Black Panther review: the grown-up Marvel movie we’ve been waiting for - The Verge

BLACK PANTHER Final Trailer (2018) I just saw Black Panther. It is a wonderful movie. There are so many cultural references that if you are aware of African American culture, more than on a superficial level, you will catch. Don't sleep on this flick. What a surprise, part of the film was filmed in my old Busan, Korea stomping ground.

The best case brief on America's failure to act on gun violence I have encountered, arguably Rachel Maddow's best piece of journalism January 13th 2011.

Dr Joy DeGruy sets the record straight on Thomas Jefferson

Dr Joy DeGruy sets the record straight on Thomas Jefferson

Scandal-Ridden Scoundrel - The New York Times

By Charles Blow

"Donald Trump has turned the political world upside down, again and again, like a kid flipping a coin. Every day we wake up to either a new scandal or several lingering ones.

It is astounding. It is maddening. It is numbing.

At this moment, he is embroiled in a scandal of a six-figure payment to a porn star who goes by the name Stormy Daniels and who, at one point, gave an interview in which she claimed that the two were engaged in an extramarital sexual affair.

He is also embroiled in a scandal over why a top aide, Rob Porter, accused of physically assaulting his two ex-wives, was allowed to remain on the White House staff even after these allegations had been brought to the attention of the White House by the F.B.I.

Exacerbating this scandal is the fact that the official White House timeline about the events leading to Porter’s resignation turned out to be a lie, according to sworn testimony on Tuesday by the F.B.I. director Christopher Wray. It is also exacerbated by the fact that after Porter resigned, Trump praised him, and initially failed to say anything about domestic violence in general, reserving that condemnation for a week later, when he said, “I’m totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind.”

And of course, there is the omnipresent issue of Russia attacking our elections in 2016 and the investigation into whether anyone in the Trump orbit colluded or cooperated with the Russians, conspired to commit a crime, lied to officers or tried to obstruct justice.

That’s just the big three at the moment. We also mustn’t forget that the president has never released his tax returns, he refused to sever ties with his businesses, and he is burning through our money going to golf courses or his properties with decadent regularity. He also defended Nazis and was disrespectful to the hurricane-ravaged people of Puerto Rico.

And Trump has lied about pretty much everything. As The Washington Post reported in November: “In the past 35 days, Trump has averaged an astonishing nine [false or misleading] claims a day. The total now stands at 1,628 claims in 298 days, or an average of 5.5 claims a day.”

Any of this would have crippled another president, but not Trump. In a perverse way, Trump appears to benefit from the sheer volume of his offenses. They overwhelm many Americans’ ability to process and track, maintain outrage or even fact-check.

This may rightfully be called Trump’s Deluge Doctrine of American Politics, a thing that many of us never properly feared because we never thought it possible. We never thought a man of such moral depravity and such little respect for propriety, protocol and honesty would ever be president.

But the storm is upon us; we are in it.

I must continue to submit that although I disagree vociferously with Trump on policy, my objection here isn’t about policy or partisanship. This is a fight for the soul of the country.

When more than a third of the country — among them many who once considered themselves part of the “moral majority” — stand with a man who is the literal antithesis of all the values they once professed, that is a problem for America. They are no longer interested in the health of the democracy. Their mission and objectives have veered into a dark place where vision is short and risks and dangers are multiple.

I know that it is a fool’s errand to try to convince these people that honesty, valor and character are fundamental requirements of the American presidency, and when they are lost from the office, the country itself is in peril.

As Trump himself said during the campaign, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” The enduring truth of that outrageous claim is a permanent stain that his supporters must carry.

These people are not only hypocrites; they are au pairs to his obscenity.

Who else would they have allowed to get away with paying off a porn star?

Who else would they have allowed to refuse to sufficiently acknowledge that the country had been attacked, with profound consequences and continued threat, by another country?

The director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, said Tuesday at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing:

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceived that its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian midterm operations.”

He continued:

“We need to inform the American public that this is real, that this is going to be happening, and the resilience needed for us to stand up and say we’re not going to allow some Russian to tell us how to vote, how we ought to run our country.”

But Wray testified at the same hearing that he had never been “specifically directed by the president” to prevent Russia from interfering in our elections.

That is a jaw-dropping statement. As the Harvard professor of constitutional law Laurence H. Tribe wrote on Twitter:

“F.B.I. director Wray just testified in the Senate that — despite Russia’s ongoing intrusions into our electoral systems — Potus has never charged the F.B.I. with protecting U.S. elections from Russia! Let that sink in. That’d be like F.D.R. doing nothing in response to Pearl Harbor.”

Let me be clear: Any president who refuses to protect Americans from a foreign threat is himself a domestic threat.

How can any of this be sustained? How can it be rationalized? How can it be tolerated?

America, what is left of it, is slipping away a little bit more every day, with a blessing and a wave from the truculent Trump supporters who simply get giddy whenever liberals lament.

This is the politics of the petty, where people dance and shout as the republic burns.

We patriots and dissidents, we many, we strong, we steadfast, are the last hope the country has of returning to what remains of a pre-Trump America, where porn stars weren’t paid off, accused wife beaters weren’t valorized and our president showed more allegiance to our country than to another."

Scandal-Ridden Scoundrel - The New York Times

Donald Trump and the Undoing of Justice Reform By The Editorial Board, www.nytimes.comView OriginalFebruary 18th, 2018

The Editorial Board Of The New York Times - "In the decade or so before Donald Trump became president, America’s approach to criminal justice was changing fast — reckoning with decades of destructive and ineffective policies that had ballooned the prison population and destroyed countless lives. Red and blue states were putting in place smart, sensible reforms like reducing harsh sentencing laws, slashing prison populations and crime rates, and providing more resources for the thousands of people who are released every week.

President Obama’s record on the issue was far from perfect, but he and his first attorney general, Eric Holder Jr., took several key steps: weakening racially discriminatory sentencing laws, shortening thousands of absurdly long drug sentences, and pulling back on the prosecution of low-level drug offenders and of federal marijuana offenses in states that have legalized it. This approach reflected state-level efforts and sent a message of encouragement to those still leery of reform.

Within minutes of taking office, Mr. Trump turned back the dial, warning darkly in his Inaugural Address of “American carnage,” of cities and towns gutted by crime — even though crime rates are at their lowest in decades. Things only got worse with the confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who, along with Mr. Trump, appears to be stuck in the 1980s, when politicians exploited the public’s fear of rising crime to sell absurdly harsh laws and win themselves re-election. Perhaps that’s why both men seem happy to distort, if not outright lie about, crime statistics that no longer support their narrative.

Last February, Mr. Trump claimed that “the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years.” Wrong: The national rate remains at an all-time low. It’s true that the 10.8 percent increase in murders between 2014 and 2015 was the largest one-year rise in more than four decades, but the total number of murders is still far below what it was in the early 1990s.

For his part, Mr. Sessions has repeatedly hawked a nationwide crime wave that doesn’t exist, and he has called crime spikes in certain areas a “dangerous, permanent trend that places the health and safety of the American people at risk” — despite the lack of any evidence that recent upticks will last. To the contrary, in 2017 the crime rate in the nation’s 30 biggest cities actually went down.

As bad as the dishonesty is the fact that Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions have managed to engineer their backward worldview largely under the public’s radar, as a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice documents. Last May, Mr. Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to charge as aggressively as possible in every case — reversing a policy of Mr. Holder’s that had eased up on nonviolent drug offenders and others who fill the nation’s federal prisons. In January, Mr. Sessions rescinded another Obama-era policy that discouraged federal marijuana prosecutions in states where its sale and use are legal. (Mr. Sessions has long insisted, contrary to all available evidence, that marijuana is “a dangerous drug” and “only slightly less awful” than heroin.)

These sorts of moves don’t get much attention, but as the report notes, they could end up increasing the federal prison population, which began to fall for the first time in decades under Mr. Obama.

The reversal of sensible criminal justice reform doesn’t stop there. Under Mr. Trump, the Justice Department has pulled back from his predecessor’s investigations of police abuse and misconduct; resumed the use of private, for-profit prisons; and stopped granting commutations to low-level drug offenders who have spent years or decades behind bars.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sessions, who as a senator was one of the most reliable roadblocks to long-overdue federal sentencing reform, is still throwing wrenches into the works as Congress inches toward a bipartisan deal. Mr. Sessions called the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a sweeping bill that would reduce some mandatory-minimum sentences, and that cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, a “grave error.” That earned him a rebuke from the committee’s chairman, Senator Charles Grassley, who pointed out that the attorney general is tasked with enforcing the laws, not writing them. “If General Sessions wanted to be involved in marking up this legislation, maybe he should have quit his job and run for the Republican Senate seat in Alabama,” Mr. Grassley said.

Mr. Grassley is no one’s idea of a justice reformer, but he supports the bill because, he said, it “strikes the right balance of improving public safety and ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system.”

So what has this administration done right? The list is short and uninspiring. In October, Mr. Trump declared the epidemic of opioid abuse a national emergency, which could be a good step toward addressing it — but he’s since done almost nothing to combat a crisis that killed more than 64,000 Americans in 2016.

In his State of the Union address last month, Mr. Trump promised to “embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.” It’s great if he really means that, but it’s hard to square his assurance with his own attorney general’s opposition to a bill that includes recidivism-reduction programs intended to achieve precisely this goal.

Perhaps the most insidious part of the Trump administration’s approach to criminal justice lies in its efforts to link crime to its broader crackdown on immigration. In a speech last month, Mr. Sessions said undocumented immigrants are far more likely than American citizens to commit crimes, a claim he found in a paper by John Lott, the disreputable economist best known for misusing statistics to suit his own ideological ends. In this case, it appears Mr. Lott misread his own data, which came from Arizona and in fact showed the opposite of what he claimed: Undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than citizens, as the vast majority of research on the topic has found.

But no matter; Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions don’t need facts to run their anti-immigrant agenda, which has already resulted in more than double the number of arrests of immigrants with no criminal convictions as in 2016, as the Brennan Center report noted. Soon after taking office, Mr. Trump issued an executive order cutting off federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials. A federal judge blocked the order in November for violating the Constitution.

The rhetoric from the White House and the Justice Department has emboldened some state and local officials to talk tougher, even if just as ignorantly, about crime. The good news is that it’s not working as well anymore. In Virginia’s race for governor last fall, the Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie, attacked his opponent, Ralph Northam, with ads blaming him for violence by the MS-13 gang.

It was a despicable stunt, its fear mongering recalling the racist but effective Willie Horton ad that George H. W. Bush ran on in his successful 1988 presidential campaign. Thankfully, Virginia’s voters overwhelmingly rejected Mr. Gillespie, another sign that criminal justice reform is an issue with strong support across the political spectrum. In the era of Donald Trump, candidates of both parties should be proud to run as reformers — but particularly Democrats, who can cast the issue not only as a central component of a broader progressive agenda, but as yet another example of just how out of touch with the country Mr. Trump and his administration are."

Trump’s Conspicuous Silence Leaves a Struggle Against Russia Without a Leader - The New York Times We clearly have a #ManchurianPresident

"WASHINGTON — After more than a dozen Russians and three companies were indicted on Friday for interfering in the 2016 elections, President Trump’s first reaction was to claim personal vindication: “The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!” he wrote on Twitter.

He voiced no concern that a foreign power had been trying for nearly four years to upend American democracy, much less resolve to stop it from continuing to do so this year.

The indictment secured by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, underscored the broader conclusion by the American government that Russia is engaged in a virtual war against the United States through 21st-century tools of disinformation and propaganda, a conclusion shared by the president’s own senior advisers and intelligence chiefs. But it is a war being fought on the American side without a commander in chief.

In 13 months in office, Mr. Trump has made little if any public effort to rally the nation to confront Moscow for its intrusion or to defend democratic institutions against continued disruption. His administration has at times called out Russia or taken action, and even Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, speaking in Germany on Saturday, called evidence of Russian meddling “incontrovertible.” But the administration has been left to respond without the president’s leadership..."

Trump’s Conspicuous Silence Leaves a Struggle Against Russia Without a Leader - The New York Times

Friday, February 16, 2018

Ramo Reminded South Koreans of the Brutality of Imperial Japan















" ... The recent firing of NBC’s Asia correspondent Joshua Cooper Ramo for his “insensitive” remarks while commenting on the Olympics serve to remind us not only of the general lack of understanding in the US concerning the current US-North Korea crisis but also highlight the racism and arrogance underlying US attempts to derail the peace process and how the peace process threatens their demonization of North Korea, a demonization essential to the “bloody nose” they so desperately want to inflict.

Ramo portrayed all Koreans―South Koreans, North Koreans, and the diaspora—as lackeys of the Empire of Japan and postwar Japan. He hinted that they were thankful for being colonized and exploited by the Empire of Japan for 35 years, saying that Japan is “a country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945. But every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural and technological and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation.” Anyone who knows anything about Northeast Asia would squirm in their seat sitting next to Ramo as he touched on the sensitive nerve of international politics in the region and made an outrageous claim.

In fact, Koreans are not thankful for those 35 years of violence, for the suffering that he so blithely erases. ... "

Ramo Reminded South Koreans of the Brutality of Imperial Japan: ""

‘Resist White Supremacy’: A sign. A farm. And the fury that followed. - The Washington Post




















"It had been a week since the road sign had gone up near the entrance of their 116-acre farm in Northern Virginia, and the furious emails, calls and Facebook messages were still pouring in. The responses didn’t surprise the owners of Cox Farms, who had long taken politically charged stands on their land, locally famous for its massive fall festival. In 2015, a Black Lives Matter poster led a local police union to call for a boycott of their hay rides and pumpkin patches, and last year, a pair of signs — “We Love Our Muslim Neighbors” and “Immigrants Make America Great!” — sparked some backlash.

But their latest — “Rise & Resist” — had triggered a particularly angry reaction last week from conservatives who had seen a photo of it online and viewed the slogan as an attack on President Trump. So Aaron Cox-Leow, who runs the operations side of the 46-year-old business in Centreville, started thinking of some new language that everyone could agree on. Almost six months to the day since neo-Nazis and white nationalists marched through Charlottesville with torches, Aaron’s sister had an idea.

“Maybe we should change ‘rise and resist’ to ‘resist white supremacy’...,” Lily Cox-Richard texted her. “That way, if someone takes a picture of one of our signs to post and says they are ‘saddened’ or ‘disappointed,’ they will be explicitly revealing themselves as the racist that they are.”
“Yeah,” Aaron responded, “that sounds good.”

On Friday afternoon, down came “Rise & Resist” and up went “Resist White Supremacy.” About an hour later, a message from a woman named Rebecca, whose Facebook profile was an image that read “TEAM USA,” popped up in Cox Farm’s Facebook Messenger inbox: “Whatever your own personal agendas are none us want to see them on display at a place we once enjoyed going to for tradition. It’s TRULY disappointing.”
The vitriol only intensified in the hours that followed, which baffled Aaron. Who, other than a white supremacist, would be offended by a message condemning white supremacy? She also understood, though, that this is America in 2018, a time of such fierce division that even voicing opposition to the ugliest beliefs could be twisted or taken out of context.

On Saturday — in a Facebook post that has drawn more than 43,000 reactions and nearly 15,000 shares — she addressed the furor.
“Our little roadside signs have power,” Aaron, 36, began, before explaining why they sometimes shared their opinions. “Cox Farms is a small family-owned and family-operated business. The five of us are not just business-owners; we are human beings, members of the community, and concerned citizens of this country. We are also a family, and our shared values and principles are central to our business.”

Aaron’s father and his brother, whom she described as hippies, started Cox Farms on a 40-acre plot near Herndon in 1972. Even in those early days, she heard later, people were sometimes offended by the family’s signs, although those were often just off-color plays on their last name (this story’s author, by the way, is not related to the farmers). Eventually, her dad and mom took over and the business evolved, moved, expanded.
Their first experience with real controversy came in 2000 when conservative activists accused the farm of promoting gay rights because of two rainbow flags that flew over tunnels made of hay. The flags hadn’t been bought for that reason, but Aaron’s parents, Gina and Eric, learned what they symbolized and embraced the idea. Aaron, a lesbian, had come out to them five years before the upheaval.
“At some point it looked like we could be facing a significant impact on our business,” Aaron recalled, but the family didn’t flinch, and instead rallied supporters to their cause.

“It was a record-breaking season,” she said. “By far the best we’d ever had.”
Aaron, whose partner is of mixed race, also didn’t back down after the threat of a boycott three years ago over the Black Lives Matter poster she put in a window of their home, which stands in the middle of the sprawling property.

“We’re not seeking to alienate folks who have different perspectives on tax reform or infrastructure spending,” Aaron said in her recent Facebook post. “But when it comes to speaking out against systems of oppression and injustice, we see it as our moral responsibility to use our position of privilege and power, along with the tools of our trade and the platforms available to us, to engage visibly and actively in the fight for justice. Our roadside sign messages are one small way we do this.”

Her post went viral, spreading rapidly online among both right- and left-leaning groups, who then descended on the farm’s Facebook page to give either one- or five-star reviews that had nothing to do with kettle corn or apple-cider doughnuts.

For Aaron, though, the blowback presented an opportunity. To change people’s minds, even by just a degree or two, required communication that was respectful but honest. And here was a chance to talk to people who disagreed with her — lots of them.

“Resist white supremacy is not an inclusive message,” complained Patty Weston Meizlish, who lives in Louisa, Va. “When you single out a group of people you exclude them. This is a sad message.”

“Yes, generally speaking, we are comfortable excluding white supremacists,” responded Aaron, who studied psychology at Smith College in Massachusetts. “If you know some who would be interested in dialoguing with us, please have them contact us!”
Shannon Lee Sibley, from nearby Ashburn, contended that she also supported fighting hate groups but wouldn’t spend her money at the farm because it would never post a “Blue Lives matter” sign in support of police.

“You’re right, Shannon — we do not support ‘Blue Lives Matter.’ . . . police lives are already and by default valued in our society,” she wrote. “Black lives are not, so we believe that a declaration that Black Lives Matter is necessary and important.”

“So black supremacy is okay then?” asked Lisa Lewis. “This is not a message of love, this is a message out to divide people even more. I would never ever visit your farm because you try to force your views on your customers. That is WRONG no matter what you say.”
“Lisa, when we talk about white supremacy, we’re referring to a systemic racism that is much deeper and more pervasive than any individual or group could be,” Aaron replied. “Black people do not have the institutional power in our society to benefit from so-called ‘black supremacy.’ It just doesn’t work like that.”

 Cars pass the sign at the edge of Cox Farms that has generated so much backlash online.Photo by: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post
On Monday, Aaron wrote a follow-up post, thanking the thousands of people who had offered support (and who vastly outnumbered the critics). She dismissed the idea, though, that what the farm had done — making a statement that could potentially harm its business — was in any way “brave.” She pointed instead to dozens of immigrant “dreamers” who had demonstrated against the threat of deportation at the U.S. Capitol; to Chris Newman, who has written about race and the challenges of farming in Virginia as a black man; to Eric Trammel, who as a sophomore at Centreville High School was kicked out of class when he refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance as a form of protest.

“We are white people using our privilege and power to say something that should be obvious but clearly still needs to be said,” she wrote, “and there’s nothing brave about that.”

Then Aaron published the post, and as it, too, was shared thousands of times, she returned to the day’s business: planning for spring, when the family farm will launch a new event at the corner market featuring pulled pork, live music and root beer floats

‘Resist White Supremacy’: A sign. A farm. And the fury that followed. - The Washington Post: ""


Supreme Court will meet behind closed doors Friday on DACA - CNNPolitics













"CNN)The Supreme Court will meet behind closed doors Friday to decide whether to take up a lower court opinion that temporarily blocked President Donald Trump's effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program.

The Justice Department is taking the rare step of asking the Supreme Court to review the opinion -- issued by a San Francisco-based judge -- even before a federal appeals court has had a chance to weigh in. Under normal circumstances, the Supreme Court disfavors parties from bypassing lower court proceedings and asking for direct review."

(Via.).  Supreme Court will meet behind closed doors Friday on DACA - CNNPolitics:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Once unimaginable gun massacres become familiar Rachel Maddow reports on the latest developments in the deadly gun tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and notes the elements that have become familiar in gun massacres, including the deflection of gun questions by politicians with vague answers about mental health. - The Rachel Maddow Show on msnbc – Latest News & Video

The Rachel Maddow Show on msnbc – Latest News & Video

After demanding a deal, Trump rejects another immigration compromise | MSNBC

Image: US President Donald J. Trump

"It seems like ages ago, but it was just last month when Donald Trump hosted immigration talks at the White House and shared his vision for the road ahead. In fact, the president surprised many by saying he’d sign a bipartisan agreement – no matter what’s in it.

“I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, gee, I want this or I want that.’ I’ll be signing it,” Trump said. He added that if lawmakers negotiate a policy “with things that I’m not in love with,” he’d embrace it anyway.

Someone apparently changed his mind.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged senators to vote against any immigration proposal other than his own plan, courting a showdown with Republican and Democratic senators who oppose the White House’s desire to curb family-based migration and would like to cut a narrower deal. […]

Mr. Trump’s stance amounted to a demand that the Senate significantly cut legal immigration as part of any legislation.

That Wall Street Journal report coincided with a Politico  article that said the president has urged lawmakers to reject any proposal “that does not mirror his own.”

The timing of Trump’s posture was especially important because a bipartisan group of senators, calling themselves the “Common Sense Caucus,” unveiled another bipartisan package last night that gives the White House much of it wants.

No matter. The Washington Post  reported, “In an interview late Wednesday, a senior administration official denounced the bipartisan bill, calling it a ‘giant amnesty’ that did nothing to secure the border, and vowed the White House would strongly lobby against it Thursday.”

The article quoted the senior administration official saying, “We’re doing everything in our power” to block the bipartisan bill.

For those keeping score, Trump – who, a month ago, said he’d sign practically anything put in front of him – has now rejected (1) the Graham-Durbin bipartisan agreement; (2) the McCain-Coons bipartisan agreement; (3) the bipartisan agreement Trump negotiated with Democratic leaders last fall; (4) the bipartisan framework Trump negotiated with Chuck Schumer last month; (5) the Gardner-Bennet bipartisan agreement; (6) and the Common Sense Caucus’ bipartisan agreement.

The president has, however, endorsed a Republican plan that would give him everything he’s asked for without exception.

It’s against this backdrop that Trump believes Democrats are refusing to “make a deal.” It’s not unreasonable to consider whether the president is confused about what “deal” actually means.

Indeed, he’s accused congressional Dems of putting Dreamers’ futures at risk for political reasons, which is hopelessly bonkers since he’s the one who rescinded DACA in the first place, an absurdity made worse by his refusal to accept any compromise that would protect them. As Vox’s Ezra Klein put it yesterday, “He has taken 690,000 hostages and is now trumpeting the wonderful opportunity everyone has to pay his policy ransom in order to free them, and he is doing all of it while insisting he desperately wants to free them too.”

The president – or, more accurately, those who are now guiding his hand – seems to believe he and his allies have the upper hand. When it comes to the levers of power, that assumption is rooted in fact: immigration hard-liners now dominate the Republican leadership. Democrats, desperate to shield Dreamers, have little leverage and have already accepted concessions they never thought they’d even consider.

With this in mind, the White House believes it can simply wait. Trump will reject every bipartisan offer until Congress endorses his every demand. If lawmakers balk, he’ll punish Dreamers, whose fate he doesn’t really care about anyway, all while blaming Democrats for “making him” hurt his hostages."

After demanding a deal, Trump rejects another immigration compromise | MSNBC

Florida shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz: Guns, depression and a life in trouble - The Washington Post

Florida shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz: Guns, depression and a life in trouble - The Washington Post

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Mike Pence and Japanese Leader Shinzo Abe Rain on South Korea’s Olympics Parade | The Nation


By Tim Shorrock

"As the 2018 Winter Olympics began this month in Pyeongchang, Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were in the reviewing stands on the tail end of Pence’s aggressive propaganda tour in Japan and South Korea designed to counter North Korea’s unprecedented diplomatic presence at the Games.

It was a jarring sight, in part because the Olympics are taking place only a few miles from the border that has divided the two Koreas since the United States and the Soviet Union accepted Japan’s surrender as Korea’s brutal colonial overlord in 1945. That history became a controversial topic when NBC had to fire one of its commentators after he outraged Koreans by speaking glowingly of Japan’s contributions to Korea during that era.

But as Pence and Abe were trying to contain North Korea’s so-called “charm offensive” to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Yukio Hatoyama, one of Japan’s few progressive leaders of the past 70 years, was in Washington to call for reducing US military forces in Okinawa and a more conciliatory approach to the regional tensions brought to a boil by Kim Jong-un’s nuclear and missile program.

“Japan’s role should be to create the conditions for North Korea to come to the negotiating table” and not to increase the pressure, the former prime minister told The Nation in an exclusive interview. He also criticized Abe for supporting a three-way military alliance with South Korea and the United States, saying that most Koreans naturally oppose it because they “feel they were attacked by us in the past.”

In Hatoyama’s view, Japan instead should work with South Korea and China to convince the United States and North Korea to begin talks toward a peace treaty. That could be done, he said, through a proposal endorsed by China under which the North would halt its nuclear-weapons development in return for a postponement of the massive US-South Korean military exercises now scheduled for late March.

“Once a peace treaty is signed, there’s no need to use nuclear weapons because there’s no threat,” he said. “I think the freeze would be enough for North Korea to start negotiating.” His perspective is in stark contrast to Abe, who, while Pence was in Tokyo, avidly endorsed Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign of heavy sanctions backed by threats of US military strikes.

But Hatoyama’s views are closely aligned with President Moon, whose insistence on diplomacy and engagement with the North paid off big-time when Kim dispatched his sister Kim Yo-jong, along with his grandfather’s foreign minister and the current ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, to South Korea as the Olympics opened.

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Kim Yo-jong, the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to step foot in South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953, used her visit—which became a media and social-network sensation in Seoul—to the hilt. During her historic meeting with President Moon at the Blue House, she extended an invitation to the South Korean leader to visit Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang for a summit meeting.

If Moon accepts—and all indications at press time are that he will if he concludes the talks would help resolve the nuclear crisis—it would be Kim’s first meeting with a foreign head of state since taking over from his father in 2011. And it would mark a huge triumph for Moon, who had hoped to use the Olympics as a springboard to trigger negotiations between North Korea and the United States to peacefully end the nuclear crisis.

But the inter-Korean diplomacy is viewed by both Trump and Abe as a challenge to their strategy to strangle North Korea economically and then use the powerful US military presence in Japan and South Korea—augmented by Japan’s Self Defense Forces, as Pence breezily suggested to NBC—to force Kim to give up his weapons. The differences between the two approaches were starkly highlighted at the stunningly beautiful opening ceremonies on February 9.

With millions of people watching, a stone-faced Pence, with Abe at his side, sat stiffly as the first united Korean Olympic team since 2006 marched into the stadium to thunderous roars from the crowd. To his right, just feet away in the reviewing stand, President Moon and his North Korean guests stood, waved, and cheered ecstatically. Pence’s behavior—which was denounced by many Koreans as deeply insulting—underscored a deepening rift between the US-Japanese hard-line position and South Korea’s long-term diplomatic strategy.

Just how much those divisions have hardened became clear on February 9, when Abe asked Moon to quickly resume the US-South Korean exercises that North Korea sees as deeply provocative and is one of the reasons for Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons program. Moon, whose government is considering another postponement—or perhaps a reduction in scale—of the drills after the Olympics as a way to maintain diplomatic momentum, coldly dismissed the suggestion, saying “the issue is about our sovereignty and [Japan’s] intervention in our domestic affairs.”

In Washington, the US media framed the North-South diplomacy as a strategy designed in Pyongyang to divide Washington and Seoul, and ran extensive interviews with hard-line experts and former US officials warning Moon not to drift too far from the Trump-Abe policies. What happens after the Olympics, Daniel Russel, the former top Asia adviser to President Obama, told The Washington Post, “is going to be the sharp contrast between the charm offensive led by Kim Yo Jong and the spine-stiffening led by Vice President Pence.”

To Hatoyama, a longtime fixture in Japanese politics whose father was foreign minister during the 1970s and whose grandfather was prime minister in the 1950s, the forces arrayed against Moon are a stark reminder of the US pressure he came under when his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) ruled from 2009 to 2012, in a brief respite from LDP control.

Just as Moon is seeking more independence by demanding that South Korea have a say in any use of military force against North Korea, Hatoyama came to office vowing to alter the terms of the US-Japan military alliance. Specifically, he wanted to make public the secret agreements the LDP had made with Washington—including allowing the US military to bring nuclear weapons in and out of Japan—and reduce the burden of the enormous complex of US bases in Okinawa.

In The World According to US Empire, a 2016 book based on US diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks, my chapter on East Asia chronicled how the Obama administration successfully pressured Hatoyama to drop these policies. That was accomplished by dispatching senior diplomats and Pentagon officials to argue that Hatoyama’s proposals threatened US national-security interests and the US-Japan military alliance itself.

The offensive was led by Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, and Michèle Flournoy, the under secretary of defense for policy. In 2007, they co-founded the Center for a New American Security, a military think tank closely aligned with the Democratic Party that continues to play a key role in US policy in Asia (both are still on the board of directors, and Campbell is the chairman).

Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama

Photo by: left

Their campaign began in June 2009. At the time, Hatoyama’s DPJ was about to take over the government in parliamentary elections, and wanted to undo a massive alignment of US bases in Japan. That alignment had been agreed to several years earlier by the ruling LDP, in a pact to “transform” Japan’s military into a more supportive adjunct to the Pentagon in US military operations abroad. “Of course, these initiatives didn’t settle well with the US,” Hatoyama told The Nation.

That response is spelled out in the WikiLeaks cables. “A defeat of LDP,” a top diplomatic official wrote in a memo to Flournoy, “will introduce an element of uncertainty into our Alliance relations with Japan.” He instructed her to meet with DPJ leaders “to re-enforce [the] importance of implementing the transformation and realignment agenda.”

Once the DPJ took over, Campbell made many visits to Tokyo, primarily to persuade Hatoyama’s government not to reverse an agreement with the LDP to reduce the US Marine presence at its primary Okinawa base in Futenma by allowing Washington to build a new facility at Henoko, which is further north on the island. Okinawans had demanded that Futenma be closed after years of violent crimes and rapes by US soldiers and accidents by US aircraft.

The WikiLeaks cables show that Campbell went so far as to tell DPJ officials that their demands on the secret agreements on nuclear weapons could “create a situation that would require the US to respond in a way unhelpful to the alliance.” In another meeting on Okinawa, he said a DPJ proposal for the Marines to redeploy to Guam and leave Okinawa altogether “would not give the US military the flexibility and speed necessary to meet its Security Treaty obligations to Japan” or confront “the dramatic increase in China’s military capabilities.”

In his interview, Hatoyama recalled that Flournoy and Campbell only made their demands to his subordinates, not to him as prime minister. “Obama never requested me directly,” he said. Instead, in a few brief meetings with the US president, Obama told him that any conclusions would be drawn from a US-Japan task force of diplomats and military officials created to deal with outstanding bilateral issues. And that’s what he regrets “the most,” he recalled.

Here’s why. When the DPJ shocked the US government by taking power in 2009, Hatoyama tried valiantly to wrestle control of the state from Japan’s powerful bureaucrats, who traditionally remain in place for years and often retire to take lucrative jobs in the industries they are supposed to oversee. “We said this would be a politician-led administration,” he recalled. “That upset the bureaucrats, not only for this issue but for all others as well.”

That can be seen in their response to the DPJ’s security proposals. In an extraordinary admission, Hatoyama essentially blamed the bureaucrats for spiking his attempts to redefine the US-Japanese alliance. “In reality, LDP administrations were really moved by bureaucrats, who were the real operators,” Hatoyama said. “They were always trying to please the US, trying to guess what they wanted and acting proactively on that.”

One of their tactics, he said, included providing a “fake paper” to him about the strategic importance of the proposed new US base in Henoko; it supposedly claimed that all US bases had to be within 60 nautical miles of sites where the US military stages exercises. But when he as prime minister formally asked the Pentagon if it had a rule like that, “they said no,” he said.

“So what they did was submit a fake paper to a prime minister. And I don’t think it was done by the US at all—it was the bureaucrats, to please the US.” For that reason, “I shouldn’t have gone along” with Obama’s proposals to leave their discussions to the US-Japan task force, he said.

Hatoyama was pushed out after his government acceded to the US demand for the new base at Henoko in 2010, and the DPJ was later disbanded. Henoko is currently being expanded to include new runways that jut into a once-protected natural waterway. But it, too, has been the focus of daily protests and remains a key unresolved issue between Washington and Tokyo.

While in Washington, Hatoyama met with several top lawmakers, including Senators Dianne Feinstein and Bernie Sanders, to discuss the issue. “I’m hoping that opinions from the US might change the course of the government in Japan,” he said. “We need to listen to the voices of the local people.”

Abe, a right-winger whose grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, hounded Korean independence fighters during World War II as a colonial official in Manchuria, was re-elected prime minister in 2012. He is now one of the longest-ruling leaders in Japan’s postwar history. Both he and the US government continue to insist that Henoko is the “only alternative” to the US base at Futenma.

And on Korea, Abe has become Trump’s closest ally in the North Korea crisis. Once the Olympics end, the interplay between Trump and Abe, on the one hand, and Trump and Moon Jae-in, on the other, will largely determine the course of US policy on North Korea.

Hatoyama is hoping that peace can win out. In contrast to what he calls Abe’s “ridiculous ambition” to be the first postwar prime minister to make Japan a military power, he would like to see Japan take a different road. “My definition of a strong politician is not someone who can create a military power,” he said. “It’s someone who can create an environment where you can work cooperatively with neighboring countries.”

So far in Korea, the engagement side seems to be winning. In a wrap-up of the first days of the Olympics, The New York Times concluded that Kim Yo-jong had clearly “outflanked” Vice President Pence “in the game of diplomatic image-making.” Possibly in response to that fiasco, Pence suggested to the Post on his return flight to Washington that the United States would be willing to talk to the North even while its pressure campaign was “ongoing.”

But the offer—which the Post called “an important change” in policy—looked more like Pence trying to overcome the ridicule he endured over his petulant behavior in Pyeongchang. That’s because he still said US economic and military policy won’t change “until [North Korea] takes clear steps toward denuclearization.” To many analysts, that’s a nonstarter.

“As long as the United States insists on North Korea abandoning nuclear missiles altogether, it will be difficult to get North Korea to the negotiating table,” Hatoyama said."

Mike Pence and Japanese Leader Shinzo Abe Rain on South Korea’s Olympics Parade | The Nation

G.O.P. Visions of Tectonic Realignment - The New York Times













By Charles Blow

"Yes, President Trump is vile. That’s a given.
Yes, we should focus on the Robert Mueller investigation, particularly since Trump, his congressional cohort and the purely propagandistic Fox News are treating that investigation as an existential threat and actively working to discredit not only Mueller but the entire F.B.I.

Yes, we should focus on Trump’s misogyny and patriarchy, which continue to manifest in his assemblage of a group of advisers and confidants who include among them a shockingly high number of men who have been accused of assault — sexual or not — against women. Trump himself has been accused of this violence and even admitted to a pattern of sexual assault on tape, but now denies it. Perhaps because of that, he has developed a pattern of response when new accusations of abuse are revealed: Believe the men and discount the women.

Yes, we should focus on Trump’s breaking of custom and convention, his racism and his reactiveness, his Barack Obama obsession and his autocratic impulses.

But while we are focusing on Trump and what he has wrought, it would behoove us to also focus on the titanic moves by the right to literally realign society for the long haul: stacking the courts with virulent conservatives, suppressing voter access, reducing the inflow of immigrants who might lean Democratic, gerrymandering districts, punishing states that lean Democratic in presidential elections and returning to a failed drug policy that disproportionately jails black and brown people.

In short, conservatives are using every possible means to permanently lock in power, wealth and influence for the existing, predominantly white and predominantly male power structure.

Allow me to piece together some of what’s happening.
As The New York Times reported in November: “In the weeks before Donald J. Trump took office, lawyers joining his administration gathered at a law firm near the Capitol, where Donald F. McGahn II, the soon-to-be White House counsel, filled a whiteboard with a secret battle plan to fill the federal appeals courts with young and deeply conservative judges.” The Times said that Mr. McGahn had been “instructed by Mr. Trump to maximize the opportunity to reshape the judiciary.”

Mother Jones reported in November: “Beyond new Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump has already nominated judges to more than half the vacancies, putting forward an astonishing 18 names for federal appellate courts and 40 more for the district courts. Of those, 12 have been confirmed. By this time in Obama’s first year, only two circuit court judges and four district judges had been confirmed. Trump’s nominees are, so far, roughly 90 percent white and 80 percent male.”

Then there’s the enormous issue of voter suppression. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “After the 2010 election, state lawmakers nationwide started introducing hundreds of harsh measures making it harder to vote. The new laws range from strict photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks to registration restrictions.”

The statement continued: “Overall, 23 states have new restrictions in effect since then — 13 states have more restrictive voter ID laws in place (and six states have strict photo ID requirements), 11 have laws making it harder for citizens to register, six cut back on early voting days and hours, and three made it harder to restore voting rights for people with past criminal convictions.”
The A.C.L.U. puts it even more bluntly:
“Since 2008, states across the country have passed measures to make it harder for Americans — particularly black people, the elderly, students and people with disabilities — to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. These measures include cuts to early voting, voter ID laws, and purges of voter rolls.”

There is also gerrymandering, one of the greater threats to true democracy.
As Brian Klaas wrote last year in The Washington Post, “Gerrymandering, in a word, is why American democracy is broken.”
Klaas continued: “While no party is innocent when it comes to gerrymandering, a Washington Post analysis in 2014 found that eight of the ten most gerrymandered districts in the United States were drawn by Republicans.”

Some of these districts have been challenged in courts, but these are some of the same courts now being stacked by Trump.
Districts will be redrawn after the 2020 census, but there are now suspicions that Trump and his Justice Department are even trying to sabotage that.
As The Atlantic reported last month:

“A recent request by the Department of Justice to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census could threaten participation, and as a consequence, affect the allocation of federal money and distribution of congressional seats.”

This is much bigger than Trump alone. This is the big game for all the marbles. Trump is simply a useful and temporary tool in this endeavor. This is why many of the most powerful conservatives in this country are betraying their supposed values, ignoring the moral conundrum and continuing to support Trump: He is a means to an end, a necessarily piece of the big picture. This is about a tectonic realignment.

G.O.P. Visions of Tectonic Realignment - The New York Times: ""

Poor People Deserve Better Than Food in a Box - The New York Times














"Hazleton, Pa. — President Trump’s new plan to limit and control what low-income families can eat is short on both compassion and common sense.
The president’s proposed budget that was unveiled this week includes a radical change to the way the food-stamps program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, works. Now, recipients of SNAP benefits choose produce, meat, fish and other groceries for themselves. Under his proposal many SNAP recipients would have half their monthly benefits replaced by packages of food selected by the government.
According to the Department of Agriculture, this program, called America’s Harvest Box, would involve about 81 percent of all SNAP households. The boxes would consist of “shelf-stable” foods like peanut butter, pasta and canned goods, but the plan is skimpy on other details, such as specifics on how exactly these food packages would be distributed.

As someone who grew up needing food stamps and free school lunches, I cannot understand the logic or lack of empathy behind this plan.
I spent my entire childhood in poverty, reliant on public assistance from the day I was born until my high school graduation and with a few brief sporadic returns after that. Some of my most vivid childhood memories involve accompanying my mother to the store, where she exchanged food stamps for the groceries our family needed. In those days, food stamps came in paper form, so she had to perform a ritual at the checkout counter, tearing each voucher from its booklet.

Poor People Deserve Better Than Food in a Box - The New York Times: ""

Florida School Shooting: ‘No Words’ as 17 Die in a Barrage of Bullets - The New York Times

Florida School Shooting: ‘No Words’ as 17 Die in a Barrage of Bullets - The New York Times: ""

Frederick Douglass needed to see Lincoln. Would the president meet with a former slave?

"Frederick Douglass arrived at the White House on a hot day in August 1863 without an appointment. He was a black man on a mission at a time when the country was torn by Civil War.

Douglass, the famous orator and abolitionist who had been recruiting “colored troops” for the Union Army, was incensed that black soldiers captured by Confederate troops had been mutilated, tortured and assassinated in cold blood. Some had been sold into slavery.

Douglass wanted an immediate meeting with President Abraham Lincoln. He was not sure he would get in. There was a throng in front of the White House waiting to see Lincoln. Some of them looked ragged and worn, like they had been waiting for days.

“They were white; and as I was the only dark spot among them,” Douglass said later. “I expected to have to wait at least half a day.”

Douglass sent his card up the line. It took only two minutes for a White House messenger to come out of the White House and summon in “Mr. Douglass!”

The crowd of white people in line murmured.

“I could hear, in the eager multitude outside, as they saw me pressing and elbowing my way through, the remark, ‘Yes, damn it, I knew they would let the n—– through,’” Douglass would later recount to an audience of abolitionists in Philadelphia, according to his book “Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings.”

[Listen to a great history story every day. Subscribe to “Retropod” on Amazon Echo, Google Home or your favorite podcast app.]

Frederick Douglass in a photograph published April 26, 1870.

Photo by: George Francis Schreiber / Library of Congress

It was an astonishing moment in the astonishing life of Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, who was born enslaved on Maryland’s Eastern Shore 200 years ago. Although he did not know the exact date of his birth, he would later celebrate it as Feb. 14, 1818 — a bicentennial being marked across the country this week amid black history month. His mother was an enslaved black woman, whom he could barely remember, and his father was a white man — perhaps a slave owner.

Douglass, who bore the scars of brutal lashings, was 20 when he escaped slavery. “It was life and death with me. On the third day of September, 1838, I left my chains, and succeeded in reaching New York without the slightest interruption of any kind,” Douglass wrote in “FREDERICK DOUGLASS’ NARRATIVE — Memoirs of an American Slave, Freedom Fighter & Statesman.”

He changed his name from Bailey to Johnson. After he married Anna Murray, they both changed their last names to Douglass.

Frederick Douglass went on to become one of the most famous men in the country, an abolitionist, a powerful orator, an advocate for women’s rights, a brilliant strategist, a newspaper owner, a friend to John Brown and Harriet Tubman.

[Whether she’s on the $20 bill or not, Harriet Tubman made men pay for underestimating her]

After Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, which included a provision calling for black men to enlist in the U.S. Army, Douglass fervently began recruiting for the Union.

“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket,” Douglass wrote, “there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.”

Two of Douglass’s sons — Charles and Lewis — were among the first black men to enlist. His son Frederick worked to recruit “colored troops” in the Mississippi Valley. Douglass helped recruit at least two regiments — the 54th and 55th — Massachusetts regiments of “colored troops.”

As the war raged, black soldiers imprisoned by Confederate forces were mutilated and assassinated. Some free black men fighting for the Union were captured and sold into slavery.

The silence from the White House infuriated Douglass, who published a letter in his “Douglass Monthly” newspaper criticizing the president.

The letter, which carried a Rochester dateline, was addressed to Maj. George L. Stearns, who helped establish the Emancipation League and recruited the 54th and 55th regiments.

“I owe it to my long-abused people, and especially to those already in the army, to expose their wrongs and plead their cause,” Douglass wrote in “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself.”

Douglass explained he could not in good faith continue to recruit black men, criticizing Lincoln and the War Department for failing to retaliate for “colored” prisoners of war assassinated “in cold blood” by Confederate troops.

“No word was said when free men from Massachusetts were caught and sold into slavery in Texas,” Douglass wrote.  “No word is said when brave black men, who according to testimony of both friend and foe, fought like heroes to plant the star-spangled banner on the blazing parapets of Fort Wagner, and in doing so were captured, some mutilated and killed, and others sold into slavery.”

Stearns urged Douglass to travel to Washington to talk directly to Lincoln, a trip still dangerous for a black man.

“I hereby authorize Frederick Douglass,” Stearns wrote, “to go to Washington, D.C. as my Agent to transact business connected with Recruiting Service for United States Colored Volunteers.”

Douglass was unsure how he would be received.

“The distance then between the black man and the white American citizen was immeasurable,” Douglass wrote in “Life and Times.” “I was an ex-slave, identified with a despised race, and yet I was to meet the most exalted person in this great republic.”

It was early morning when Douglass arrived at the B&O station in Washington.

“Yet the city was bustling,” John Stauffer wrote in “Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass.” “He could not help but notice the large numbers of blacks, some already working, a few sleeping in the open air. In a little over a year, over eleven thousand freedmen and women, called ‘contraband of war,’ had flocked on the city, and another three thousand were housed at Alexandria.”

Douglass, dressed in a white stiff collar and black over coat, cut a distinguishing figure in the crowd. On the street, he encountered Samuel C. Pomeroy, a senator from Kansas, who accompanied him to the White House and introduced him to Lincoln.

When Douglass entered the room, he found Lincoln sitting in a low-arm chair, without vanity or “pomp and ceremony.” Lincoln’s feet, Douglass wrote, were extended and the president was surrounded by stacks of documents and “busy” secretaries.

Lincoln appeared tired, but rose and extended his hand. Douglass began to introduce himself. Lincoln stopped him: “I know who you are, Mr. Douglass.”

Douglass wasted no time getting to the point.

“I wished to bring to his attention,” Douglass later wrote, “first, that colored soldiers ought to receive the same wages as those paid to white soldiers. Second, that colored soldiers ought to receive the same protection when taken prisoners, and be exchanged as readily and on the same terms as any other prisoners, and if Jefferson Davis should shoot or hang colored soldiers in cold blood, the United States government should retaliate in kind and degree without delay upon Confederate prisoners in its hands.”

Lincoln’s voice quivered, Douglass later wrote, when he explained his loathing of executions done in retaliation.

“If I could get hold of the men that murdered your troops, murdered our prisoners of war, I would execute them,” Lincoln told Douglass. “But I cannot take men that may not have had anything to do with this murdering of our soldiers and execute them.”

[The truth about Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee: He wasn’t very good at his job]

Lincoln promised to sign any commission recommended by the secretary of war for black soldiers. He did not commit to equal pay.

“Though I was not entirely satisfied with his views,” Douglass wrote later, “I was so well satisfied with the man and with the educating tendency of the conflict that I determined to go on with the recruiting.”

Lincoln extended at least three more White House invitations to Douglass, including to the president’s second inauguration. He listened  on March 4, 1865, as Lincoln called slavery “an offense” against God and described “this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came.”

The president concluded: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

After the swearing-in ceremony, Douglass walked to the White House. Douglass recalled the “grand procession of citizens from all parts of the country,” making their way there.

“I had for some time looked upon myself as a man, but now in this multitude of the élite of the land, I felt myself a man among men,” Douglass wrote in “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.”

When he arrived at the door, two police officers stopped him because he was black. The officers “took me rudely by the arm and ordered me to stand back, for their directions were to admit no persons of my color.”

Douglass told the officers they were making a mistake and he had been invited by Lincoln himself.

“If he knew I was at the door, he would desire my admission,” Douglass insisted. The officers escorted Douglass to a “temporary passage for the exit of visitors.”

Douglass refused to leave. “I shall not go out of this building till I see President Lincoln,” he told them.

Just then a man who was passing recognized Douglass, who asked him to relay a message to Lincoln that he was being detained at the door. Not long after that, Douglass was escorted into the East Room.

“Amid a scene of elegance such as in this country I had never before witnessed,” Douglass wrote. “Like a mountain pine high above all others, Mr. Lincoln stood, in his grand simplicity, and homelike beauty. Recognizing me, even before I reached him, he exclaimed, so that all around could hear him, ‘Here comes my friend Douglass.’”

Lincoln took his hand and said, according to Douglass, “I am glad to see you. I saw you in the crowd today, listening to my inaugural address. How did you like it?” “I said, ‘Mr. Lincoln, I must not detain you with my poor opinion, when there are thousands waiting to shake hands with you.’ ”

“No, no,” he said, “you must stop a little, Douglass; there is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours. I want to know what you think of it?”

Douglass replied, “Mr. Lincoln, that was a sacred effort.”

Frederick Douglass needed to see Lincoln. Would the president meet with a former slave?

Icebreaker Pt 1 - Secret Homeland Security ICE/HSI Manual for Stripping US Citizenship - UNICORN RIOT

Icebreaker Pt 1: Secret Homeland Security Manual for Stripping US Citizenship from Unicorn Riot on Vimeo.

Icebreaker Pt 1 - Secret Homeland Security ICE/HSI Manual for Stripping US Citizenship - UNICORN RIOT

How ICE Works to Strip Citizenship from Naturalized Americans

RIVERSIDE, CA - AUGUST 12: Jorge Field, left, and David Marin, both with ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations, getting briefed before getting out into the Riverside community to apprehend immigrants who may be deportable. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say they are relying more than ever on costly manhunts to locate immigrants in the country illegally who have criminal records. In the past, the agency would simply contact local jails where such immigrants were being detained and ask jail officials to hold them until an ICE van could pick them up, but hundreds of counties across the country stopped honoring such requests after a federal judge last year found that practice unconstitutional. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

"FOR 10 YEARS, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s investigative office has worked to keep its internal handbook out of American courts. The handbook could have been used in court to show how ICE’s push to lead on denaturalization cases stands in contrast to the language of federal law governing the process, an immigration lawyer said. “We could have used it as an exhibit in a motion to dismiss” in previous denaturalization cases, said Philip Smith, an immigration attorney from Portland, Oregon, noting the contrast.

The handbook, which was issued on January 15, 2008, and published Wednesday by the independent media outlet Unicorn Riot, makes clear that the priority for ICE’s investigative division, Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, in denaturalization proceedings is to use the most efficient means possible to fulfill a single-minded goal: leveraging the bureaucratic process to strip citizenship from naturalized Americans.

“It’s a manual for the worst outcome” with respect to investigation targets, said Alaska immigration lawyer Margaret Stock in an interview on Tuesday. That’s not unique to ICE, Stock added — it’s how the entire U.S. justice system operates. “Their objective is to inflict the most pain as possible, as efficiently as possible,” Stock said. “They feel they’re doing their job correctly if the government wins — not if justice is done.”

How ICE Works to Strip Citizenship from Naturalized Americans

John Kelly: The Facts | American Civil Liberties Union


1) As the General in charge of the Guantanamo Bay Detention facility, Kelly publicly criticized efforts to close Guantanamo (Source) and was accused by Obama Administration officials of working to undermine the President’s efforts to close the facility. (Source)

2) and publicly criticized the integration of women into military ground combat units, arguing it would lead to lower standards. (Source)

3) Defended the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”, such as waterboarding and rectal feeding. Kelly went on to dismiss the criticisms of human rights groups as “foolishness”. (Source)

4) Testified in support of an officer caught urinating on talibani  corpses. (Source)

Supports the imprisonment of terror suspects without trial. (Source)

5) Criticised by Amnesty International for his “unsafe and  inhumane” treatment (Source) of Guantanamo detainees on hunger strike to protest their imprisonment. (Source)

6) Supports the war on drugs and opposes legalization or decriminalization of any drugs, including marijuana. (Source)

6) A proponent of border security, Kelly believes that “no wall will work by itself” and has warned about the “existential threat” that unchecked migration poses for the nation. (Source)

John Kelly: The Facts | American Civil Liberties Union

NYT Reporter: John Kelly Lies a Lot – Mother Jones

"Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman have a piece in the New York Times today about the travails of White House chief-of-staff John Kelly, who has been at the center of a surprising amount of unwelcome drama during his tenure:

He engaged in a heated back-and-forth with an African-American Democratic congresswoman, distorting statements she had made at a ceremony they both attended. He opined that the Civil War resulted from “the lack of an ability to compromise.” He said that Mr. Trump had not been “fully informed” about border issues as a candidate and had since “evolved,” drawing a public retort from the president. Mr. Kelly generated further heat this week when he dismissed many of the more than one million immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children but who did not apply for the protection of an Obama-era program that Mr. Trump ordered ended next month. Some of them “were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up,” he told reporters.

Now, of course, there’s Kelly’s flip-flop on Rob Porter, who he initially defended but then turned against. Kelly’s defenders claim this is because he learned new details about Porter’s spousal abuse, but Haberman takes to Twitter to suggest this probably isn’t so:

As Kelly allies insist he didn’t know details, which he has repeatedly said, it is worth noting he claimed he hadn’t repeatedly threatened to quit (he had), he claimed he wasn’t trying to disappear Kushner and Ivanka (he was) and he insisted a WaPo story on Trump and the Nunes memo was false (it wasn’t). As folks attack journalists, it’s worth bearing in mind the degree to which this White House often uses standard journalistic practices as weapons against journalists.

Translation: like everyone else in the White House, Kelly lies routinely, so there’s really no good reason to believe his latest CYA story. I guess you’re not allowed to say that in the news pages of the Times, but you can imply it on Twitter.

Now do you understand why I like Twitter so much?

NYT Reporter: John Kelly Lies a Lot – Mother Jones

When did the White House know about Rob Porter allegations? Lies, lies and more lies from the White House. Impeach Trump

When did the White House know about Rob Porter allegations?

Dreamers deadlock: Congress at impasse as pressure mounts to act | US news | The Guardian

Immigration activists staged a demonstration in an effort to pressure Congress to pass legislation protecting the Dreamers. Dreamers deadlock: Congress at impasse as pressure mounts to act | US news | The Guardian

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Russia Sees Midterm Elections as Chance to Sow Fresh Discord, Intelligence Chiefs Warn - The New York Times














"WASHINGTON — Russia is already meddling in the midterm elections this year, the top American intelligence officials said on Tuesday, warning that Moscow is using a digital strategy to worsen the country’s political and social divisions.

Russia is using fake accounts on social media — many of them bots — to spread disinformation, the officials said. European elections are being targeted, too, and the attacks were not likely to end this year, they warned.

“We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told the Senate Intelligence Committee at its annual hearing on worldwide threats.

Mr. Coats and the other intelligence chiefs laid out a pair of central challenges for the United States: contending with the flow of Russian misinformation and shoring up the defenses of electoral systems, which are run by individual states and were seen as highly vulnerable in 2016...

Russia Sees Midterm Elections as Chance to Sow Fresh Discord, Intelligence Chiefs Warn - The New York Times

FBI head contradicts White House over Rob Porter background check | US news | The Guardian

"FBI director Chris Wray contradicted the White House on Tuesday about when the bureau had completed a background investigation of former Donald Trump aide Rob Porter, who resigned last week following allegations of domestic violence.

To this point, the White House has claimed ignorance of allegations of spousal abuse against Porter, who was promoted to become a close aide to the president, until the moment photos of one of his ex-wives, Colbie Holderness, were published last week showing her with a badly bruised eye.
A White House spokesman blamed that ignorance on a failure by the FBI to wrap up a background check on Porter. White House chief of staff John Kelly said last Wednesday that he was “shocked” to hear of the allegations.

But Wray testified before Congress that the FBI had submitted a completed background investigation on Porter to the White House in July 2017 and later supplied two followup reports. 

“We administratively closed the file in January” of 2018, Wray said, setting a date months before the White House officials said they knew about the allegations.

The contradictory and changing explanations from White House officials, especially Kelly, have raised questions about furthered shake-ups in the top tiers of the government. Over the weekend one senior aide to the president, Kellyanne Conway, insisted Trump continues to have confidence in Kelly.
The White House deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, last week blamed what he said was an incomplete FBI inquiry for the failure to identify the alleged abuser.

“In the case of Rob Porter, we relied on the background check investigative process,” Shah said on 8 February, in his first-ever turn at the Brady briefing room lectern. “That process hadn’t been completed, so we were relying on the information that we had.”
Wray contradicted that account Tuesday.

FBI head contradicts White House over Rob Porter background check | US news | The Guardian

All Eyes on Trump as Senate Begins Immigration Free-for-All

"As the Senate kicks off its free-for-all process to craft bipartisan immigration legislation, some leading Republican voices are pinning their hopes on President Donald Trump to prevent any legislation they might pass from dying in the House as it did the last time Congress took a stab at immigration reform.

But Democrats have warned that relying on the president is a major gamble. Lawmakers on all sides of the immigration issue drew lines in the sand on Monday as they raced toward a March 5 deadline to enshrine legal protections for so-called DREAMers, those undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, and approve new funds for border security—two of what Trump has said are four conditions for a bill he would sign into law.

“I don’t know what I’m going to find tomorrow morning with the first tweet of the morning and what he’s going to say during the course of the day,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) told The Daily Beast. “He’s just unpredictable.”

But at least two Republicans with whom Durbin has worked closely on bipartisan immigration proposals—Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ)—have publicly stated that they are pinning their hopes on Trump supporting the Senate-passed bill and, in turn, pressuring House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to take it up in the House.

“That’s the best hope we’ve got,” Flake told The Daily Beast. “I do think that if we pass something with 65, 70 votes—that he’ll support it… If the president wants it, I think the House will go for it.”

It’s unlikely, though, that any bipartisan Senate bill will address all four of Trump’s conditions. Durbin said the president’s unpredictability is making Congress’ job harder—especially in a crucial week where the Senate is kicking off a debate that will yield an unknown result.

“Nailing the president down has been next to impossible,” Durbin said of his negotiations with the White House and other members of Congress. “He created this problem. We need him to solve this problem. We can’t do it alone. At some point, he has to be willing to sign off.”

All Eyes on Trump as Senate Begins Immigration Free-for-All

Trump’s obstruction of justice is far more extensive than Nixon’s - The Washington Post

"Harry Litman practices law at the firm Constantine Cannon and teaches constitutional law at the University of California at San Diego. He served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department from 1993 to 1998 and U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania from 1998 to 2001.

Now that a consensus is beginning to emerge that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has the evidence to make a compelling case of obstruction of justice against President Trump, the president’s defenders have trotted out a new defense: that obstruction on its own is a mere “procedural crime” that doesn’t really count unless coupled with proof of guilt on an underlying crime.

In other words, defenders view the Mueller probe as akin to the Watergate investigation without the break-in. But this view is wholly untenable.

The legal version of the argument is, as explained by Rich Lowry in National Review, “if Trump didn’t collude with Russia — or doesn’t have some other criminal secret to hide — it’s hard to see what his corrupt intent would be in an obstruction case.”

First, the premise doesn’t hold water. We won’t know for some time what Mueller’s probe will uncover, but we already know that the Trump campaign had extensive contacts with Russians — The Post has reported more than 30 — and that Trump flatly lied in claiming there were none. More damning, the president himself insisted on drafting a false account of the famous June 9, 2016, meeting between a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer and senior campaign members, including Donald Trump Jr.

But even if none of that were true, there are plenty of reasons a defendant plausibly could act with corrupt intent to scuttle an investigation that had yet to bear fruit. The defendant could fear political embarrassment; or liability for an associate or family member; or uncovering of other crimes, such as financial or tax violations; or exposure of civil liability.

Or he might be Donald Trump. Because turning the argument around, the evidence appears overwhelming that Trump has been rabid to shut down the investigation and savage anyone involved with it. Trump also tried to hide his motives behind a series of particularly ham-handed lies, including the claim that Mueller should be fired because of a distant dispute about golf fees at the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia. In other words, his corrupt intent fairly jumps out of the evidence, regardless of whether he separately colluded with Russia.

The argument becomes even weaker if the president’s defenders argue that Trump was unaware of any of the campaign’s extensive involvement with Russia. That’s exactly what happened with President Richard Nixon, who claimed at the time that he was ignorant of the Watergate break-in, and yet we know he acted with corrupt intent to squelch the resulting investigation, ordering others to try to persuade the FBI to halt its investigation into the break-in.

Trump’s obstruction was light-years more extensive, crass and hands-on. He allegedly tried to extract a pledge of loyalty from FBI Director James B. Comey and pressured him to drop the Michael Flynn case, then fired Comey when he didn’t. He also waged a public smear campaign against Mueller and the FBI — reportedly even attempting to fire Mueller before his White House counsel threatened to resign."

The practical version of the “mere obstruction” argument is that while the charges may stand up as a legal matter, they may not move the needle in Congress — the judge of impeachability. Thus, as Paul Rosenzweig writes in the Atlantic, fact-finders will forgive the coverup absent proof of the underlying crime.

The underlying premise of this view is that short-term politics, rather than history or principle, will drive Republicans’ response to Mueller’s case. And there’s ample reason to believe as much: The House impeached President Bill Clinton for obstruction of justice, with the enthusiastic support of Republicans, for far milder intervention. And yet, many Republicans don’t even offer a pretense that they intend to weigh Trump’s conduct against historical or constitutional standards. Rather, they offer cynical attacks on Mueller, proffer phony arguments or — that great base-pleasing standby — somehow make the issue about Hillary Clinton.

Ultimately, the political argument is just a way to dress up the grim fact that the Republican majority seems indifferent to the strength and severity of the charges that Mueller is developing. Its sole allegiance is to the preservation of political control, to which end Republicans have embraced an embarrassing series of diversionary tactics and bogus defenses of the president. Indeed, there seems to be nothing Trump could do that would justify impeachment in Republicans’ eyes.

Congressional Republicans are all in on defense of party over country. They are determined for temporary political gain to prop up a leader who is a rogue, a constitutional menace, and yes, a criminal no less than Nixon. They have lost all sense of constitutional duty. If they do not find a way to regain it, history will judge them harshly."

Trump’s obstruction of justice is far more extensive than Nixon’s - The Washington Post