Monday, July 16, 2018
Sunday, July 15, 2018
Saturday, July 14, 2018
“Everybody in politics lies,” Hollywood mogul David Geffen once said of Bill and Hillary Clinton. “But they do it with such ease, it’s troubling.” Geffen had a point — but he had not yet seen President Trump in action. With apologies to Lin-Manuel Miranda, when it comes to lying, the man is nonstop. On June 1, just less than 500 days into the president’s term, The Post had counted 3,251 false or misleading claims by the commander in chief. Trump continued that dizzying pace during Thursday’s NATO news conference, and then launched his visit to Britain by trashing that country’s prime minister and brazenly lying about it a few hours later. “I didn’t criticize the prime minister,” Trump said, shortly after criticizing the prime minister. He blasted Theresa May’s handling of Brexit and declared that her fiercest political rival, Boris Johnson, “would be a great prime minister.” Hours later, Trump dismissed the reprinting of his own words as “fake news,” even though the Rupert Murdoch-run Sun tabloid had his attacks on tape. Trump’s bizarre denials mirrored a claim the president made a week earlier when he tweeted that he had never supported a GOP-drafted immigration bill, this despite tweeting three days earlier, in all caps, that “HOUSE REPUBLICANS SHOULD PASS THE STRONG BUT FAIR IMMIGRATION BILL.”
Soon after the second tweet was posted, Esquire’s Ryan Lizza wryly noted: “He didn’t even bother to delete the old one.” As with Tolstoy’s Prince Vasili, the president “like a wound-up clock, by force of habit said things he did not even wish to be believed.” But unlike Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton — our previous standard-bearers in presidential prevarication — Trump’s lies are not a defensive response to protect a political legacy. Trump’s lies are his legacy. The former lifelong Manhattan Democrat captured Republicans’ attention in 2011 when he swallowed whole and spit out the “birther conspiracy” that claimed President Barack Obama was born in Kenya. That cynical lie catapulted Trump into the Republican presidential conversation four years later. Trump would then launch his campaign for president by calling Mexicans “rapists” and warning that Mexico was “beating us at the border.” His “American carnage” inaugural address would repeat that latter claim 18 months later and set up a battalion of straw men that could easily be knocked down — if only Trump supporters had access to Google and 60 seconds to spare.
But the incoming president simply continued spreading his dark fantasy of open U.S. borders, while cursing a supposed rising tide of illegal immigration that made necessary the building of a border wall and the implementation of brutal policies — climaxing in a callous family-separation program. Never mind that Trump entered office at a time when more illegal immigrants were moving back to Mexico than were entering the United States; never mind that the number of illegal immigrants in the United States declined by more than 1 million in the decade leading up to his election. Never mind that the social ill that propelled the 45th president to power was nothing more than a grim fairy tale. The incoming president also touted the twisted tale that America was being ripped apart by rising crime rates. In his inaugural address,
Trump vowed to “make America safe again.” But even the fact-challenged incoming president by then had to know — this particular lie was corrected again and again in the press — that the United States was already celebrating record-low crime rates. His own hometown of New York City was experiencing a lower crime rate than at any time since accurate records began being kept during the 1950s. Another political plank, another lie. Trump’s campaign was also built on the bogus belief that the American military machine was in danger of being eclipsed by hostile forces. In his “carnage” speech, Trump assured Americans that he would “make America strong again.” But as Obama told Congress during his final State of the Union address,
“The United States is the most powerful nation on Earth. It’s not even close. We spend more money on our military than the next eight nations combined.” For those tempted to shout “Fake News” at Obama’s claim, do yourself a favor. Go next door, ask to borrow your neighbor’s Google machine , and look it up. Then, perhaps, you might stop repeating this former reality TV host’s lies, start focusing on what really ails America and leave the dark, twisted fantasies to Donald Trump.
"Watching this pinball president ricochet around Europe, you could be forgiven for thinking there’s no method to Donald Trump’s madness.
Nato is both a rip-off and very strong. Theresa May’s Brexit plan is both pathetic and terrific. Trump’s interview with the Sun was both fake news and generally fine. Trump has all the consistency of Katy Perry’s Hot N Cold, except when it comes to two things: immigrants and Vladimir Putin.
Immigration is where Trump’s journey begins and ends: the message running all the way through this stick of rock. Trump told the Sun that immigration in Europe was “a shame”. Why such concern? “I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way.”
Don’t worry, Mr President. We didn’t think you meant it in a positive way. There was a time when politicians like you preferred to use a dog whistle, but those days seem quaint now. There’s something to be said for using a foghorn to blast your racism across the continents. At least we all know what kind of politics you represent.
But just in case anyone had any doubts, Trump took his explicit nativism several steps into more sinister territory on Friday while standing next to the British prime minister. When asked about his “fabric of Europe” comments, Trump began by talking about terrorism, before explaining his thinking.
“I just think it’s changing the culture. I think it’s a very negative thing for Europe. I think it’s very negative,” he said, as if we didn’t hear him the first time with the foghorn. “And I know it’s politically not necessarily correct to say that. But I’ll say it and I’ll say it loud. And I think they better watch themselves because you are changing the culture.”
They better watch themselves because you are changing the culture. There’s a polite way to say this, but the time for good manners has long gone. The president of the United States just threatened the safety and security of immigrants the world over.
Not just in Europe, he made clear, as he continued to talk about American immigration. “We have very bad immigration laws and we’re, I mean, we’re doing incredibly well considering the fact that we virtually don’t have immigration laws,” he explained.
So now we know. The reason Trump ordered the separation of thousands of immigrant children from their parents – some never to be reunited again – was because they better watch themselves. They are changing the culture and it better stop or else they’ll get hurt.
Trump has mused before about how good it would be to deport people without judges messing things up. He doesn’t consider his own country’s ample immigration laws to be actual laws that he respects. It’s one short step for a president – but one long step for democracy – to go from disrespecting the laws to ignoring them.
This is the language and mentality of so many extreme-right and neo-Nazi parties in Europe. So in the Trump spirit of saying it loud, it’s time to drop the euphemisms: Trump is today’s first major government to be led by the racist far right. It’s not some kind of new populist politics; it’s the old National Front.
It’s more than “not normal” – the media’s favorite phrase for expressing disapproval with the way Trump is blowing up the old norms. Trump personifies the kind of extremist policies that were the wet dreams of the John Birch Society and George Wallace.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. This is a president who started with racist conspiracies about the birthplace of America’s first black president, before launching his campaign with a racist rant about Mexican rapists. Once elected, after losing the popular vote, he rushed out his Muslim travel ban and has since unleashed his long-promised deportation force on anyone looking faintly Latino.
At this point, there are many previously respectable leaders – at home and overseas – as well as administration officials and journalists who have fooled themselves into thinking they are some kind of moderating influence. They have failed. They are a cheap veneer of respectability on an explicitly and punitively racist president.
The moral choices that Trump poses to anyone with a conscience or love of country are only made more clear by the ludicrous irony of his own story.
The grandson of a German immigrant, Trump has married not one but two immigrants. He knows full well how hard it is to be an immigrant: his family was so ashamed of its German roots through two world wars that Trump continued to pretend he had Swedish roots at the time he put his name to The Art of the Deal.
As any TV psychologist might observe, it was a continental-sized giveaway when Trump lied about his immigrant roots to the press after trashing Nato on Thursday. “I have great respect for Germany,” he said, after attacking the German government for months. “My father is from Germany.”
Fred Trump, father to Donald, was born in the Bronx.
If you make a herculean effort, you can just about understand what Trump means when he complains that the culture is changing. It’s true: the world is becoming more integrated and diverse right before his eyes.
That diversity is not just a source of talent for America and Europe, but has long been the core test of our decency: the standard by which we judge ourselves. America’s founding freedoms were in part to protect religious minorities persecuted elsewhere: the kind of people we’d call asylum seekers today.
Or, as Theresa May gamely put it on Friday: “The UK has a proud history of welcoming people who are fleeing persecution to our country. We have a proud history of welcoming people who want to come to our country to contribute to our economy and contribute to our society. And over the years, overall immigration has been good for the UK.”
Even the Brexit-leading prime minister, after an anti-immigrant Brexit campaign, has to admit the obvious. Another foreign leader might recognize those words as a rebuke. But not this president.
Trump is the kind of person who digs around the darkest corners of the extreme-right internet to come up with some England First nonsense. “You don’t hear the word England as much as you should,” he told the Sun, spouting the kind of drivel that gives skinheads a bad name. “I miss the name England,” he said.
If he read one of his many unexamined briefing papers, he might know that one of the likely conservative successors to Theresa May is the immigrant-sounding Sajid Javid, born Muslim in the north of England. His family shares a Pakistani heritage with the immigrant-sounding Sadiq Khan, the left-leaning London mayor Trump thinks is a terrorist sympathizer.
Perhaps next time Trump visits London, he’ll have to remember whether the bad guy is called Sajid or Sadiq. That’s the problem when the culture changes. You better watch yourself, Donald."
Let's drop the euphemisms: Donald Trump is a racist president | Opinion | The Guardian
Friday, July 13, 2018
This happened on the same day Trump asked the Russians to hack Hilary Clinton's email on television. His campaign and the Russians were already in contact. America we have prima facia evidence of Donald Trump's collusion with the Russians. It is time to impeach this #ManchurianPresident.
"With wheels up on Air Force One, Donald Trump vanished into the skies above Stansted airport on Friday evening, bound for his luxury golf resort in Scotland and leaving a trail of diplomatic destruction in his wake.
The presidential hurricane had swept through southern England, uprooting protocols, rattling institutions and leaving politicians with a sense of whiplash. As the disrupter-in-chief’s MV-22 Osprey helicopters departed, Theresa May could be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief familiar to any sorely tested host.
This was a far cry from Bill Clinton strolling through Hyde Park during his presidential swansong or Barack Obama dropping in on a primary school in Newport. For Trump, making his first visit to the UK as president, there was no park and no school, no 10 Downing Street, no Houses of Parliament and no Buckingham Palace. Nor was this the state visit that May had promised when she dashed to Washington shortly after Trump took office. The tens of thousands of people marching in the streets of London might have had something to do with it.
Britain may have to humbly accept, however, that for Trump it was a mere stopover between hammering the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, at the Nato summit in Brussels and renewing his warm relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki."
This was a far cry from Bill Clinton strolling through Hyde Park during his presidential swansong or Barack Obama dropping in on a primary school in Newport. For Trump, making his first visit to the UK as president, there was no park and no school, no 10 Downing Street, no Houses of Parliament and no Buckingham Palace. Nor was this the state visit that May had promised when she dashed to Washington shortly after Trump took office. The tens of thousands of people marching in the streets of London might have had something to do with it.
Donald Trump backtracks on May comments and meets Queen – as it happened Read moreBritain may have to humbly accept, however, that for Trump it was a mere stopover between hammering the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, at the Nato summit in Brussels and renewing his warm relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki.
US indicts 12 Russians for hacking DNC emails during the 2016 election. Rosenstein said those charged were operatives of the GRU, a Russian military intelligence agency. He said they had “corresponded with several Americans through the internet”, including an associate of the Trump campaign. Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Trump, previously acknowledged that he had exchanged messages with one of the online personas accused on Friday of being a front for Russian intelligence, but he denied knowing that true identity. | US news | The Guardian
“In one of the tightest swing districts in the country, one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents is running an unabashedly Trump-like campaign. Representative John Faso represents New York’s 19th district—a microcosm of the country, closely divided between densely populated, deep-blue towns and long expanses of rural red—and he isn’t talking about Trump’s tax cuts (House leaders let him vote against them) or focusing on any other issues of substance. He certainly isn’t talking about health care, after voting to strip coverage from almost 10 percent of his constituents. Instead, the centerpiece of his campaign has been claiming that MS-13 gangsters are coming to kill us all, and promising to address the contrived ‘issue’ of low-level drug dealers being arrested with SNAP benefit cards in their pockets.
Faso didn’t face a primary challenger, so this isn’t about throwing red meat to the base to secure the nomination. What we’ve seen so far is likely to be his pitch for reelection. And it’s striking to see a politician who won this relatively purple district in 2016 by portraying himself as a moderate Republican, critical of Trump’s campaign, now choose a strategy that seems more appropriate for a deep-red district in the Bible Belt. (Faso’s popular predecessor, Chris Gibson, was arguably one of the last moderate Republicans in the House.)
This time out, Faso has chosen to run on classic appeals to white racial anxiety. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, a right-wing, restrictionist group that doesn’t shy from trumpeting the ostensible dangers of MS-13, no member of the gang has ever been arrested in the district. Journalist Hannah Dreier, who has been covering MS-13 for years, reported that while MS-13 is notably brutal, it is small compared to other gangs, hasn’t grown in membership in recent years, and almost never targets ‘true outsiders—people who are not friends with any gang members or targets for recruitment.’ While MS-13 is not the transnational powerhouse conservatives describe, Drier noted, ‘it is the US gang most strongly tied to Central America, which is where the majority of asylum-seeking teenagers come from.’"
(Via.) Trump’s Racist Rhetoric Is Embraced in a Midterm Contest | The Nation:
Thursday, July 12, 2018
Trump holds impromptu conference, makes false claims On Thursday in Brussels, President Trump gave an impromptu press conference after NATO summit. The Morning Joe panel recaps Trump's remarks, fact-checks some of his claims and discuss charts from Steve Rattner. - Morning Joe - Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, & Willie Geist
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
"Then when Senator Warren offered her support to protesters on July 30, she worded her Facebook post carefully: ‘The President’s deeply immoral actions have made it obvious that we need to rebuild our immigration system from top to bottom, starting by replacing ICE with something that reflects our values.’
The week before Ocasio-Cortez’s win, actor-activist Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo from the left, said on The View, ‘ICE is relatively new. It came in after September 11th. We’ve been handling immigration and customs for a long time here; we don’t need ICE.’"
(Via.). What Does It Mean to Abolish ICE?:
Federal Judge Downplayed Role in Detainee Cases : NPR - Brett Kavanaugh, may have been less-than-forthright with Congress at a crucial hearing last year to confirm his appointment to a seat on the powerful federal appeals court in Washington, D.C
"Brett Kavanaugh, may have been less-than-forthright with Congress at a crucial hearing last year to confirm his appointment to a seat on the powerful federal appeals court in Washington, D.C."
"BRUSSELS — President Trump unleashed a blistering attack Wednesday on Germany and other NATO allies, wasting no time at the outset of a week of high-stakes diplomacy to hit at Washington’s closest partners for what he said were hypocritical demands for U.S. security protection.
“Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in a fiery on-camera exchange that was nearly without precedent in the history of the post-World War II alliance.
“We have to talk about the billions and billions of dollars that’s being paid to the country we’re supposed to be protecting you against,” Trump said, referring to European purchases of Russian natural gas...."
Trump says Germany ‘is captive to Russia’ in fiery opening salvo against NATO - The Washington Post
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Noel Cintron, who is listed in public records as a registered Republican, sued the Trump Organization for about 3,300 hours of overtime that he says he worked in the past six years. He’s not allowed to sue for overtime prior to that due to the statute of limitations.
“In an utterly callous display of unwarranted privilege and entitlement and without even a minimal sense of noblesse oblige,” Trump and his businesses exploited the driver, Cintron says in the complaint.
The driver’s allegations echo those of other Trump employees or contractors who have sued the president or his businesses over the years claiming he has underpaid them or failed to honor promises to compensate them for their work. They have included mortgage brokers, landscapers and electricians who say they were stiffed on commissions or fees.
Last year, one of Trump’s luxury golf resorts in Florida was ordered by an appeals court to pay more than $32,000 to a supply company that claimed it wasn’t paid for paint that was used to spruce up the property.
“Mr. Cintron was at all times paid generously and in accordance with the law,” Trump Organization spokeswoman Amanda Miller said in a statement. “Once the facts come out we expect to be fully vindicated in court
Cintron says he was required to be on duty for Trump starting at 7 a.m. each day until whenever Trump, his family or business associates no longer required his services. He worked as long as 55 hours per week, but was paid a fixed salary of $62,700 in 2003, $68,000 in 2006, and $75,000 in 2010, according to the complaint.
The wage bump in 2010 came with a catch, Cintron said. He was induced to surrender his health insurance, saving Trump approximately $17,866 per year in premiums, according to the lawsuit.
"President Trump’s further callousness and cupidity is further demonstrated by the fact that while he is purportedly a billionaire, he has not given his personal driver a meaningful raise in over 12 years!" Cintron said.
Cintron, 59, lives in Queens, New York, his lawyer, Larry Hutcher, said in a phone interview. The driver started working for the Trump Organization about 30 years ago, and worked his way up to chauffeuring the president-to-be. He declined to comment to reporters outside his home.
Cintron said he was Trump’s personal driver until the Secret Service took over.
In addition to the unpaid overtime, Cintron claims the Trump Organization failed to provide annual wage notices as required by New York law. Cintron is seeking about $200,000 in damages, Hutcher said.
The case is Cintron v. Trump Organization LLC, Supreme Court, State of New York (Manhattan)."
Trump’s Personal Driver for 25 Years Sues for Unpaid Overtime - Bloomberg
He'll be turning 92 in September, Rodriguez said, and he's never been hurt like this before, in a life working the fields with cattle and corn.
He had traveled from Michoacan, Mexico, to visit his family in Willowbrook, California, a city in Los Angeles County, his grandson Erik Mendoza said.
He makes the trip about twice a year, and takes a walk through the neighborhood every day after lunch, Mendoza said. "Everyone in the neighborhood knows him already," he said.
Rodriguez said he was walking to a nearby park on Wednesday when he passed a woman and a little girl. Without warning, the woman assaulted him, he said, hitting him with a concrete block and enlisting a group of men to join in beating him.
"I didn't even bump into her kid," Rodriguez said. "I just passed her and she pushed me and she hit me until she was done."
91-year-old man beaten with brick, told 'go back to Mexico' - CNN
Opinion | There’s So Much You Don’t Know About Brett Kavanaugh - The New York Times - The 1890s are coming back.
"And you probably won’t until it’s too late.
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.
So what can the American people hope to know in the days ahead about Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s latest candidate for the Supreme Court, who will very shortly hold one of the most powerful unelected jobs in government and wield profound influence over their daily lives? An awful lot, and yet, at the same time, so alarmingly little.
First, the awful lot: Judge Kavanaugh would shift the balance of constitutional jurisprudence to the right, creating a solid right-wing majority on the court possibly until the second half of the 21st century. While the somewhat unpredictable Justice Anthony Kennedy once served as the fulcrum for the court, that role will now go to Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., a far more ideological conservative.
Judge Kavanaugh, who sits on the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia, has been a fixture in conservative politics and is widely respected by the Republican elite. Before becoming a judge, he clerked for Justice Kennedy and worked for Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton, and later in the George W. Bush White House. He successfully portrayed himself in his remarks at the White House as a nice guy who coaches girls in basketball, feeds the homeless and believes in the Constitution.
What Americans can’t know about Judge Kavanaugh: pretty much anything else. That’s thanks to the perversion of the Supreme Court confirmation process, which once provided the Senate and the public with useful information about a potential justice’s views on the Constitution, but which has, ever since the bitter battle over President Ronald Reagan’s failed nomination of Robert Bork in 1987, devolved into a second-rate Samuel Beckett play starring an earnest legal scholar who sits for days at a microphone and labors to sound thoughtful while saying almost nothing.
Neil Gorsuch perfected the role last year, with his aw-shucks demeanor and his disingenuous regrets that, gosh, it just wouldn’t be right to express his views about almost any legal case or issue that had come before the court in the past, or might one day in the future.
Senate Democrats didn’t cover themselves in glory trying to pin down Justice Gorsuch, spending an inordinate amount of time hammering him on old opinions that demonstrated his supposed disdain for the “little guy.” Justice Gorsuch easily parried the charge by pointing out, rightly, that his allegiance was to the Constitution and not to individual litigants, however sympathetic they might be.
It’s true that Supreme Court nominees used to sail through the Senate on voice votes. That was another era, when the major parties weren’t as polarized as they are now, and the justices’ votes often broke down in unpredictable ways. Today, there is essentially no overlap between the conservative justices, all appointed by Republican presidents, and the liberals, all appointed by Democratic presidents — and that was before Justice Kennedy stepped down. The increasing polarization undermines the crucial role the court needs to play in our democracy, acting as a neutral arbiter that checks the elected branches.
There are structural fixes, like term limits, that could counteract this trend. When the Constitution’s framers decided to give Supreme Court justices lifetime appointments, the life expectancy for a free white male was roughly 35 years — less than half what it is today, and equal to the entire tenure of Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in 2010 and is still going strong at 98.
One proposal would limit justices to 18-year terms, which would create an opening on the court every two years, and reduce some of the political gamesmanship that surrounds open seats today. But any change to the justices’ tenure would require a constitutional amendment, and so is a longer debate for another day.
In the meantime, what should senators ask Judge Kavanaugh?
First, the questions everyone wants answered: What is his judicial philosophy? How does he approach interpreting the Constitution and statutes? Does he agree with the decision in landmark Supreme Court cases like, say, Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed racial segregation in public schools, or Griswold v. Connecticut, which established a constitutional right to privacy? There’s no reason, despite their protestations, that nominees for the highest court in the land can’t give the public straight answers to these questions and many more like them — several, including Chief Justice Roberts himself, did so in the past.
But Senate Democrats and others who believe in the importance of an independent and nonpartisan judiciary also need to treat these hearings as a public-education opportunity. Where once these sorts of hearings served to inform Americans about the finer points of constitutional law, now they might be used to alert them to cynical tactics of power politics. For starters, that would mean making it clear that Monday’s nomination belongs not to Mr. Trump so much as to the conservative legal activists at the Federalist Society, who have spent nearly four decades building a movement to reshape the federal judiciary and rewrite whole sections of constitutional law.
During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump publicized a list of possible Supreme Court nominees preapproved by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, another conservative group. It was scrubbed of any squishes along the lines of David Souter, Anthony Kennedy or even Chief Justice Roberts, all of whom have been deemed insufficiently committed to the cause for failing to vote in lock step with the radical right’s agenda. (Judge Kavanaugh was left off the original list but was added later.)
The Federalist Society claims to value the so-called strict construction of the Constitution, but this supposedly neutral mode of constitutional interpretation lines up suspiciously well with Republican policy preferences — say, gutting laws that protect voting rights, or opening the floodgates to unlimited political spending, or undermining women’s reproductive freedom, or destroying public-sector labor unions’ ability to stand up for the interests of workers.
In short, Senate Democrats need to use the confirmation process to explain to Americans how their Constitution is about to be hijacked by a small group of conservative radicals well funded by ideological and corporate interests, and what that means in terms of the rights they will lose and the laws that will be invalidated over the next several decades.
We’re witnessing right now a global movement against the idea of liberal democracy and, in places like Hungary and Poland, its grounding in an independent judiciary. Mr. Trump and Senate Republicans appear happy to ride this wave to unlimited power. They will almost certainly win this latest battle, but it’s a victory that will come at great cost to the nation, and to the court’s remaining legitimacy.
Americans who care about the court’s future and its role in the American system of government need to turn to the political process to restore the protections the new majority will take away, and to create an environment where radical judges can’t be nominated or confirmed. As those tireless conservative activists would be the first to tell you, winning the future depends on deliberate, long-term organizing in the present, even when — especially when — things appear most bleak."
Opinion | There’s So Much You Don’t Know About Brett Kavanaugh - The New York Times
Monday, July 09, 2018
Federal Judge Rules that Trump Administration Cannot Hold Migrant Families in Long-Term Detention - The New York Times
"LOS ANGELES — The Trump administration on Monday lost a bid to persuade a federal court to allow long-term detention of migrant families, a significant legal setback to the president’s immigration agenda.
In a ruling that countered nearly every argument posed by the Justice Department, Judge Dolly M. Gee of the Federal District Court in Los Angeles held that there was no basis to amend a longstanding court decision that forces the government to avoid holding migrant children for longer than 20 days.
Judge Gee said the administration’s request was “ a cynical attempt” to shift immigration policymaking to the courts.
President Trump has pledged to end previous administrations’ “catch-and-release” policy for undocumented immigrants apprehended at the border, but the ruling left the administration with few good policy alternatives.
Sunday, July 08, 2018
"Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the hearing on Friday was the number of parents who the government has been unable to find after taking their very young children.
The Department of Justice attorney, Sarah Fabian, said the government had identified 101 children younger than 5 who might fall within the judge’s order. Two parents of those children, the government argues, have criminal records that render them unfit to be reunited with their children. Fabian said 19 parents had been released from custody into the United States and 19 had been deported. The government does not know where at least some of these parents are.
The Courthouse News Service reported that there are “86 parents who have been in contact with 83 children under 5 who are in federal custody.” These numbers indicate that roughly 16 children have not had contact with their parents, who may be missing following deportations or release into the United States.
This raises the terrifying possibility that 16 children younger than 5 may never see their parents again because of Trump’s unconstitutional child separation practices. The ACLU has promised to do everything it can to ensure that doesn’t happen, but that outcome will depend greatly on how adept the administration is at undoing some of the damage it has already done."
"Some time ago, the writer Nikki Giovanni offered me guidance on writing about the life of a public person. Most of her advice I understood and dutifully jotted into a small notebook. However, one of her dictums confused me: “Whenever you receive a letter from a prisoner, make sure you write him back.” I frowned, confused but also a little guilty. I’d received a few letters with penitentiary return addresses and hadn’t responded. “Write them back,” she repeated. “You don’t know how much mail means to people in prison. You can’t imagine what they have to do just to get the stamp.”
Since then, I’ve heeded her advice. But sometimes it isn’t possible to write back. One gentleman I met at a book club on Rikers Island said he wouldn’t reveal his last name or ID because he couldn’t bear the disappointment of not receiving a response. Those of us who live freely in the age of electronic communication often take the mail for granted. But for people in prison letters remain the best way to engage with a society that has forcibly excluded them.
From Nov. 7, 1962, to Feb. 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner in South Africa, jailed for his role as a leader in the African National Congress and its struggle against South Africa’s apartheid regime. Four years after his release he was elected his country’s president. Today, nearly five years after his death at age 95, his legacy as one of the 20th century’s most distinguished and influential freedom fighters is well enshrined. But the man himself is not completely known.
Like prisoners all over the world, Mr. Mandela wrote letters, hundreds of them, each one a condensed autobiography. They have been collected in a forthcoming volume, “The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela,” published by Liveright. It includes more than 250 letters, well over half of them previously unpublished. In some ways these letters rock the pedestal he was placed on after his release in 1990, for they show his complicated humanity. I’m not using “humanity” as a euphemism for “flawed.” The prison letters reveal no cracks in the foundation of his faith and commitment to justice. Rather, these messages to family, friends, comrades, elected officials and prison administrators reveal a Mandela as vulnerable as any other human.
Prison is a depraved environment. Incarcerated people live without comfortable beds, healthy food, adequate health care or the freedom of movement most of us who have never been incarcerated take for granted. They’re subjected to great violence, as though their sentence invalidates their own legal protections. While these severe deprivations are harrowing, Mr. Mandela’s prison letters underscore isolation’s other violence: Every incarcerated human is stripped of family.
At the Robben Island prison Mandela was held in, people were made to sit in rows in the prison courtyard and smash stones into gravel.Photo by: Cloete Breytenbach/Daily ExpressAs a captive, Mr. Mandela was kin to Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders who worked to overthrow racism and colonialism. But alone in his cell, he joined an international underclass including dissenters in North Korea, women in Arizona shackled as they give birth and infant children caged on our southern border.
Our humanity derives from our most intimate relationships. Mr. Mandela’s prison letters, particularly those to his family, reveal that even the most righteous cause cannot inoculate anyone from the agony of separation. Mr. Mandela was allowed occasional visitors; his wife Winnie’s visits were strictly limited. His daughters could see him only after they reached the age of 16. Visits, while precious, are ephemeral, but the letters he received and treasured gave him tangible connection with his loved ones with each rereading. Throughout Mr. Mandela’s incarceration, prison authorities severely restricted and censored his letters. Considering the solace and strength he took from these folded sheets of paper, it’s a marvel his captors allowed him any mail at all.
Pages of Mandela's letters.Photo by: The Estate of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and the Nelson Mandela FoundationStill, there are limits to paper and pen. When Mr. Mandela’s son, Thembi, was killed in a car accident, Mr. Mandela was forbidden to attend the funeral. Prison stole from him the critical years in the lives of young daughters. In a letter written to his daughter Zenani shortly after her 12th birthday, he reminds her of a brief visit he had with her nearly a decade before, during the time when he had gone underground and was living away from home: “In a corner you found … my clothing. After collecting it, you gave it to me and asked me to go home. You held my hand for quite some time, pulling desperately and begging me to return.”
Reading his anguished account, we understand another function of letters: to make memories tangible. He sought to remind his 12-year-old not only of his own love but also of the love that her heartbroken, 2-year-old self once felt for her vanished father. Winnie Mandela was briefly incarcerated while pregnant with Zenani, and Mr. Mandela reminded his daughter that she was the rare person who’d served jail time even before she was born.
Mandela and his wife Winnie in 1958.Photo by: API/Gamma-Rapho, via Getty ImagesMr. Mandela’s letters tell a story beyond their own words. The printed volume includes several images of the pages. His handwriting is careful but crowded, as though trying to include more words than any page could hold. Perhaps he is saving rationed paper and ink, but he also seems to be tying a rope bridge of words to carry him from prison to the home where his wife and children await.
While these letters overflow their pages, there’s also a haunting sense of all that’s not expressed. Mr. Mandela wrote knowing his letters would be censored. He often asks about earlier missives, possibly intercepted or destroyed. On Aug. 1, 1970, he writes to Winnie: “Can it be that you did not receive my letter of July 1? How can I explain your strange silence at a time when contact between us has become so vital?”
He must also have known that these letters would one day be read by people all over the world. This loss of privacy is also a loss of the intimacy at the heart of our most sustaining relationships. He laments, “There are affairs in life where third parties, no matter who they are, should not be let in at all.” But he knew, too, how to sneak in a thousand unspoken words. To Winnie he writes, “I suspect that you intended the picture to convey a special message that no words could ever express. Rest assured that I have caught it.”
The Mandela we have come to revere since his triumphant release in 1990 is an elder statesman, weathered yet elegant, intelligent yet accessible and above all, brave and resilient. His gray hair and smiling face, his fist raised gently in a nod to troubles past, has supplanted the image of a much younger man who appeared before the court in 1962 dressed in a cape made from the skin of jackals. Then, his raised fist promised continued defiance and civil insurgency. His vow to dismantle apartheid earned him not only the ire of the illegitimate white South African government but also the contempt of the Reagan administration, which branded him a terrorist.
Somehow we’ve chosen to laud Mr. Mandela’s capacity for forgiveness without dwelling on what he actually forgave. These letters remind us of the cost of freedom. Upon his release, Mr. Mandela was feted with state dinners and parades, and there’s joy in seeing a hero so rewarded. However, the fall of apartheid and even the triumph of a 1993 Nobel Peace Prize (which he graciously shared with South Africa’s President F. W. de Klerk) could never return to him what he lost: decades of intimacy with a young family, growing away from him in his absence.
Separating a person from his kin is the ultimate expression of state power. I can’t help seeing, in the image of Mr. Mandela’s daughter begging for her father’s return, the children weeping at our southern border. I understand the impulse to marvel at Mr. Mandela’s civility and eloquence, even under duress. How, it’s easy to wonder, could a man form such generous, brilliant philosophies in the face of cruelty and injustice? Mr. Mandela was unique. How often in a generation does a giant walk among us, with brilliance and courage, guided by an immaculate moral compass?
Mr. Mandela in Johannesburg in 1953, before his long period of incarceration.Photo by: Herbert Shore, courtesy Ahmed Kathrada FoundationBut we do his memory a disservice if we merely celebrate his difference from people who suffer with less transcendent purpose. To honor Mr. Mandela, we must remember him as a man — one of millions of incarcerated men and women separated from their families and denied basic rights.
In a letter to his son, Mr. Mandela writes, “those who want to wipe out poverty from the face of the earth must use other weapons, weapons other than kindness.” He means, of course, fighting with relentless urgency against the very structure of social injustice. While he’s right, anyone who reads this collection will also rediscover the power of small kindnesses penned onto paper and tucked into an envelope, which, Mr. Mandela wrote, had the power to “cut through massive iron doors and grim stone walls, bringing into the cell the splendor and warmth of springtime.”
Someone, somewhere in an enclosing prison — across town, in a border detention facility, in a country you’ve never known — is waiting for a letter."
North Korea Criticizes ‘Gangster-Like’ U.S. Attitude After Talks With Mike Pompeo - The New York Times - They have an excellent point. We have a third generation gangster as President.
"PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korea accused the Trump administration on Saturday of pushing a “unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization” and called it “deeply regrettable,” hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his two days of talks in the North Korean capital were “productive.”
Despite the criticism, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, still wanted to build on the “friendly relationship and trust” forged with President Trump during their summit meeting in Singapore on June 12. The ministry said Mr. Kim had written a personal letter to Mr. Trump, reiterating that trust.
The harsh North Korean reaction may have been a time-tested negotiating tactic. Two months ago, a brief blowup between the two countries led President Trump to briefly cancel, then reschedule, his summit meeting with Mr. Kim. But North Korea’s remarks also played to a larger fear: that the summit meeting’s vaguely worded commitment to “the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” meant something very different in Pyongyang and Washington.
Distrust on both sides has led the Americans to insist on rapid, deep dismantlement and highly intrusive verification; the North Koreans want an early lifting of sanctions and a formal end to the Korean War, among other steps.On Saturday, Mr. Pompeo and his entourage offered no immediate evidence that they had come away with anything tangible to show that North Korea was willing to surrender its nuclear and missile weapons programs. Mr. Pompeo did not meet with Mr. Kim, as he had in past visits, but held talks with Kim Yong-chol, a senior official who has been the country’s point person in deliberations with the United States, South Korea and China.
“These are complicated issues, but we made progress on almost all of the central issues,” Mr. Pompeo said before boarding a plane for Tokyo. He called the meetings “productive.”
Administration officials said Saturday that they were neither surprised nor concerned about the North Korean response, and they pointed out that its final lines, the ones attributed directly to Mr. Kim, were conciliatory and referred to a feeling of trust toward Mr. Trump.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry’s assessment was decidedly downbeat.
“The attitude and demands from the U.S. side during the high-level talks were nothing short of deeply regrettable,” the ministry said, accusing American “working-level” officials of trying to destroy the agreement struck in Singapore.
Mr. Pompeo came to Pyongyang to try to get the North Koreans to match their vague commitment to denuclearization — signed by Kim Jong-un in the June meeting with President Trump — with some kind of action. Among the first priorities were a declaration of weapons sites, a timeline of deconstruction efforts and, perhaps, a written statement that the North’s definition of denuclearization matched Mr. Pompeo’s.
Washington insists that North Korea disclose all the details of its nuclear weapons program, dismantle its facilities and let outside inspectors verify the steps. The idea is to remove all the North’s nuclear weapons and its ability to build more, before offering any significant rewards.
The North has long rejected such an approach, instead demanding that the United States take reciprocal measures in each “phased” step it takes toward denuclearization.
On Saturday, the North Korean statement reiterated that “phased, simultaneous actions” were “the quickest way of realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
During their meetings with Mr. Pompeo, North Korean officials proposed dismantling a missile engine-test site and opening negotiations for repatriating the remains of American service members killed in the Korean War, the Foreign Ministry said. In return, they proposed that the United States take “simultaneous” actions of expanding bilateral exchanges and announcing an end to the Korean War in July.
But the ministry said that the United States balked at declaring an end to the war, which North Korea said was a crucial first step toward building trust.
“The issues the U.S. side insisted on during the talks were the same cancerous ones that the past U.S. administrations had insisted on,” the ministry said.
It said North Korea had so far taken the “irreversible” action of destroying its underground nuclear test site, while the United States had taken only the “reversible” action of suspending joint military exercises with South Korea.
Saturday, July 07, 2018
Friday, July 06, 2018
"A long-threatened trade war between the US and China has got underway after the world’s two largest economies imposed tariffs on each other. The US implemented tariffs on $34bn in Chinese goods, to which responded with levies on a similar quantity of US imports.
Minutes after the US tariffs went into effect at 12.01am on Friday US time, a spokesperson for China’s ministry of commerce said, “China promised not to fire the first shot, but in order to safeguard the country’s core interests as well as that of the people, it is forced to fight back,” according to Xinhua. The ministry stopped short of saying China had implemented its retaliatory duties.
Later on Friday, a spokesman for the ministry of foreign affairs said after the US tariffs kicked in, Chinese tariffs on US goods had immediately gone into effect.
Ahead of the tariffs, Chinese state media published a series of editorials criticising the US and emphasising the country’s readiness for a trade war. Chinese companies and investors girded for the worst, while economists cautioned any impact on the economy would be minimal."
China retaliates with tariffs after US begins trade war | World news | The Guardian
"Therese Patricia Okoumou, an immigrant activist from the Republic of Congo, climbed the Statue of Liberty to protest the separation of migrant children from their families. But what’s that got to do with black folks?
Despite misconceptions, immigration in America has plenty to do with black people. In fact, black immigrants in the United States have faced significant racism and are also more likely to face deportation when coming in contact with the criminal justice system.
But African immigrants have a profound impact on the United States’ overall economy with $40.3 billion in spending power. And they’re also more likely to have graduate degrees than U.S.-born citizens.
So, should black people care about immigration?"
I had to turn off Joe Scarborough this morning on MSNBC for once again deceptively trying to distance Trump from other Republicans like President George "Willie Horton" Bush and Ronald "States Rights" Reagan. The Republican knowingly nominated and Americans elected a third generation racist gangster and now act surprised about that they got. Trumps grandfather made his money running a brothel in Canada, Trumps Dad, a KKK and early Nazi supporter ran a corrupt real estate empire and which was brought before Nixon's Justice Department twice for violating housing laws for blatantly discriminating against Blacks and Hispanics first in 1973 then later for violating the consent order rather signed. We have a thug President who has admitted to sexual battery. America knew they were electing a fascist like Mussolini and a racist like Andrew Jackson. They did not care. All they wanted was the anti-Obama. they got him.
By John H Armwood
What was consistent about the man was his belief that each state has a sovereign right
to control its laws.
Willie Horton Ad George HW Bush 1988
"Life on the Trail Martin Van Buren President Martin Van BurenNearly 125,000 Native Americans lived on millions of acres of land in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida at the beginning of the 1830s, land their ancestors had occupied and cultivated for generations. For those who believed this land to be rightfully theirs, they stayed and hoped for compromise, unfortunately that was not an option as Andrew Jackson's Manifest Destiny was taking the nation by storm. The Cherokee tribe was opposed their removal but in turn only brought themselves into more conflict. In 1838-39 President Martin Van Buren sent over 7,000 troops led by General Winfield Scott into Cherokee territory and forced them to hit the road. Scott and his troops forced the Cherokee into stockades with bayonets pointed at them while his troops and other white settlers of the land began to loot homes and belongings. Accepting of their defeat the Cherokee then marched to their new Indian territory with the rest of the Five Civilized Tribes. For those who embarked on the brutal journey, they quickly found out it would be no walk in the park."
"America never was White. Whites were just the conquerers
By Eugene Robinson
“Racism is a feature of the Trump administration, not a bug. Like demagogues before him, President Trump and his aides consistently single out one group for scapegoating and persecution: nonwhite Hispanic immigrants.
Trump doesn’t much seem to like nonwhite newcomers from anywhere, in truth — remember how he once expressed a fond wish for more immigrants from Norway? — but he displays an especially vicious antipathy toward men, women and even children from Latin America. We have not seen such overt racism from a president since Woodrow Wilson imposed Jim Crow segregation in Washington and approvingly showed “The Birth of a Nation,” director D.W. Griffith’s epic celebration of the Ku Klux Klan, at the White House.
Trump encourages supporters to see the nation as beset by high levels of violent crime — and to blame the “animals” of the street gang MS-13. He is lying; crime rates nationwide are far lower than two or three decades ago, and some big cities are safer than they have been in a half-century. But Trump has to paint a dystopian panorama to justify the need to Make America Great Again.
MS-13 is, indeed, unspeakably violent. But it is small; law enforcement officials estimate the gang’s total U.S. membership at roughly 10,000, concentrated in a few metropolitan areas that have large populations of Central American immigrants — Los Angeles, New York and Washington. Trump never acknowledges that the gang was founded in the United States by immigrants from El Salvador and exported to Central America, where it took hold. He also neglects to mention that its members here, mostly teenagers, generally direct their violence at one another, not at outsiders.
Trump deliberately exaggerates the threat from MS-13 in order to justify his brutality toward Central American asylum seekers at the border. People should never be treated that way, but “animals” are a different story.
It is unbelievable that the U.S. government would separate more than 2,300 children from their parents for no good reason other than to demonstrate cruelty. It is shocking that our government would expect toddlers and infants to represent themselves at formal immigration hearings. It is incredible that our government, forced to grudgingly end the policy, would charge desperate parents hundreds or thousands of dollars to be reunited with their children. It is appalling that our government would refuse even to give a full and updated accounting of how many children still have not been returned. Yet all of this has been done — in our name.
Trump uses words such as “invading” and “infest” and “breeding” to describe Central American migrants who arrive at the border lawfully seeking asylum. I’ll believe this is neutral immigration policy when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents begin hunting down and locking up Norwegians who have overstayed their visas.
Said Norwegians, if anyone bothered to look for them, might well be taking jobs away from American workers or taking advantage of social-welfare programs or boosting crime rates. There is no evidence that asylumseekers are doing any of these things.
Trump’s policies flow from a worldview that he has never tried to hide. To describe Trump and aides such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller as “anti-immigration” tells only part of the story. They adopt the stance of racial and cultural warriors, “defending” the United States against brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking hordes “invading” from the south.
Trump has proposed not just building a wall along the border with Mexico to halt the flow of undocumented migrants but also changing the system of legal immigration so that it no longer promotes family unification. He calls his aim a “merit-based” system, but Miller has specified that the administration wants to produce “more assimilation.”
Yet there is no evidence that immigrants from Latin America fail to assimilate in any way except one: They do not come to look like Trump’s mental image of “American,” which is basically the same as his mental image of “Norwegian.”
This is a story as old as the nation. German, Irish, Polish, Italian and other immigrant groups were once seen as irredeemably foreign and incapable of assimilating. The ethnic and racial mix of the country has changed before and is changing now.
Hispanics are by far the biggest minority group in the country, making up nearly 18 percent of the population; by 2060, the Census Bureau estimates, that share will rise to nearly 29 percent . Trump is punishing Central American mothers and babies because, try as he might, he can’t Make America White Again.”
Thursday, July 05, 2018
"In the Italian film “Life is Beautiful,” a Jewish bookstore owner uses creative stunts to distract his child from the horrible reality of being held in a Nazi concentration camp. I was reminded of that movie recently, as I found myself part of an eerily similar heartbreaking moment.
As lawyers with the Texas Civil Rights Project, my team has been working around the clock to document hundreds of cases of children taken from their parents since the Trump administration launched its “zero tolerance” immigration policy. Under that policy, the government charges every immigrant apprehended at the border with illegal entry, a misdemeanor offense — regardless of whether they’re fleeing violence and seeking asylum, or traveling with children. Before zero tolerance, immigration and Department of Justice officials exercised their discretion on whether to press criminal charges against some immigrants and asylum seekers, particularly those traveling with children or those with special circumstances.
Each morning for the last three weeks, my colleagues and I have gone to the federal courthouse in McAllen, Texas, seven miles from the Mexican border. We arrive no later than 7:45 a.m., pass the metal detectors at the security check, and make sure to get to the eighth floor by 8:00.
By that time, the courtroom is already nearly full. On a typical morning, some 70 to 80 men and women are brought to court and put in handcuffs with shackles around their ankles. The vast majority are first-time border crossers. A public defender asks the group whether any are traveling with children and have been separated from them. Struggling with the handcuffs, it’s not easy for them to raise their hands. Sometimes, to answer in the affirmative, they must stand up.
The criminal proceeding begins at 9 a.m., and depending on how many separated parents are there each day, we have maybe five to seven minutes to speak with each parent beforehand. Hopefully, that’s enough to get the most basic information about them and the children taken from them — names, dates of birth, country of origin. They’re frightened and confused, and most don’t speak English. I tell them in Spanish that I’m a lawyer working on family separations and that I can try to help get their children back.
The parents ask when they’re going to see their children again. I try to calm them and tell them I’ll do my best to make sure it happens soon. The truth is I don’t have an answer. And I can’t make a promise I’m not sure I can keep.
The stories they tell are all devastating. But as a father, I was really hit in the gut by one a few weeks back.
I was talking with a single father whose wife left him several years ago when his daughter was three years old. They were fleeing violence in Honduras in search of a better life. But it didn’t work out that way. Once they crossed the border, the United States charged him with a crime, and agents told him they had to take his daughter away.
As they were leaving, his daughter asked where she was going. What can a father possibly tell his daughter in that situation?
Like the character in “Life is Beautiful,” this dad’s priority was to try to shield his little girl from pain. So he made up a story: He told her she was going to summer camp.
The girl, only seven years old and oblivious to her plight, walked away with a big smile. She was so excited for her first day of camp.
I’ve encountered so many awful stories like this that I’ve become desensitized. I almost see them as normal.
The first time a crying parent asked me when she would see her son again, I struggled to find an answer. But many weeks after the Trump administration started its zero tolerance policy — and hundreds of separated families later — I’ve become hardened to these conversations because I’ve had them over and over, day after day.
Plus, there’s no time for those feelings in the courtroom. We have to get as much information as we can, and it’s a race against the clock. If we don’t quickly complete the intake and interview process to later track them down, no one except the government will know that a separation occurred. And without the information about these children and their parents, how will we look for them? How will anyone?
Of 381 families we interviewed, 278 are still separated. At least two children have been deported without their parents. And at least five parents have been deported without their children, who remain in the United States. This is only a fraction of the more than 2,000 families that remain separated today.
Parents seeking asylum and safety for their families need meaningful access to attorneys and the courts. They shouldn’t be forced into a Hobson’s choice between seeing their children again or pursuing their asylum claim. Some of the parents we’ve interviewed tell us these illegal pressures from the government are increasing.
The way to end this nightmare is to rescind the zero tolerance policy that criminalizes immigrants and asylum seekers. The solution is not to detain these families indefinitely as the government currently plans. Rather, immigrants and asylum seekers should be allowed to pursue their cases in immigration court without being detained, as was done under the Family Case Management Program, which was highly successful in terms of people appearing for their court hearings, which this administration terminated.
In effect, the administration can end this crisis with the stroke of a pen today. Until then, my colleagues and I will be in the courthouse bright and early tomorrow morning, and each one thereafter.
Dozens of frightened immigrants and a courtroom full of heartbreaking stories will be waiting for us at 8:00."
Opinion | The Legacy of Monticello’s Black First Family - The New York Times - We did not get this light by accident. It was by rape by the those enemies of ours many celebrated yesterday.
We did not get this light by accident. It was by rape by the those enemies of ours many celebrated yesterday.
“Plantation wives in the slave-era South resorted to willful blindness when their husbands conscripted black women as sexual servants and filled the household with mixed-race children who inevitably resembled the master. Thomas Jefferson’s wife, Martha, was several years dead when he set off on this path, fathering at least six children with Martha’s enslaved black half sister, Sally Hemings. The task of dissembling fell to the remaining white Jeffersons, who aided in a cover-up that held sway for two centuries and feigned ignorance of a relationship between Jefferson and Hemings that lasted nearly four decades.
The foundation that owns Monticello, Jefferson’s mountaintop home near Charlottesville, Va., broke with this long-running deception last month when it unveiled several new exhibits that underscore the centrality of slavery on the founder’s estate. The most important — in the South Wing, where Sally Hemings once lived — explores the legacy of the enslaved woman whom some historians view as the president’s second wife and who skillfully prevailed on him to free from slavery the four Jefferson-Hemings children who lived into adulthood.
The exhibit underscores the fact that the Jefferson estate was an epicenter of racial mixing in early Virginia, making it impossible to draw clear lines between black and white. It reminds contemporary Americans that slave owners like the Jeffersons often held their own black children, aunts, uncles and cousins in bondage. And it illustrates how enslaved near-white relations used proximity to privilege to demystify whiteness while taking critical measure of the relatives who owned them.
Masters who maintained black “second families” are a familiar presence in the chronicles of the slave trade. Madison Hemings, the third of the Jefferson-Hemings children who survived into adulthood, offered his account of second-family life at Monticello in a poignant, strikingly detailed memoir published in an Ohio newspaper in 1873. He explains that his mother was born of a union between Martha’s widowed father, John Wayles, and his enslaved lover, Elizabeth Hemings, and was conveyed to Jefferson as property when Wayles died. It is widely known that Sally Hemings traveled to France in 1787 — Jefferson was serving as a diplomat there — and learned French while serving in the family’s household on the eve of the revolution.
We learn from Madison’s account that during that time in France, Sally Hemings became pregnant with Jefferson’s child and considered remaining in the country, where she would be a free woman, instead of returning to slavery in Virginia. She agreed to return only after Jefferson promised her “extraordinary privileges’’ and gave a “solemn pledge” to free any children the two might have once they reached adulthood. Jefferson kept his pledge, making Sally Hemings the only enslaved parent at Monticello to see all of her children freed.
Thomas Jefferson's bedroom, left; and bedroom of John Hemmings, brother of Sally Hemings, and his wife, Priscilla.
This negotiation suggests that the 16-year-old Sally Hemings had considerable insight into Jefferson’s mind and some sense of what he could be obligated to do. She saw her surviving children — Beverly, Harriet, Madison and Eston — reap what the historian Annette Gordon-Reed describes as “an almost 50-year head start on emancipation, escaping the system that had engulfed their ancestors and millions of others.”
That Jefferson conceded to Sally Hemings suggests that he did not view her through the abjectly racist lens he deploys against African-Americans in his infamous book “Notes on the State of Virginia.” Musing on this subject two decades ago, the historian Winthrop Jordan suggested that her training as a lady’s maid, lightly colored skin and diction that probably matched Jefferson’s — if not his late wife’s — narrowed the social distance between them. Sally Hemings would have been keenly aware of this.
Madison refers to Jefferson affectionately as “father” throughout his memoir, noting that he was “uniformly kind to all about him,” but as the historian Jan Ellen Lewis has written, “The Hemings children knew … that they were the disfavored children of a loving and powerful man.” Indeed, Madison depicts his family at Monticello as lying beyond the reach of the warmth and congeniality that Jefferson reflexively extended to his white grandchildren.
Madison seemed genuinely and affectionately interested in his white relatives — who never acknowledged their black relations and referred to them as slaves, “these parties” or “the yellow children.” He cast a gimlet eye on James Madison’s wife, Dolley, who was visiting Monticello when he was born and promised Sally Hemings a gift in exchange for naming him Madison: “But like many promises of white folks to the slaves,” he said dryly, “she never gave my mother anything.”
The interracial tableau that played out at Monticello was familiar in the plantation South. The 19th-century diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut, for example, likened plantation husbands to “the patriarchs of old’’ who lived openly in one household with their wives and their concubines, noting bitterly that “the mulattoes one sees in every family partly resemble the white children.” White widowers like John Wayles and Thomas Jefferson who forged relationships with black women they owned were less controversial but equally common. Nevertheless, historians ridiculed Madison’s story, dismissing him as a social-climbing fabulist.
His credibility was gradually restored during the late 20th century, after historians like Fawn Brodie, Winthrop Jordan and Gordon-Reed re-evaluated this issue in light of corroborating evidence that forced Monticello to ratify Jefferson’s paternity. Fittingly, the new exhibit tells the Sally Hemings story through Madison’s testimony.
This places Sally Hemings at the center of plantation life, where she clearly belongs. It also shows that Jefferson’s baronial mountaintop estate was just like any other plantation when it came to matters of sexual conduct.”
We did not get this light by accident. It was by rape by the those enemies of ours many celebrated yesterday.“Plantation wives in the slave-era South resorted to willful blindness when their husbands conscripted black women as sexual servants and filled the household with mixed-race children who inevitably resembled the master. Thomas Jefferson’s wife, Martha, was several years dead when he set off on this path, fathering at least six children with Martha’s enslaved black half sister, Sally Hemings. The task of dissembling fell to the remaining white Jeffersons, who aided in a cover-up that held sway for two centuries and feigned ignorance of a relationship between Jefferson and Hemings that lasted nearly four decades.The foundation that owns Monticello, Jefferson’s mountaintop home near Charlottesville, Va., broke with this long-running deception last month when it unveiled several new exhibits that underscore the centrality of slavery on the founder’s estate. The most important — in the South Wing, where Sally Hemings once lived — explores the legacy of the enslaved woman whom some historians view as the president’s second wife and who skillfully prevailed on him to free from slavery the four Jefferson-Hemings children who lived into adulthood.ImageVisitors wait to take a “Slavery at Monticello” tour outside a recreation of the cabin of John Hemmings.The exhibit underscores the fact that the Jefferson estate was an epicenter of racial mixing in early Virginia, making it impossible to draw clear lines between black and white. It reminds contemporary Americans that slave owners like the Jeffersons often held their own black children, aunts, uncles and cousins in bondage. And it illustrates how enslaved near-white relations used proximity to privilege to demystify whiteness while taking critical measure of the relatives who owned them.Masters who maintained black “second families” are a familiar presence in the chronicles of the slave trade. Madison Hemings, the third of the Jefferson-Hemings children who survived into adulthood, offered his account of second-family life at Monticello in a poignant, strikingly detailed memoir published in an Ohio newspaper in 1873. He explains that his mother was born of a union between Martha’s widowed father, John Wayles, and his enslaved lover, Elizabeth Hemings, and was conveyed to Jefferson as property when Wayles died. It is widely known that Sally Hemings traveled to France in 1787 — Jefferson was serving as a diplomat there — and learned French while serving in the family’s household on the eve of the revolution.We learn from Madison’s account that during that time in France, Sally Hemings became pregnant with Jefferson’s child and considered remaining in the country, where she would be a free woman, instead of returning to slavery in Virginia. She agreed to return only after Jefferson promised her “extraordinary privileges’’ and gave a “solemn pledge” to free any children the two might have once they reached adulthood. Jefferson kept his pledge, making Sally Hemings the only enslaved parent at Monticello to see all of her children freed.EDITORS’ PICKSThe Most Powerful Conservative Donors You’ve Never Heard OfSafety Concerns Grow as Inmates Are Guarded by Teachers and SecretariesThe A.C.L.U. vs. Trump: 170 Legal Actions (So Far)ImageThomas Jefferson's bedroom, left; and bedroom of John Hemmings, brother of Sally Hemings, and his wife, Priscilla.This negotiation suggests that the 16-year-old Sally Hemings had considerable insight into Jefferson’s mind and some sense of what he could be obligated to do. She saw her surviving children — Beverly, Harriet, Madison and Eston — reap what the historian Annette Gordon-Reed describes as “an almost 50-year head start on emancipation, escaping the system that had engulfed their ancestors and millions of others.”That Jefferson conceded to Sally Hemings suggests that he did not view her through the abjectly racist lens he deploys against African-Americans in his infamous book “Notes on the State of Virginia.” Musing on this subject two decades ago, the historian Winthrop Jordan suggested that her training as a lady’s maid, lightly colored skin and diction that probably matched Jefferson’s — if not his late wife’s — narrowed the social distance between them. Sally Hemings would have been keenly aware of this.Madison refers to Jefferson affectionately as “father” throughout his memoir, noting that he was “uniformly kind to all about him,” but as the historian Jan Ellen Lewis has written, “The Hemings children knew … that they were the disfavored children of a loving and powerful man.” Indeed, Madison depicts his family at Monticello as lying beyond the reach of the warmth and congeniality that Jefferson reflexively extended to his white grandchildren.Madison seemed genuinely and affectionately interested in his white relatives — who never acknowledged their black relations and referred to them as slaves, “these parties” or “the yellow children.” He cast a gimlet eye on James Madison’s wife, Dolley, who was visiting Monticello when he was born and promised Sally Hemings a gift in exchange for naming him Madison: “But like many promises of white folks to the slaves,” he said dryly, “she never gave my mother anything.”ImageInside a recreated cabin at Monticello.The interracial tableau that played out at Monticello was familiar in the plantation South. The 19th-century diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut, for example, likened plantation husbands to “the patriarchs of old’’ who lived openly in one household with their wives and their concubines, noting bitterly that “the mulattoes one sees in every family partly resemble the white children.” White widowers like John Wayles and Thomas Jefferson who forged relationships with black women they owned were less controversial but equally common. Nevertheless, historians ridiculed Madison’s story, dismissing him as a social-climbing fabulist.His credibility was gradually restored during the late 20th century, after historians like Fawn Brodie, Winthrop Jordan and Gordon-Reed re-evaluated this issue in light of corroborating evidence that forced Monticello to ratify Jefferson’s paternity. Fittingly, the new exhibit tells the Sally Hemings story through Madison’s testimony.This places Sally Hemings at the center of plantation life, where she clearly belongs. It also shows that Jefferson’s baronial mountaintop estate was just like any other plantation when it came to matters of sexual conduct.”