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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Opinion | Aaron Sorkin: An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg - The New York Times


In 2010, I wrote “The Social Network” and I know you wish I hadn’t. You protested that the film was inaccurate and that Hollywood didn’t understand that some people build things just for the sake of building them. (We do understand that — we do it every day.)

I didn’t push back on your public accusation that the movie was a lie because I’d had my say in the theaters, but you and I both know that the screenplay was vetted to within an inch of its life by a team of studio lawyers with one client and one goal: Don’t get sued by Mark Zuckerberg.

It was hard not to feel the irony while I was reading excerpts from your recent speech at Georgetown University, in which you defended — on free speech grounds — Facebook’s practice of posting demonstrably false ads from political candidates. I admire your deep belief in free speech. I get a lot of use out of the First Amendment. Most important, it’s a bedrock of our democracy and it needs to be kept strong.

But this can’t possibly be the outcome you and I want, to have crazy lies pumped into the water supply that corrupt the most important decisions we make together. Lies that have a very real and incredibly dangerous effect on our elections and our lives and our children’s lives.

Don’t say Larry Flynt. Not even Larry Flynt would say Larry Flynt. This isn’t the same as pornography, which people don’t rely upon for information. Last year, over 40 percent of Americans said they got news from Facebook. Of course the problem could be solved by those people going to a different news source, or you could decide to make Facebook a reliable source of public information.

The tagline on the artwork for “The Social Network” read, in 2010, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” That number sounds quaint just nine years later because one-third of the planet uses your website now.

And right now, on your website, is an ad claiming that Joe Biden gave the Ukrainian attorney general a billion dollars not to investigate his son. Every square inch of that is a lie and it’s under your logo. That’s not defending free speech, Mark, that’s assaulting truth.

You and I want speech protections to make sure no one gets imprisoned or killed for saying or writing something unpopular, not to ensure that lies have unfettered access to the American electorate.

Even after the screenplay for “The Social Network” satisfied the standards of Sony’s legal department, we sent the script — as promised over a handshake — to a group of senior lieutenants at your company and invited them to give notes. (I was asked if I would change the name of Harvard University to something else and if Facebook had to be called Facebook.)

After we’d shot the movie, we arranged a private screening of an early cut for your chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg. Ms. Sandberg stood up in the middle of the screening, turned to the producers who were standing in the back of the room, and said, “How can you do this to a kid?” (You were 27 years old at the time, but all right, I get it.)

I hope your C.O.O. walks into your office, leans in (as she suggested we do in her best selling book), and says, “How can we do this to tens of millions of kids? Are we really going to run an ad that claims Kamala Harris ran dog fights out of the basement of a pizza place while Elizabeth Warren destroyed evidence that climate change is a hoax and the deep state sold meth to Rashida Tlaib and Colin Kaepernick?”

The law hasn’t been written yet — yet — that holds carriers of user-generated internet content responsible for the user-generated content they carry, just like movie studios, television networks and book, magazine and newspaper publishers. Ask Peter Thiel, who funded a series of lawsuits against Gawker, including an invasion of privacy suit that bankrupted the site and forced it to close down. (You should have Mr. Thiel’s number in your phone because he was an early investor in Facebook.)

Most people don’t have the resources to employ a battalion of fact checkers. Nonetheless, while testifying before a congressional committee two weeks ago, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked you the following: “Do you see a potential problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?” Then, when she pushed you further, asking you if Facebook would or would not take down lies, you answered: “Congresswoman, in most cases, in a democracy, I believe people should be able to see for themselves what politicians they may or may not vote for are saying and judge their character for themselves.”

Now you tell me. If I’d known you felt that way, I’d have had the Winklevoss twins invent Facebook.

Aaron Sorkin is a playwright and screenwriter. He won an Academy Award for “The Social Network” and, most recently, adapted “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the stage."

Opinion | Aaron Sorkin: An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg - The New York Times

Joe: Why Is GOP Trying To Track Down Whistleblower Identity? | Morning J...

ScreenTimes: Harriet

Trump nominee breaks down, cries when called out for his bigotry

White House Intentionally Left Words Out Of The Trump-Ukraine Transcript

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Rashida Tlaib SLAMS Buttigieg's Medicare For All Remarks. She is 100% correct, Buttigieg is a privileged idiot.

The 'AOC effect' is real – and it's helping wean the Democrats off corporate donors

The massive crowd had gathered in Queens because Ocasio-Cortez had endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. The Sanders campaign had bet on the so-called “AOC effect” buoying his candidacy, and Ocasio-Cortez’s political clout was on full display that afternoon. But the real evidence that the “AOC effect” will deliver returns for Democrats and progressives in coming years is not in Sanders’ resilience but in the power of local progressives like Cabán, who are changing expectations about what is possible in their cities and states nationwide.It goes without saying that Ocasio-Cortez is both a catalyst and result of the left’s invigoration since 2016. Nationwide, many other primary challengers have attempted to unseat Democratic incumbents they say are milquetoast or bought off by corporate donors. Unlike Ocasio-Cortez, many have lost their primary bids. If we think short-term, those candidates failed.”Earlier this month, Tiffany Cabán stood on a stage in Queensbridge Park, New York City, and told roughly 26,000 Bernie Sanders supporters that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had inspired her to run for office. This year, Cabán, a 31-year-old public defender, ran in the Democratic primary for Queens district attorney on a platform calling for serious criminal justice reform. Cabán lost by the slimmest of margins, 60 votes, to the Queens borough president, Melissa Katz, the favorite of the Queens political machine and its real-estate developer patrons.

But if we think long-term, those progressive challengers have paved the way for future wins. Dozens of progressive challengers have already filed to run against Democratic congressional incumbents in 2020. Many more are challenging incumbents at the city and state level. It is too soon to say how those challengers will fare, or what effect they will have on Democrats’ chances of regaining power in the immediate term. But the long-term success of the Democratic party, the progressive movement and the nation will only be sharpened by primary challengers who stake out a moral ground and speak plainly about how much we have to lose if we don’t repair our corrupt political system.
For years, Democratic party officials and candidates across the country have relied on corporate patrons such as energy companies. As a result, many Democratic incumbents, along with their Republican colleagues, have obliged their donors and stymied legislative action on problems such as climate change. Progressive challengers are making sure that nobody takes that for granted any more.
Take the candidacy of Yasmine Taeb in Virginia. This year, in the Democratic primary, Taeb ran against Dick Saslaw, who has represented Virginia’s 35th district in the state senate since 1980 and hadn’t faced a primary challenger since that first race. Saslaw, the state senate minority leader, has received at least $363,000 in donations from the state’s largest utility energy company and a major political donor, Dominion Energy. Taeb made Saslaw’s cozy relationship with Dominion a central theme of her campaign.
Saslaw eked out a win with 48.6% of the primary votes. But Taeb helped achieve something important: last month, the Virginia Democratic party announced that it would no longer accept donations from energy utilities like Dominion.
The change did not come from Taeb’s candidacy alone. Like Ocasio-Cortez, Taeb was one person working within a movement. For years now, activist groups like Activate Virginia have been agitating to get Dominion money out of politics. Tom Perriello made the issue central to his own 2017 primary bid for governor. Countless people working untold hours across the state helped wrest the Democratic party’s priorities from its corporate donors.

In another example, last year, the Florida Democratic party decided to stop accepting funding from private prison companies. Those companies, like Geo Group, which has received multiple federal prison contracts expected to reap profits of at least $664m, have donated large sums to the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), which pushes anti-immigrant legislation that makes it easier for Ice to arrest people, and fill their prisons, increasing their profits. A former executive director of the Florida Democratic party now works for the lobbying firm Ballard Partners, run by Trump’s top 2016 fundraiser, whose recent clients include Geo Groupan energy company that is a major Republican donor, and the government of Turkey. That the current iteration of the Florida Democratic party finally took a strong stance against private prisons because of local party activists’ demands represents a sea change.
Demands for politicians to sever ties with corporations are more popular among Americans than the Democratic party had long assumed. For years, prevailing Democratic strategists believed that they could strike a balance between the competing factions of their base and also appeal to swing voters by offering candidates perceived as centrist, as if the party could offer a median political figure that everyone would like.
But political science research has found that there’s less of a “mushy middle” in American politics; rather there are lots of people for whom neither of the parties’ platforms is satisfying because they simultaneously hold far-right and far-left views. One 2017 study by the Voter Study Group found that only 26.5% of the 2016 electorate held right-of-center views on economic policy. In addition, roughly two-thirds of Americans across the political spectrum say they want major political donors to have less influence. That means that progressives’ rallying cries about the corrosive effects of money in politics are less divisive than received wisdom would have us believe.
If Americans don’t want political parties or candidates for office to be reliant on mega-donors, they need to know that just voting will not be enough. Ocasio-Cortez’s meteoric rise was the result of the hard work and commitment of people in the Bronx and Queens, and national strategists from groups like Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress.
While national pundits will spend the next few weeks trying to decide whether “the AOC effect” will be enough to catapult Sanders’ presidential candidacy, organizers and volunteers across the country are using Ocasio-Cortez’s example – and the example of their local candidates – as evidence that it is not naive or deluded to think that candidates can win through concentrated organizing, while advocating for policies that prioritize people over corporate donors and political machines.”The 'AOC effect' is real – and it's helping wean the Democrats off corporate donors

How the Trump Administration Is Privatizing the Detention of Migrant Children

(SAN BENITO, Texas) — On a recent day in a remodeled brick church in the Rio Grande Valley, a caregiver tried to soothe a toddler, offering him a sippy cup. The adult knew next to nothing about the little 3-year-old whose few baby words appeared to be Portuguese. Shelter staff had tried desperately to find his family, calling the Brazilian consulate and searching Facebook.

Nearby, infants in strollers were rolled through the building, pushed by workers in bright blue shirts lettered “CHS,” short for Comprehensive Health Services, Inc., the private, for-profit company paid by the U.S. government to hold some of the smallest migrant children.

Sheltering migrant children has become a growing business for the Florida-based government contractor, as the number of minors in government custody has swollen to record levels over the past two years. More than 50 babies, toddlers and teens were closely watched on this day inside the clean, well-lit shelter surrounded by chain link fences.

The children, many in matching black pants and gray sweatshirts, are officially under the custody of the federal government. But a joint investigation by The Associated Press and FRONTLINE has found that the Trump administration has started shifting some of the caretaking of migrant children toward the private sector and contractors instead of the largely religious-based nonprofit grantees that have long cared for the kids.

So far, the only private company caring for migrant children is CHS, owned by beltway contractor Caliburn International Corp. In June, CHS held more than 20% of all migrant children in government custody. And even as the number of children has declined, the company’s government funding for their care has continued to flow. That’s partly because CHS is still staffing a large Florida facility with 2,000 workers even though the last children left in August.

Trump administration officials say CHS is keeping the Florida shelter on standby in case they need to quickly provide beds for more migrant teens, and that they’re focused on the quality of care contractors can provide, not about who profits from the work.

“It’s not something that sits with me morally as a problem,” said Jonathan Hayes, director of the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. “They’re not getting any additional money other than the normal grant or contract that would be received. We’re not paying them more just because they’re for profit.”

Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly joined Caliburn’s board this spring after stepping down from decades of government service; he joined the Trump administration as Secretary of Homeland Security, where he backed the idea of taking children from their parents at the border, saying it would discourage people from trying to immigrate or seek asylum.

Critics say this means Kelly now stands to financially benefit from a policy he helped create.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who served on a federal advisory panel with Kelly, said the retired general told him first-hand that he believed enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy would serve as a deterrent.

“What’s really the motivator, the deterrence or the dollar?” said Acevedo, who signed an Aug. 14, 2019, letter with dozens of law enforcement leaders asking Trump to minimize the detention of children. “I would question that if he’s getting one dollar for that association.”

Kelly did not respond to requests for comment. But in a statement, Caliburn’s President Jim Van Dusen said: “With four decades of military and humanitarian leadership, in-depth understanding of international affairs and knowledge of current economic drivers around the world, General Kelly is a strong strategic addition to our team.”

Earlier this year after leaving government, Kelly was widely criticized by activists who spotted him in a golf cart at Homestead.

One teenage girl who spoke with AP and FRONTLINE said she and other children were constantly watched while detained inside Homestead, not allowed to touch each other, and there were alarms on the windows.

“It looks like a camp, but sometimes it seems like a jail because you feel very trapped,” said the girl, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern for her safety.

All teens were transferred out of Homestead in August after critics _ ranging from members of Congress to onsite protesters _ said holding that many migrant children in a single facility was abusive. Meanwhile CHS was getting more business housing migrant children. Today it’s operating six facilities including three “tender age” shelters in the Rio Grande Valley that can house the youngest, infants and toddlers. And CHS has plans underway to run a 500-bed shelter in El Paso, the company said.

“The United States is the country in the world that detains the most children for immigration reasons, and probably for the longest period of time. No other country comes close,” said Michael Bochenek, a Human Rights Watch attorney who serves on a United Nations research team examining the global detention of children. “To have private companies move into the area of the care and custody of children in detention-like settings is especially troubling.”

Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement runs migrant children programs by funding 46 organizations that operate more than 165 shelters and foster programs for over 67,000 migrant children who came to the U.S. on their own or were separated from parents or caregivers at the border this fiscal year.

Overall, the federal government spent a record $3.5 billion caring for migrant children over the past two years to run its shelters through both contracts and grants.

During that time, CHS swiftly moved into the business of caring for migrant children, an AP analysis of federal data found. In 2015, the company was paid $1.3 million in contracts to shelter migrant children, and so far this year the company has received almost $300 million in contracts to care for migrant kids, according to publicly available data. The company also operates some shelters under government grants.

The Obama administration also grappled with how to handle large numbers of children crossing the border. In fiscal year 2014, some 68,000 migrant kids were apprehended at the border, as compared to 72,000 this year. President Barack Obama’s head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Gil Kerlikowski said the difference between now and five years ago was how quickly the government reunited kids with their families or other sponsors.

Under Trump, the numbers of detained children grew in part due to new, strict requirements to screen every adult in a potential home, which significantly slowed reunifications until the policy ended late last year.

The government doesn’t disclose the names of individual shelters, nor how many children are in each one. But confidential government data obtained by the AP shows that in June nearly one in four migrant children in government care was housed by CHS. That included more than 2,300 teens at Homestead, Florida, and more than 500 kids in shelters in Brownsville, Los Fresnos and San Benito, Texas. For each teen held at Homestead at that time, it cost taxpayers an average $775 per day.

At the time, a total of 13,066 migrant children were being held in federally funded shelters. Those numbers have dropped sharply over the summer. By early October, HHS said there were 5,100 children in their care.

Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, who until recently helped run adult custody programs at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said some former ICE staff now work at HHS, and have brought the concept of privatization as another model for detaining migrant children. He said it mirrors a similar shift that occurred with ICE’s adult immigration detention centers, where populations soared after immigrants were moved from county jails and into for-profit, private facilities.

“The Office of Refugee Resettlement has acted like they have a kind of a shield and they don’t work with DHS. They say we are the children people, you are the enforcement people, but that is blurred now,” Lorenzen-Strait said.

After 18 years in federal service, he recently quit in frustration over concerns about government actions including the treatment of migrant children. He went to work for nonprofit Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service which places migrant children in foster homes.

“These aren’t commodities. They’re kids, and they don’t need to have big box stores serving them,” he said. “This isn’t You can’t just order up migrant care.”

At the CHS shelter in San Benito the doors are locked and the routines rarely vary. There is one case manager for every 8 children, who sleep four to a room. Spanish language signs in the hallways explain how to report abuse.

In a windowless science classroom girls are handed worksheets about natural disasters _ hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, mudslides, volcanos. For an English lesson, they can complete sentences: “Today is _____,” read one. “Tomorrow will be _____.” No one had filled them in.

“We do a little bit of verbal, ABCs, colors and months,” a veteran teacher explained. “They’ll come in here, some of them with no English.”

In their downtime some of the girls watch telenovelas, paint their nails, braid their hair. At lunchtime, there’s a clatter as some teens joke to one another across the cafeteria. Other girls stay silent.

This fall, about 50 migrant children were at San Benito, but at its peak in December, 2018, there were almost twice as many.

Melissa Aguilar, the executive director of CHS’s shelter care programs, said her trained, professional staff doesn’t separate children, they care for them.

“We’re doing the best that we possibly can,” she said, dodging a passing stroller as she led a reporter down a hallway. “The children are borrowed. They’re borrowed for our purpose, right? So a lot of times when something is borrowed, you take care of them better than you would something that is your own.”

Washburn University law professor David Rubenstein, whose research focuses on the privatization of immigration detention, sees red flags in a private business model for migrant child care. While privatization can reduce bureaucracy and make care more efficient, there are fewer ways to hold for-profit providers accountable, he said.

“The profiteering incentive comes at the cost of cutting programs or rights or treatment or conditions in these facilities,” he added. Also, having Kelly on the board “makes people mistrust government.”

“They might have gotten those contracts anyway, it’s hard to prove, but for appearances, that’s not a good look,” he said.

After Kelly stepped down as leader of the U.S. military’s Southern Command in January 2016, he joined an Obama administration advisory council that studied ICE’s continued use of privately operated immigration detention facilities for adults. Later that year, the federal government announced plans to phase out privately run prisons and further study immigration detention.

While on the committee, Kelly joined the board of DC Capital Partners, a financial firm that would go on to found Caliburn in February 2016. He stepped down from that board _ comprised of former senior diplomatic, intelligence, and military officials _ in January, 2017, divesting because President Donald Trump picked him to head the Department of Homeland Security.

Just over a year later, DC Capital Partners bought CHS, a company with a troubled past. The firm agreed in 2017 to pay out $3.8 million to settle an investigation involving allegations that it double billed and overcharged the federal government for medical services.

Despite the fraud settlement, CHS went on to win a no-bid contract to operate Homestead. At the time, federal officials said they didn’t have to open the bidding to competitors, typically the way taxpayer dollars are spent, because there was “unusual and compelling urgency.”

The government’s justification for the no-bid contract said there could be increased “industry participation” in bidding for migrant child care contracts going forward.

No-bid contracts can lead to higher costs. CHS, a contractor, typically hires locally, staffing up as quickly as it can, hiring hundreds of people through online ads and at community job fairs. In contrast, nonprofits typically are paid through grants. They have screened staffers on call, who can be flown in if a shelter needs to care for a sudden increase of children for a short period.

As a result, although Homestead temporarily closed in August, there are still about 2,000 people working there, said Hayes. In contrast, a nonprofit that operates a now-empty 500-bed shelter in Carrizo Springs, Texas, has just two security guards onsite but is ready to ramp up as needed.

CHS’s business plan going forward depends on having more kids in their shelters, according to a prospectus its parent company Caliburn filed last year to go public with a $100 million stock offering.

“In a recent shift, the U.S. federal government has started to transition to utilizing private contractors for medical and shelter maintenance,” said the prospectus. “We believe that as a result of our past performance and longstanding relationship with HHS, we are positioned to be a leading provider of these services.”

Kelly and other corporate directors including Retired Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, Retired Admiral James G. Stavridis (who resigned on Sept. 1) and Retired Rear Admiral Kathleen Martin could have received at least $100,000 a year for their service and advice, and a $200,000 bonus if the company went public.

The prospectus warned of “negative publicity” surrounding care of migrant children, past and future. Nonetheless, it said the work presents a financial opportunity.

Caliburn withdrew its proposal to go public earlier this year citing “variability in the equity markets.”

The Obama administration gave CHS its first contract at Homestead after a competitive bidding process. But when the government needed to house a new surge of children in 2016, a traditional religious-based organization was soon deemed better equipped to quickly take in children, former HHS officials said.

Maria Cancian, a former HHS deputy assistant secretary under the Obama administration, said that during their first try at Homestead, CHS could not ramp up as quickly as the government expected.

“They had promised they will have this many (beds and staff) by this date, and we don’t have very flexible standards,” said Cancian. “We had expectations around how quickly we were going to be able to ramp up and we were unable to do that.”

Nonprofit providers, however, have faced criticism of their own. Earlier this year, a review of 38 legal claims obtained by the AP — some of which have never been made public — showed taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $200 million in damages from parents who said their children were harmed while under care from nonprofit foster providers and other shelters.

Former financial executive Thomas Cartwright says separating and holding children in shelters is bad, but profiting from it is worse.

In a citizen whistleblower complaint to the SEC, Cartwright _ who wanted to use his financial acumen to advocate for social causes _ said Caliburn’s revenues could increase from $65 million in 2017 to about $275 to $325 million per year just from the child detention business. Caliburn failed to warn potential investors about the risks of “operating the only for-profit prison for children in the United States on Federal land,” he wrote.

Those undisclosed risks include a proposed law in Congress that calls for stricter background checks for childcare workers and increased federal oversight of shelters.

CHS said their profit seeking had no impact on the care the children received.

“There is a profit. There is a price incentive, but it’s not a detention incentive. The question about, ‘Is there incentive to detain children?’ Absolutely not, because that will close down the moment that there’s no children,” Aguilar said.

While CHS is the first private company providing shelter to migrant children, other private firms have been involved for more than five years in providing other services relating to the care of migrant children. The GEO Group, for example, runs several migrant family shelters. Defense contractor General Dynamics Information Technology, whose board includes Trump’s former Defense Secretary James Mattis, has contracts to review children’s case files and make sure they are reunited with their parents or in safe homes, often with other relatives. Intelligence contractor MVM, Inc. holds contracts to transport migrant children by bus, van or even airplane.

Going forward, the government plans to stand up its own facilities for migrant children and bring in providers, undefined at this point, who would get paid to run them. Site searches are underway to open shelters with about 500 beds each in Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, according to HHS spokesman Mark Weber.

The idea is, in part, a response to widespread criticism about very large shelters.

But child trauma expert Ryan Matlow at Stanford University, who has met with children inside the largest facilities, said 500 is still too large for the children’s welfare.

“I don’t think, in that sort of setting, that kids can receive the individual attention and care that they need, that’s typical of child development,” he said.

Matlow said migrants can face cumulative physical and emotional damage _from depression to heart disease _ due to the trauma of separation and detention.

Weber said the agency hopes to better manage large surges in the number of children and teens arriving at the border, which have in the past led the Obama and Trump administrations to open emergency influx shelters that lacked state licensing and full background checks.

“We’re in the process right now of looking for standard, state licensed shelters that we’d have vacant and ready to go in times of a surge,” said Weber. “When you look at the economics of standing up, closing down, all the confusion that it creates, it just is a better long-term investment for the country, and actually for the kids.”

Monday, October 28, 2019

Why We Need Medicare For All! Part 1

Trump & Syria: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

”Donald Trump at Benedict College was beneath contempt.

”Donald Trump at Benedict College was beneath contempt.

Benedict College is a historically black college in Columbia, S.C. Trump spoke there on Friday at the 2019 Second Step Presidential Justice Forum organized by the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center, a “group of over eighty African-American mayors, city, county and state officials, prosecutors and defense attorneys, political strategists, community leaders, activists, police chiefs and other law enforcement executives,” according to the group’s website.

The irony was that there are over 2,000 students at the school, yet only a handful were allowed to attend the event. The others were on lockdown, told to stay inside. Their lunches were delivered to them in their dorms.

The 20/20 group gave Trump its “Bipartisan Justice Award” for his signing of the First Step Act, criminal justice reform legislation which, among other things, allowed for the early release of a relatively small number of nonviolent federal inmates. The vast majority of inmates, however, are not federal, and therefore not affected by the law.

Still, for this group to give Trump an award of any type was an affront to anyone who has paid attention to his full record on criminal justice and to black people insisting on justice. 

As the Brennan Center for Justice pointed out in March, not only did Trump not include any money for implementing the First Step Act in his executive budget, but the budget also sought “yet again, to eliminate J.R.I., a program that provides technical assistance to states seeking to safely reform their justice systems.”

Trump doesn’t care about justice, criminal or otherwise. He cares about moments, images and monuments. He wants to be able to plaster his name across any big, important thing, stand proudly before it and take credit.

This is the same Trump who responded to the case of the Central Park Five by taking out newspaper advertisements calling for New York State to adopt the death penalty. The black and Latino boys were just teenagers at the time, and he refused to apologize or change his position on their guilt even after they were exonerated.

He consistently gushes over the morally abhorrent and dramatically racially skewed Stop-And-Frisk program in New York City. At its height, hundreds of thousands of people — mostly young black and Latino men — were being caught in this dragnet, many being stopped and frisked multiple times for no reason other than the hue of their skin, texture of their hair and ZIP code of their home.

In 2013, a federal judge ruled New York’s way of using Stop and Frisk unconstitutional because it was a “policy of indirect racial profiling.” In the last lines of her 195-page decision the judge quoted one of my columns:

“The idea of universal suspicion without individual evidence is what Americans find abhorrent and what black men in America must constantly fight. It is pervasive in policing policies — like stop-and-frisk, and … neighborhood watch — regardless of the collateral damage done to the majority of innocents. It’s like burning down a house to rid it of mice.”

And yet, Trump couldn’t let it go. In 2016, Trump said: “You understand, you have to have, in my opinion, I see what’s going on here, I see what’s going on in Chicago, I think stop-and-frisk. In New York City, it was so incredible, the way it worked.”

Chicago already had Stop and Frisk, and that city’s rate of stops was even higher than in New York. Trump wanted to nationalize Stop and Frisk to combat violence in the black community.

This is the same Trump who told a gathering of police officers that they should rough people up more when they arrest them. “Please, don’t be too nice,” he said.

This is the same Trump who repeatedly chastised N.F.L. players who knelt to protest police brutality on black people. At a political rally, he said: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these N.F.L. owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

And, as CNN reported in 2016, Trump said that “he believes the Black Lives Matter movement has in some cases helped instigate the recent killings of police officers, and suggested he might direct his future attorney general to investigate the civil rights activist group.”

Not only is he not deserving of an award, he turned the event into another self-serving political speech, complaining about the Mueller investigation and the impeachment inquiry, seemingly trying to align efforts to contain and push his corruption with the people whose lives have been crushed by the criminal justice system. Republicans like Trump bemoan victimhood, but secretly — or not so secretly — demand a slice of it.

Later in the speech, Trump made this proclamation:

“I will always fight against abuses of power from any source. And I will always champion the right to due process, the right to a fair trial, the right to good legal representation for every American, regardless of race, background, position, right?”

Wrong. This is exactly the opposite of what Trump has done. Witnessing this spectacle was like falling under the glamour of a vampire.”

Trump Booed at Game 5 of the World Series in Washington, D.C.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Why Does Only One Party Play by the Rules?

It’s that time of the campaign season when some Democrats are starting to feel — as President Jimmy Carter might have put it — malaise. They’re staring at their 2020 lineup and wondering whether it’s a guaranteed recipe for buyer’s remorse. Joe Biden is too old, Pete Buttigieg is too young, Kamala Harris is too uncertain, Bernie Sanders too unpalatable, Elizabeth Warren too unelectable.

All of which may be right. But I have an additional theory for why some Democrats are the vexed and depleted souls they seem to be these days, waking up with lead in their veins and worms in their stomachs. It boils down to this: They can’t escape the sense that they’re living by different rules.

Let me rephrase that: Democrats are acting as though there still are rules, when in fact they’re living in a political multiverse — with at least one parallel reality containing no rules at all.

What do you do when one party stakes its faith — and ultimately government itself — on observable, measurable realities while the other has made the cynical decision to cast away those principles away? How do you strategize? How do you cope?

It’s not just that President Trump serially lies in plain sight. (What’s The Washington Post’s latest tally? 13,435? Whatever: Just imagine a whirring odometer on a shuttle to Mars.) It’s that he’s surrounded by occluders and toadies, nihilist tricksters spun directly from the looms of the Marx Brothers’ imagination. (“Who you gonna believe? Me or your own eyes?”)

A raft of congressional Republicans — including (say it with me) Senator Lindsey Graham — learned that our top diplomat in Ukraine had confirmed the Trump administration’s aid-for-dirt caper, yet still insists the impeachment proceedings are a sham. The acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, acknowledged this same quid pro quo in a news conference, only to proclaim later that none of us understands English. Any public servant who dares say that two plus two just might equal four is immediately accused by Trump of radicalism, treason, witch hunting.

Compare that with President Barack Obama’s relationship with those who inconvenienced him. When James Comey, then the head of the F.B.I., made the fateful decision to announce that he’d reopened his inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s emails just days before the 2016 election, Obama could not have been especially pleased. By imperiling Clinton’s chances, Comey was imperiling Obama’s own legacy too. Yet Obama still behaved warmly toward him, according to James Stewart in his new book, “Deep State.” Why? Because “Democrats,” as Jonathan Chait explained in his review of that book, “still believed in institutions and norms.”

This idea — that Democrats still believe in norms, customs, the rather crucial notion of checks and balances, in government itself — may be the crux of the multiverse problem. Look at someone like Joe Biden, whose essential pitch (in addition to experience, incremental change, working-class-guyness) is that he can work with the men and women on the other side of the aisle.

But this suggests that compromise is an option. It doesn’t appear that the other side is much interested. You have Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, holding a Supreme Court appointment hostage for nearly a year, blocking almost all legislative debate and passing a bill to protect the 2020 elections from foreign interference only under extreme duress; the world’s “greatest deliberative body” is now a speedway for the Trump agenda. When they were in charge, you had House Republicans informally observing the Hastert rule— named for the former speaker Dennis Hastert, who was carted off to prison for paying hush money to a former student he’d sexually abused — which says bills can come to the floor only if a majority of the Republicans support them. It virtually ensures minoritarian rule.

And you have partisan news outlets with zero interest in reporting the basic facts of Trump’s corruption or the catastrophic consequences of his impulses. We’ve gone from Pax Americana to Fox Americana in the blink of an eye.

Whereas the more traditional news media, whatever their unconscious biases, do try to hold Democrats to account. Sure, let’s stipulate that there are more liberals than conservatives at these organizations. Maybe even a lot more. But it was mainstream newspapers that broke the Whitewater story, which led to an independent investigation of Bill Clinton. It was mainstream newspapers that kept Hillary Clinton’s emails on the front page in the run-up to the 2016 election. This newspaper covered Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine too — in May. These pages also ran an editorial about it. That was in 2015.

Of course Democratic politicians — all politicians — distort, gerrymander evidence, even lie and apply their greasy thumbs to the scales. (What was Bill Clinton doing on that plane with Loretta Lynch in 2016?) The question is whether their sins are occasional or habitual, whether their worldviews are Capra or Chandler. The Trumpkins are firmly in noir territory.

Now you have Trump strafing Facebook with campaign ads popping with falsehoods. Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, ran a Facebook ad with falsehoods that acknowledged they were false midway through.

Which says it all, really.

So, to repeat: What to do about this? Do you capitulate, sell your soul and resort to the same lawless tactics as your opponents? Or do you take the high road and run the risk of losing?

The only guide we have is 2018. But it’s not a bad one. What it showed was that sometimes it pays to go high. The Democrats just have to aggressively sell an honorable message.

Specifically, what the Democrats should say is: Anyone who’s not in the business of peddling the truth shouldn’t be in the business of government. Or publishing, for that matter. Trump once said that he could probably get away with murder. (And his lawyers recently, surreally, made this same case in a federal appeals court.) That’s what Mark Zuckerberg is doing on Facebook, figuratively speaking, by allowing political ads with demonstrably false content to run on his platform, no matter what other features the company rolls out.

Right now, the Democrats are badly losing the Facebook war. But it’s not too late for them to wage this fight, and in the right way. They could still campaign on the idea of a government that believes in itself — and self-evident truths, like something as basic as the size of an inaugural crowd.

It would be a declaration of values. In the Trump era, that’s not a bad place to start.

Bill Clinton speaks at Elijah Cummings's funeral

See Obama's message for elected officials at funeral

Opinion | Donald Trump’s ‘Lynching’ - The New York Times

Some of the 28 men charged in the lynching of Willie Earle celebrating their acquittal in court in Greenville, S.C., on May 21, 1947.

"Donald Trump’s ‘Lynching’

By Jamelle BouieOct. 25, 2019, 6:00 a.m. ET

"Donald Trump is reckless with words and careless with actions. There’s no evidence that he thinks deeply about anything. Which is why I was not shocked when he condemned the House impeachment inquiry as a “lynching” earlier this week.

“So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the president, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching. But we will WIN!”

More than 4,000 African-American men, women and children were lynched — burned, beaten, drowned, shot or hanged to death — between 1877 and 1950. Trump almost certainly doesn’t know this. To a president who operates as an internet troll as much as a head of state, “lynching” is just another provocation — another way to seize the national conversation in the face of bad news and criticism. And to a man who can’t see beyond his own ego, “lynching” must feel like an apt analogy for the scrutiny of his political opponents. He can’t imagine anything worse.

Trump’s behavior didn’t shock me. What did shock me was a comment from Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. When asked about the president’s “lynching” remark, Graham said the comparison was apt: “Yes, this is a lynching and in every sense this is un-American. I’ve never seen a situation in my lifetime as a lawyer where someone is accused of a major misconduct and cannot confront the accuser or call witnesses on their behalf.”

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Trump is ignorant; Graham is not. In 2005, during Graham’s first Senate term, a unanimous Senate passed a resolution apologizing to lynching victims and their descendants for the chamber’s failure to enact anti-lynching legislation. It expressed “the deepest sympathies and most solemn regrets of the Senate to the descendants of the victims of lynching, the ancestors of whom were deprived of life, human dignity, and the constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States.” It also called on the Senate to “remember the history of lynching, to ensure that these tragedies will neither be forgotten nor repeated.”

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The Senate likewise voted at the end of last year to make lynching a federal crime — another symbolic act of contrition. The vote, again, was unanimous. and Graham, again, was there. But even if he hadn’t been — and even if these votes had never happened — Graham should still know better. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit advocacy group focused on criminal and racial justice, 185 black Americans were reported lynched in South Carolina.

Graham is a native of Central, a small town in Pickens County at the northwest edge of the state. At least four of the 185 lynchings took place in the area. In 1947, eight years before Graham was born, a 24-year-old black man named Willie Earle was taken from jail — where he was held on charges of assault — and killed by a mob of white men, the last racially motivated lynching to take place in the state. A generation earlier, in 1912, a black teenager named Brooks Gordon was lynched for allegedly shooting at a white woman while she drew water from a spring. Twenty-two years before that, in 1890, Henry Johnson was killed after he was accused of rape. Another black man accused of assault — his name is lost to history — was lynched in 1891.

No, Graham did not live through this era. But his parents did, and the violence of that period marks the place he calls home. It marks the entire region and state. As a lawmaker who represents that state — who represents families and communities upended by racial terrorism past and present — Graham has a particular responsibility to that history. He owes his constituents a degree of sensitivity, an awareness of the weight of a word like “lynching.”

Graham has rejected those obligations. Instead, he’s content to affirm President Trump’s endless sense of his own victimhood. On Thursday, Graham introduced a resolution in the Senate to condemn the impeachment inquiry in the House. He will say anything to defend the president, even if it means minimizing one of the worst crimes this nation has perpetrated on its own citizens. Graham hasn’t just embraced the president, he’s embraced Trump’s total shamelessness — his absolute failure to hold himself accountable to any worthwhile standard of character.

The day before Trump and Graham made their comments, the Emmett Till Memorial Commission in Mississippi erected its fourth sign marking the spot on the Tallahatchie River where, in the summer of 1955, Till’s body was found after he was kidnapped, tortured and lynched. The three previous signs had been either stolen or vandalized and two were riddled with bullets in displays of anger and contempt. The new sign is made of steel.

The reason to condemn Trump and Graham for their “lynching” remarks is not to score a partisan point or because it will make a difference in their language or behavior. It’s because we haven’t actually resolved the trauma of the past. Historical spaces are still contested. The scars are still present."

Opinion | Donald Trump’s ‘Lynching’ - The New York Times

Republicans Can’t Defend Trump’s Corrupt Abuses of Power: A Closer Look

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Opinion | Donald Trump, Life of a Zombie Party - The New York Times

President Trump speaking at the Young Black Leadership Summit at the White House this month.

"Donald Trump, Life of a Zombie Party

By Charles M. Blow  Oct. 23, 2019

And an army is blindly following.

Oct. 4 was an interesting day.

It was a week and a half after the Democratic-led House opened a formal impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, following a whistle-blower’s complaint alleging that he corruptly pressured Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son.

Between the opening of the inquiry and Oct. 4, the White House released a summary of a phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s president, which only seemed to confirm the whistle-blower’s allegations. House Democrats continued to come out in favor of the investigation. And, on Oct. 3, Trump in broad daylight, in front of a gaggle of reporters, openly asked Ukraine and China to investigate Biden.

Impeachment at that point was looking almost inevitable. Trump’s abuse of power in this instance was irrefutable. Indeed, it was being affirmed by the abuser himself.

So, it was an odd bit of scheduling that throngs of young black conservatives arrived at the White House on Oct. 4 for the so-called Young Black Leadership Summit, apparently a brainchild of the brainwashed racial quisling Candace Owens, who once called Black Lives Matter protesters “a bunch of whiny toddlers, pretending to be oppressed for attention.”

Trump took the mic before the crowd in the East Room and soon called on Owens to speak. She introduced the topic of the moment and expressed her stance: “Let me say this: The media — the audacity of them to think that they’re going to impeach our president.” The audience booed. Owens continued: “No. It’s not happening. It’s absolutely not happening. Not under our watch. We need to make sure we fight for this man — the one man who is standing up for black America, we are going to fight for, guys. We have to keep it going.” The audience clapped.

adore him. As Williams put it:

“First of all, I just want to say I love President Donald J. Trump.”

The audience applauded.

“The media is attacking him. But when they attack him, they are attacking us.”

The audience applauded again.

“Because he is out here fighting for us. And they are harassing you, Mr. President, so they are harassing me.”

The audience applauded yet again, as a wide Cheshire cat grin spread across Trump’s face and he patted Williams on the arm.

This idea — that Trump is the embodiment of Republican voters and a personification of their ambitions and fears, and therefore, attempts to punish him are spiritually transferable and translatable as an attack on individual Republicans and the party as a whole — seemed to seize Trump’s imagination as a perfect way of positioning the impeachment inquiry.

At a rally in Dallas nearly two weeks later, Trump tried out the message before a live audience:

“Now they continue the outrageous impeachment witch hunt with nothing. With nothing. They come after me, but what they’re really doing is they’re coming after the Republican Party. And what they’re really, really doing is they’re coming after and fighting you, and we never lose.”

The crowd applauded as Trump pursed his lips and surveyed the success of how the line had landed. It was a winner. It was a keeper.

Trump was making himself into the voodoo doll of conservative politics: Whatever pain he felt, his supporters would feel, and they would object to it in unison.

There is no separation between the Republican Party and Donald Trump. In fact, Trump killed the old Republican Party and now he alone animates the zombie party that lurched forward after its death.

This is Trump’s army. And he is warning his congressional generals, the lawmakers who protect and defend him, that there will be no defections, lest the army turn on them.

At least since August, Trump has been tweeting his stratospheric approval rating among Republicans every few days. That is less about informing than warning. This message is to Republican politicians, those who will hold his fate in their hands as the impeachment process unfolds, to stay in line and toe the line.

This week, Trump said of his impending impeachment: “All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching. But we will WIN!”

It was not “I” will win, but “we” will, because this isn’t happening to me alone but to us. These Democrats — the women, the minorities, the Jewish, the gay — are torturing the white man. And he inverted the language of anti-black white supremacist terror to make the hollow point of white supremacist patriarchal victimhood.

White men have always made the rules, and the most powerful and most wealthy have lived above them. Holding this white man to account is a threat to white power, to his power, to his supporters’ power.

For Trump’s supporters, he has made his malpractice appear in their mirrors.

Only in the strange, upside down days in which we now live could a young black comedian offer the ideal framing of Trump’s message of white supremacist solidarity."

Opinion | Donald Trump, Life of a Zombie Party - The New York Times

Republicans Storm Impeachment Hearing After Bombshell Testimony: A Close...

Opinion | Why Did Republicans Storm the Capitol? They’re Running Out of Options - The New York Times

House Republicans talking to reporters after leaving the House SCIF.

"Why Did Republicans Storm the Capitol? They’re Running Out of Options

By The Editorial Board     Oct. 23, 2019

As more testimony is disclosed, it becomes clearer that President Trump’s only defense against impeachment is to distract from the facts.

Around 10 a.m. Wednesday, a gaggle of conservative House members on Capitol Hill staged a “protest,” barging into the secure room — called a SCIF — where members of three House committees were preparing to hear testimony from Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense.

Shepherding the demonstrators was Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, one of President Trump’s fiercest apologists, whose account live-tweeted the stunt: “BREAKING: I led over 30 of my colleagues into the SCIF where Adam Schiff is holding secret impeachment depositions. Still inside — more details to come.”

This was not a fringe move. Representative Steve Scalise, the minority whip, was among the sea of dark-blue suits that surged into the hearing room.

Chaos ensued. There were shouting matches. Some of the invading members brought along their cellphones, though they are prohibited inside the secure room. Ms. Cooper’s testimony was delayed, and Democrats called in the sergeant-at-arms for help restoring order.

Some time after 2 p.m., Mr. Scalise and several of his fellow protesters re-emerged to complain to the assembled media about the “Soviet-style tactics” of the inquiry.

The entire spectacle was a circus — which was the point. This was a publicity stunt aimed at delegitimizing the impeachment investigation that Mr. Trump and his defenders have portrayed as a partisan inquisition. If a few rules and national security precautions got violated along the way, so be it. Mr. Gaetz & Co. were happy to oblige a president who has demanded to be protected at all costs.

In fact, Mr. Trump is said to have given them a thumbs-up the day before. On Tuesday, he “met with about 30 House Republicans at the White House to talk about the situation in Syria and the impeachment inquiry,” at which time the members “shared their plans to storm into the secure room,” Bloomberg News reported. Mr. Trump told them he thought it was a good idea.

Why wouldn’t he? As more and more testimony is disclosed, it becomes clearer that the president’s only defense against impeachment is to distract from the facts and complain about how unfairly he’s being treated.

So many of the defenses he floated early on have crumbled under the weight of subsequent revelations.

He started out insisting that his July 25 phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, a central element of the impeachment inquiry, was “perfect” — only to have the notes on the conversation released by the White House reveal that he had told Mr. Zelensky to open a (baseless) investigation of a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, whose son had done business in Ukraine.

Mr. Trump has tried to spin what he did as a good thing. “As the President of the United States, I have an absolute right, perhaps even a duty, to investigate, or have investigated, CORRUPTION, and that would include asking, or suggesting, other Countries to help us out!” he tweeted on Oct. 3.

Except that, as members of his own administration continue to clarify, this wasn’t a broad effort to root out corruption. It was a targeted campaign to pressure a foreign government to interfere with an American election on Mr. Trump’s behalf — apparently by holding hostage nearly $400 million in military aid.

He and many of his defenders have clung to the idea that there was no “quid pro quo,” a position rebutted on Tuesday by the testimony of William Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine.

Faced with this jaw-dropping account from the president’s own envoy, the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, dismissed it as part of “a coordinated smear campaign from far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution.”

On Wednesday the president went further. He called Mr. Taylor “Never Trumper Diplomat Bill Taylor” in one tweet and declared in another: “The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats. Watch out for them, they are human scum!”

But as the evidence piles up, it gets harder to paint this as some groundless conspiracy. So Mr. Trump has resorted to the schoolyard taunt: You can’t get me!

In a Tuesday evening appearance on Fox News, Matt Whitaker, a former acting attorney general, asserted there were no grounds for impeachment because “abuse of power” — the essence of an impeachable offense — “is not a crime.”

That added to the uneasy sense that the president’s main impeachment defense may be that he is beyond the reach of the law.

On Monday, after a bipartisan outcry had prompted Mr. Trump to cancel plans to host the Group of 7 summit at his Miami golf resort next year, he griped to reporters about “this phony emoluments clause” — a reference to a part of the Constitution designed to limit corruption.

In federal court on Wednesday, his lawyer, while arguing that New York City prosecutors should not be allowed to obtain the president’s tax records, said that Mr. Trump cannot be prosecuted, or even investigated, for any offense — including shooting someone “in the middle of Fifth Avenue” — while in office.

Despite claims by the president and his die-hards, Democrats are not conducting “secret,” “Soviet-style” proceedings. At this stage, witness interviews are being conducted in private, with public hearings to be held later. This may not please Republicans, but it is not a sinister miscarriage of justice.

There are, in fact, plenty of good reasons Democrats are operating behind closed doors for now. The House’s impeachment inquiry is not a trial. It is more akin to a grand jury proceeding, where information is gathered and considered for the purposes of handing up an indictment. Any trial would be held in the Senate, with Mr. Trump represented by lawyers able to make all the substantive and process challenges he liked.

On Wednesday, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio complained that Republicans were demonstrating out of frustration “at the idea that they can’t be a part of this.” Nonsense. Republicans are in every hearing room that Democrats are in and able to ask their own questions. During Mr. Taylor’s testimony Tuesday, Mr. Jordan had praised the Republican lawyers for their questioning of the witness.

Accusing Democrats of mishandling the process certainly fits with Mr. Trump’s enduring sense of victimhood. The strategy also works to inflame the party’s base against the opposing team, while allowing Republican lawmakers to avoid defending Mr. Trump’s behavior."

But, mostly, it’s about all they’ve got."

Opinion | Why Did Republicans Storm the Capitol? They’re Running Out of Options - The New York Times