Rainy Miscellany (Open Thread)

Yesterday, as Parkland students held “die-ins” at Publix supermarkets, the popular Florida-based grocery chain announced that it was suspending all political campaign donations. This is huge fucking deal. Publix is Florida’s largest employer. It had donated more than $600K to self-proclaimed “NRA sellout” Adam Putnam’s campaign for governor.

Putnam has been a fixture in the FL GOP for ages and currently is the state’s commissioner of agriculture. I think most folks expected him to skate to the GOP gubernatorial nomination, but Trump stuck his big fat snout into the race by endorsing a Republican congressman, and now all the Republican contenders are trying to out-wingnut each other by humping guns and huffing Dear Leader’s farts. Putnam will likely still win, but it’s not a sure thing.

Anyway, the capitulation of Publix is a big relief for me personally since I shop there and was not looking forward to boycotting it over the holiday weekend. Gonna make a big pot of red sauce since we’re on the dirty side of a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico and thus will not be able to cook out.

In other news, it looks like Ireland threw off the shackles of the Catholic Church and decisively defeated the abortion ban in yesterday’s referendum. Well done, Ireland! Aside from robbing women of their autonomy, the ban had led to needless deaths, such as that of Indian national Savita Halappanavar.

From what I heard on NPR, no one saw the amendment going down by a big margin, which it seems has happened. May oppressors worldwide — and here at home! — continue to be surprised by an active citizenry!

Speaking of which, maybe call your senators and congresscritters about the hideous, shameful Nazi-like behavior of ICE?

This morning, Trump is absurdly trying to gaslight people about a cruel initiative publicly announced by his own minions to appease Trump:

What a fucking lunatic, but the silver lining may be that even that amoral cockroach dimly senses that Americans are ashamed of the way ICE is treating families who are seeking asylum.

Anyhoo, open thread!

The Fire This Time

Some folks say Trump is just the logical extension of a white nationalist strain in the Republican Party that began with Nixon’s Southern strategy; inspired Reagan to kick off his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi; germinated HW Bush’s Willie Horton ad; led W Bush’s dirty tricksters to spread rumors about John McCain’s adopted daughter; and culminated in the racist freak-out during President Obama’s two terms in office.

That’s all true. But there were exit ramps along the way. The Republican Party faced a hard choice after Romney’s defeat. They could adapt to changing American demographics or lose. Trump offered a third option: stop tinkering on the margins with voter suppression and dog whistles and go all in on racism, sexism and xenophobia and openly subvert American democracy to keep white folks in power by whatever means necessary.

The vast majority of the party chose door number 3. Now we not-Republicans face a choice: utterly defeat the Republican Party or watch as the U.S. morphs into an apartheid state and its law enforcement organizations engage in a never-ending ethnic cleansing project. Does that sound crazy or extreme? I don’t think it is. Read more

Open Thread: Choosing to Stand Up for Decency

When I first posted about Trump’s latest hate-rally, I assumed “They’re not even people, they’re animals” would get lost in the non-stop blizzard of Trumpian malfeasance. Kinda pleased (as far as I can be as a devout Cynic) to have been wrong about that…

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Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: This Is Who The Repubs CHOOSE to Be

When it comes to demonizing immigrants, the GOP doesn’t mind at all if their “President” Trump says the quiet parts out loud!

Pro tip from someone who’s actually read your Bible: If they can “contort themselves” into defending treating immigrants as other-than-human, they aren’t actually Christians.
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Repub Venality Open Thread: Jefferson Davis Beauregard III Lives Out His Authoritarian Dreams

If “rule of law” meant anything other than “people with power should have a free hand to do what they like to people without power”, the rule-of-law people would be screaming themselves blue over this. As if we needed any further proof they’re acting in bad faith…

Sessions has stepped into the immigration system in an unprecedented manner: giving himself and his office the ability to review, and rewrite, cases that could set precedents for a large share of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants with pending immigration court cases, not to mention all those who are arrested and put into the deportation process in future.

He’s doing this by taking cases from the Board of Immigration Appeals — the Justice Department agency that serves as a quasi-appellate body for immigration court cases — and referring them to himself to issue a decision instead.

Sessions isn’t giving lawyers much information about what he’s planning. But he’s set himself up, if he wants, to make it radically harder for immigration judges to push cases off their docket to be resolved elsewhere or paused indefinitely — and to close the best opportunity that tens of thousands of asylum seekers, including most Central Americans, have to stay in the United States. And he might be gearing up to extend his involvement even further, by giving himself the authority to review a much bigger swath of rulings issued in the immigration court system…

Immigration courts aren’t part of the judicial branch; they’re under the authority of the Department of Justice. Their judges are supposed to have some degree of independence, and some judges are certainly harsher on immigrants and asylum seekers than others. But their decisions are guided by precedent from the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is basically the appellate court of the immigration system and which also answers to the DOJ and the attorney general.

If the attorney general doesn’t like that precedent, he has the power to change it — by referring a case to himself after the Board of Immigration Appeals has reviewed it, issuing a new ruling, and telling the immigration courts to abide by the precedent that ruling sets in future…

In theory, Sessions’s office is supposed to make its decision based on amicus briefs from outside parties, as well as the immigrant’s lawyer and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prosecutor. But advocates and lawyers’ groups say they can’t file a good brief if they don’t know what, exactly, the cases Sessions is getting involved in actually are — and Sessions is withholding that information.

In one of the cases Sessions has referred to himself, the DOJ refused to provide a copy of the decision that Sessions is reviewing or any information about where the case came from and who the immigrant’s lawyer was. In another case, congressional staff happened to find the decision under review on a DOJ website days before the deadline for amicus briefs.

That opacity makes it basically impossible to know whether Sessions is planning to issue relatively narrow rulings or very broad ones. In the case in which the decision under review was discovered by congressional staffers, both the immigrant’s lawyer and the Department of Homeland Security (serving as the prosecution) asked Sessions’s office to clarify the specific legal question at hand in the review — in other words, to give them a hint of the scope of the potential precedent being set. They were denied…

Sessions and the Trump administration claim they’re trying to restore efficiency to a backlogged court system that poses the biggest obstacle to the large-scale swift deportation of border-crossing families and to unauthorized immigrants living in the US. But lawyers are convinced that Sessions’s diktats, if they’re as broad as feared, would just gum up the works further.

“If the attorney general were seriously concerned about the backlog, as opposed to a desire for quick deportations, he would be focused on transferring as many cases away from” immigration judges as possible, attorney Jeremy McKinney told Vox — not forcing them to keep cases on their docket that they would rather close, or that could be rendered moot by other decisions. It’s “not smart docket control.”

And Sessions isn’t simply planning to issue these rulings and walk away. His office is planning to give itself even wider power over the immigration court system. A notice published as part of the department’s spring 2018 regulatory agenda says, “The Department of Justice (DOJ) proposes to change the circumstances in which the Attorney General may refer cases to himself for review. Such case types will include those pending before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) but not yet decided and certain immigration judge decisions regardless of whether those decisions have been appealed to the BIA.”

In other words, even when a DOJ judge makes a ruling in an immigrant’s favor and ICE prosecutors don’t try to appeal the ruling, the attorney general’s office could sweep in and overrule the judge…

If the Attorney General believes this is an improvement over the current system, why is he so determined to keep the mechanisms secret?

I personally suspect Mr. Sessions’ ambitions have something to do with last weekend’s flurry of reports about “President” Trump screaming at Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen. If the blond chick can’t throw enough brown people out of “our country” fast enough, Judge Jeff assures Lord Smallgloves, then by Christianist Jeebus he’ll roll up his sleeves and git ‘er done. It’s not as if Trump calling him nasty names has deterred his zeal for enforcing the “Just Us” of Justice in the past…

Sunday Evening Open Thread: Look for the Helpers

A happy story, for a change. Took the liberty of stripping out the intermediate twitter-headers, for easier reading…

It was my second day at the biology class. There was a quiz. My bio teacher, Ms. Gallagher, told me I didn’t have to worry about the quiz since I just got to the class, but gave me the quiz sheet anyway.

This is more than 20 years ago, but I still very clearly remember every detail of that quiz sheet. The quiz was about photosynthesis. It had a diagram of a leaf, and I was supposed to write what kind of gas comes to the leaf, what is expelled, etc.

I remember staring at it for about five minutes, slowly getting angry with frustration. I was mad because the quiz was easy. I learned about photosynthesis in Korea as a 7th grade. I knew all the answers. Just not in English.

The quiz was my new reality. I hope you all have a chance to experience this: the experience of suddenly becoming stupid, suddenly having all of your knowledge turning into dust, useless and inaccessible in a new environment with new language.

After five minutes, I just decided to write in the quiz in Korean. It didn’t matter that Ms. Gallagher told me the quiz wouldn’t count; I wasn’t going to turn in a blank quiz sheet. I just had to prove to myself that I didn’t suddenly become stupid.

Two days later, Ms. Gallagher handed out the graded quiz. Then she announced to the class: “[TK] has the highest grade. He had the perfect score.” What – I looked at my quiz sheet. She graded my quiz in Korean, and gave me all the check marks.

I asked Ms. Gallagher (somehow) how she managed to grade my paper. Turned out Ms. Gallagher took my quiz to a Korean Am math teacher at my school. The math teacher’s Korean wasn’t great either, but she looked up the dictionary to help my bio teacher grade my quiz.
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Lyin’ Ryan Is the Fig Leaf for Trump’s Racist Immigration Agenda

One of the few amusements the Trump Error affords is reading accounts of awful people getting dressed down by an even more awful person. From Greg Sargent at The Post:

The New York Times reports that Trump erupted in a rage at Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other Cabinet members over the alleged failure to make “progress towards sealing the border.” According to the Times, Trump also raged about the “continued failure of his administration to find a way to build a wall along the southern border.”

The Post adds more reporting, noting that Trump’s “blowup lasted more than 30 minutes.” His face “reddened” as he railed that Nielsen must “close down” the border and shouted: “We need to shut it down. We’re closed.”

Other outlets reported that Nielsen, who tried to explain the complexity of the border situation but was shouted down, “almost resigned” over Trump’s tirade, composing but not handing in a resignation letter.

Gary Cohn allegedly wrote but didn’t submit a resignation letter after Trump defended Nazis in Charlottesville. I guess the unsubmitted resignation letter is the cabinet/adviser version of “Ivanka privately opposes.”

In The Post, Sargent points out Paul Ryan’s towering hypocrisy on the immigration issue:

Vulnerable Republicans in the House are pushing a discharge petition that would force a vote on immigration bills, including two measures that would grant the dreamers legal status, one of them packaged with fortifications to border security. Seventeen Republicans have signed the petition, meaning that if organizers can get eight more, it would pass, since Dems will support it — forcing a full House vote on whether the dreamers will be protected or remain in limbo.

Ryan is trying to stop this from happening. He justifies this by claiming that there’s no sense in voting on measures protecting the dreamers that Trump would veto. As Ryan put it: “We actually would like to solve this problem, and that is why I think it’s important for us to come up with a solution that the president can support.”

But this is utter nonsense, because there isn’t any deal that Trump is willing to support that can pass Congress… Ryan is trying to prevent a vote to protect the dreamers precisely because such a measure could pass the House… A deal protecting the dreamers in exchange for border security would probably pass the House by a comfortable margin, and it might pass the Senate — after all, passage in the House would bring tremendous pressure on moderate Republican senators — especially if the White House didn’t actively lobby against it.

But Trump will not accept any deal to protect the dreamers, even though it could very likely pass both chambers, unless it also contains deep cuts to legal immigration. So if the House passed it, the White House would lobby the Senate against it, and if that failed, Trump would then have to veto it. Either of those would look horrible, because after House passage, suddenly protections for the dreamers would appear in reach. This is the spectacle that Ryan is trying to avert — all to protect Trump from having his true priorities revealed in all their ugly glory.

Ryan no longer has to worry about reelection or hanging onto the speaker’s gavel, but he’s willing to hold a fig leaf over Trump’s ugly bits. Why? Because the Republican Party hopes to stock the courts with more fanatics, enable corporations to pollute and despoil without regulatory oversight and slash programs and policies that benefit the vulnerable, and while Trump is a big, fat, embarrassing, racist baby-man, he’ll happily sign that shit if they call it a “win” for him.

Oh well. At least we won’t be subjected to paeans about Ryan’s wonkishness, fiscal rectitude and principled conservatism much longer since he’s gonna cut and run after this term expires. That day can’t come soon enough.