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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Another Lie From Trump

The Daily Escape:

The Cuernos del Paine in Chile – photo via Live Science. The 4,300-mile-long Andes, the longest continuous mountain range in the world, didn’t form slowly by one geologic plate sliding under another. They grew in two growth spurts helped by volcanic action. (Hat tip to Ottho H.)

What Trump said about El Paso in the SOTU:

“The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime—one of the highest in the country, and (was) considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities,”

Local politicians weren’t happy with Trump’s false claims that the city was violent and dangerous before a border wall was built. Trump was repeating bogus information from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. And, he had made the same claim at the American Farm Bureau convention in mid-January.

Here is an example of the local outrage. Jon Barela, the chief executive officer of the Borderplex Alliance, which leads economic development efforts in the El Paso region, tweeted:

Texas Monthly reports that El Paso has made lists of the nation’s safest cities for almost two decades. But what are facts when you have a wall to build on the back of a racist narrative?

Wrongo lived in El Paso for a time when he was in the military (Vietnam era), back before there was talk of a wall, before the Maquiladora factories became a part of NAFTA, when Ciudad Juarez was probably far more dangerous than it is today. But back then, El Paso couldn’t be considered dangerous for someone who went to college in Washington DC, and lived on the outskirts of NYC.

One state over in New Mexico, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, has ordered the withdrawal of the majority of National Guard troops stationed at the US state’s southern border, denouncing as “a charade” President Donald Trump’s warnings about migrants swarming the border, saying:

“I reject the federal contention that there exists an overwhelming national security crisis at the southern border, along which are some of the safest communities in the country,”

Are you getting the theme here? Two of the states closest to “the problem” say there isn’t a problem.

Kevin Drum at MoJo gathered the El Paso statistics. He shows that Trump cherry-picked the data, looking at 2005-2009. There was a spike from 400 crimes/100,000 people in 2005 to 450 crimes/100,000 people in 2008. Here is a chart showing the same statistics from 1993 to 2013:

Do you see the big reduction that came with the Wall? The Wall had almost no effect on crime in El Paso. It’s also important to remember that crime rates have come down throughout the US since the 1980’s.

The most damning fact about crime on the southern border is that it is way down. American Progress reports that:

  • Border cities are among the nation’s safest: Phoenix and other large border (and near-border) cities have some of the nation’s lowest crime rates, including San Diego, El Paso, and Austin
  • Border counties have low violent crime rates: Counties along the southwest border have some of the lowest rates of violent crime per capita in the nation. Their rates have dropped by more than 30% since the 1990s.
  • There’s no evidence of “spillover” of violence from Mexico: El Paso, Texas, has three bridges leading directly into Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a city which has suffered a significant percentage of the national death toll brought on by the Mexican war on drug cartels, which approaches 23,000 today.
  • El Paso experienced only 12 murders in 2009, which was actually down from 17 in 2008. San Diego, California saw 41 murders in 2009, down from 55 in 2008, and Tucson, Arizona experienced 35 in 2009 a significant decrease from the 65 murders committed in 2008.

We should remember that Trump is from Queens, an outer borough of New York City. He lived there during the 1970s and 1980s, so he knows first-hand what living in a high crime city feels like. He also knows that the high crime he (and Wrongo) experienced, wasn’t caused by immigrants. That was when the Guardian Angels were founded in NYC. Trump lived there the whole time, he probably even took the subway.

His argument is false, and is clearly purely political. He’s playing to the fears of those suburbanites too intimidated to visit NYC, even if they live less than 25 miles away. His audience is suburbanites in the Midwest and Northern states.

These same people believe European cities like London and Paris are full of Muslim “no-go” zones. You can show them evidence that those cities are safer than their own suburbs, but that’s not the point.

Maybe “safe” really means “white”, so any place with too many non-whites is just too dangerous.

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The Democrats’ Closing Argument

The Daily Escape:

Autumn in full, near Hopkinton MA – 2018 photo by Karen Randall

We’ll know soon whether all the money and energy spent on the 2018 mid-terms have produced a good outcome for the Dems, or for the Republicans.

And what is the Democrats’ closing argument? The “closing argument” is a cliché for the final messaging of every campaign. Many voters only tune in for the last few days before Election Day, and candidates make closing appeals to those newly opened ears.

The plan for the Democrats’ closing argument, as Carter Eskew says in the WaPo:

Run on issues such as health care, especially the Republican threat to not cover preexisting conditions, to win over independents, and then to rely on President Trump’s daily outrages to stoke Democratic turnout. I am sure that Democrats all across the country have millions of polling cross-tabs that show that the best way to build a winning coalition is not by attacking Trump, but by presenting solutions that help “everyday Americans.”

There is some logic to what Eskew is saying. Yesterday, we showed polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation about the top issues for Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Here it is again:

The top issues for Dems align with the top issues for Independents, but not with Republicans. A report by the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political advertising, supports both the Kaiser survey and Eskew’s viewpoint:

Trump came up in just 10% of ads from Sept. 18 to Oct. 15 — and only 5.5% of them were negative. That’s by far the lowest proportion of attack ads against a sitting president since the 2002 midterms, when George W. Bush’s soaring popularity after 9/11 made him off-limits for Democrats.

Dems have downplayed dislike of Trump in favor of a closing argument focused on health care, taxes and protecting entitlements. The Wesleyan article suggests why Democrats have chosen to focus on the issues voters care most about, rather than on Trump: Dems think that likely voters have heard enough about Trump, and have made up their minds about whether or not they buy him, or his closing argument.

Meanwhile, Brian Stelter wraps up Trump’s closing argument for the midterms:

— Fear the caravan
— Hate the media

Trump is saying that a vote for Republicans is a vote for Trump, while a vote for Democrats is a vote for higher taxes, open borders, recession, and socialism.

So the question is, do the Dems have a winning closing argument? More from Eskew:

Democrats need to urgently remind their base and independents of the deeper and more emotional stakes of this election. They need to show their base and potential converts that there is a way to convert anger, malaise and resignation about Trump into an affirmative and liberating action.

To win a majority in the House next Tuesday, and have any chance of winning the Senate, Democrats need to raise the stakes of this election higher than simply who better preserves protections for preexisting conditions.

The stakes are very high. If the Dems fail to take back the House, the GOP and Trump will be emboldened to attack Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The Democratic Party should act like those programs are already in play.

With the midterm elections only a few days away, those are the closing arguments from Democrats and Republicans.

Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs will probably decide the mid-terms. Fear for survival and hate of those threatening it are what Trump is using to motivate his base. If you are betting person, take hate. Hate doesn’t always win, but in today’s America, it usually covers the point spread.

If you doubt that, try naming a single compelling emotion that comes to mind when you say “Democratic strategy.” When the NYT is putting photos of the “migrant caravan” on the front page above the fold every day, you’ve got to wonder what the Democrats are thinking.

While Trump inflames the immigration issue, Dems are ducking it. They are refusing to clarify how the US should deal with the caravan when it arrives, except to say that kids shouldn’t be in cages, which is an easy answer.

Should we let the illegals in or not? A few Dems say abolish ICE, but that’s a losing argument. The Party leaders instead change the subject to health care.

Is refusing to be drawn into the caravan debate part of a winning closing argument?

We’ll see.

If it isn’t, Wrongo’s message to Democrats is: Reform the party, kick out the dinosaurs, build a platform that truly helps the people.

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America’s Divided by Illegal Immigration

The Daily Escape:

Fall at Mount Assiniboine, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, BC, Canada – photo by Daniel Kodan

Happy Halloween! The spooky caravan of migrants heading northward to the US-Mexico border has sparked much debate. We’ve always heard that the US is “a nation of immigrants,” and that we’re a better country because of migrants who came here to chase the American Dream. But now, the country is divided about letting immigrants into the country.

On October 18th, the Kaiser Family Foundation published a survey that focused on the most important issues to voters. They found a significant difference between the parties on immigration:

Republicans rated immigration as their most important issue at 25% vs. 9% for Democrats, and Independents ranked it third at 15%. The sample included 396 Democrats, 309 Republicans and 399 Independents for a total of 91.8% of the overall respondents.

The differences were more pronounced in battleground states. Republicans in battleground states ranked immigration highest at 29% while Democrats rated it at 16% and fourth overall:

We say we are a nation of immigrants, but what that means is no longer clear. Trump and many Republicans running this fall have made the caravan seem like a powerful enemy army that we are at war with, albeit one that is unarmed, without funds and leaderless.

The Kaiser survey shows that this is working with Republicans in battleground districts/states. Whether it will prove helpful across the country will be determined on November 6th.

This anti-immigrant viewpoint has been with us for a very long time. After the Civil War, Congress realized that Blacks were going to be able to obtain citizenship just by being here, and then having children who would become citizens by birth. That ended when the 14th Amendment legitimized those children.

In the late 19th Century, there was another strong push to restrict immigration in order to maintain the whiteness of the country. It started with the restrictions against the Chinese and Japanese. Then it was extended even to those Europeans who were not considered to be white enough. People like the Irish, the Italians, the Greeks, the Poles, had their immigration quotas drastically cut back from 1917 through the 1920s.

We have always expressed our anti-immigrant bias explicitly in racial terms, even making up races, like the Irish and Poles. And today, it’s the Mexicans and Central Americans.

Even the term “illegal alien”, or “illegal immigrant” that we apply to those crossing the southern border has almost replaced race. It’s no longer legitimate to openly discriminate on the basis of race, but we’ve allowed one political Party to replace race with legal status.

So now it is legitimate again to discriminate against people. They are illegals, not a racial category, like they were in the 1800’s and 1900’s.

Today’s Republicans play to our fears: These less-than-worthy illegals want in, so that they can take a shot at the American Dream. If they get in, they may take jobs away from poorly educated, low skilled Americans. Therefore, we must be vigilant, and insure we protect our economy and the citizens who are already here.

There is some truth to that view.

America’s economy is predominantly service-based, and immigrants are over-represented in low skill, low-paying service occupations. They are in elder care, food services, in fact, they are hugely involved in the farming, harvesting and processing of most of our food as well.

These low-end jobs are going to grow, and it is highly questionable if low-skilled Americans will be lining up to take them.

And nobody’s talking about population growth as a reason to implement more restrictive immigration policies. By 2050, the US is projected to have 400 million people. Now it’s about 320 million. That’s a 25% increase in 32 years.

We need to ask: where will the jobs come from for all these people?

The division needs to stop. It’s a toxic stew of nativist, xenophobic ideas that must be sent back underground, and we have to end the rhetoric about “birthright citizenship” once and for all.

Let’s start by granting the DACA people citizenship. Second, those who came into our country illegally, and have not committed serious criminal offenses, should be offered a rigorous path to citizenship, one that does not give them an advantage over those who have complied with the law and are waiting their turn. Third, employers who have knowingly hired and exploited undocumented immigrants should be prosecuted, and not simply fined.

Fourth, we need clearer immigration rules, and better methods of processing of asylum requests. And we need more border security.

And if Trump’s wall is included, (as repugnant as that may seem), so be it.

 

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Monday Wake Up Call – July 30, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Steptoe Butte from the Palouse Scenic Byway -2018 photo by Brooke Fitts for the WSJ

Wake up America! The Nation reports that a 6-year old migrant girl, who was separated from her mother at the border was sexually abused while in the “care” of your government: (brackets by Wrongo)

According to immigrant-rights advocates, a 6-year-old girl separated from her mother under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy was sexually abused while at an Arizona detention facility run by Southwest Key Programs. The child was then made to sign a form acknowledging that she was told to maintain her distance from her alleged abuser, who is an older [male] child being held at the same detention facility.

Let’s start with: What kind of company would make a 6-year old sign a release form? Second, what kind of company thinks a statement signed by a 6-year-old, will protect the company from liability?

It didn’t end there for the child, known by her initials D.L.:

But the nightmare wasn’t over. On June 22, Southwest Key again contacted D.L.’s father and informed him that the same boy initially cited for abuse had hit and fondled D.L. again.

The child, her mother and her father, who was already living in the US, have been reunited, but it wasn’t a happy ending:

According to D.L.’s mother, when the family came together again, the young girl was confused. “I hugged her, I was crying. She didn’t recognize me,” the mother said. “She told me that she thought I was never going to be with her again and that she was going to have to live with another lady. She behaved like she was still in detention. She wouldn’t touch me, hug me, or kiss me”….”She is still…following the rules of the detention center,” said the mother. “She doesn’t let them touch her, she doesn’t touch them. She wakes up at 6, and bathes and eats. She behaves like she is programmed.”

Recall that 30 days ago, one US immigration judge tried to call a halt to what ICE was doing: Bringing one and two-year-old children into the courtroom for proceedings where the children were supposed to represent themselves. That judge refused to move the cases forward.

Trump and his minions are willfully creating a generation of displaced people. People who have been traumatized so badly that they have lost the ability to stay connected to their families, pushed to estrangement by what had happened to them while in custody.

Abject cruelty has to be a dividing line for Americans. We need a new policy for dealing with families at the border. We need a top to bottom reform of ICE. The easiest question for any Independent voter or Democrat to answer is: “Here’s something Trump and the Republicans want. Do you want the same thing?

There’s no excuse for agreeing with a party that celebrates cruelty to children.

It’s your Monday Wake Up. There are 99 days left until the midterm elections. Register friends who aren’t registered. Drive people to the polls on Election Day. To help you wake up, listen to Dave Alvin performing his version of a Tom Russell song, “California Snow”. This is from Alvin’s 1998 album “Black Jack David”. It is a story by a border patrol agent:

Sample Lyric:

I catch the ones I’m able to
And watch the others slip away
I know some by their faces
And I even know some by name
I guess they think that we’re all
Movie stars and millionaires
I guess that they still believe
That dreams come true up here.

But I guess the weather’s warmer down in Mexico
And no one ever tells them ’bout the California snow.

Last winter I found a man and wife
Just about daybreak
Layin’ in a frozen ditch
South of the interstate
I wrapped ’em both in blankets
But she’d already died
The next day we sent him back alone
Across the borderline.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 17, 2018

Jeff Sessions isn’t the only Republican who is anti-immigrant. Arizona Republican State Representative David Stringer addressed the Yavapai County Republican Men’s Forum this week. He called immigration an “existential threat” to America: (emphasis by Wrongo)

60% of public school children in the state of Arizona today are minorities. That complicates racial integration because there aren’t enough white kids to go around.

Stringer helpfully explained what happens when there aren’t enough white kids:

And when you look at that 60% number for public school students, just carry that forward 10 or 15 years. It’s going to change the demographic voting base of this state…..Immigration is politically destabilizing.

He says 60% of the kids are “minorities”, but the math says they are the majority. Maybe he’s using the “nonwhites are 3/5ths of a person” rule.

On to cartoons. It was difficult to know if Singapore was real, or a reality show:

Kim and Trump agreed on one thing:

Kim debriefed the team back home:

The big thing we have to fear:

Sessions fails bible study. The Boss wasn’t amused:

Sessions asks excellent question in bible study. Gets correct answer:

California’s referendum on whether to break into three states isn’t necessary:

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Monday Wake Up Call – June 11, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Interior, Cuba’s Capitol Building, Havana – 2018 photo by Conor Morrissey

Two things to address on Monday. Take a look inside the program that separates the families of asylum seekers. The WaPo reports that:

A Honduran father separated from his wife and child suffered a breakdown at a Texas jail and killed himself in a padded cell last month, according to Border Patrol agents and an incident report filed by sheriff’s deputies.

The death of 39 year-old Marco Antonio Muñoz, had not been publicly disclosed by the DHS, and did not appear in any local news accounts. Muñoz was found on the floor of his cell May 13 in a pool of blood with an item of clothing twisted around his neck:

According to Border Patrol agents…Muñoz crossed the Rio Grande with his wife and three-year-old son on May 12 near the tiny town of Granjeno, Texas. The area is a popular crossing point for Central American families and teenagers who turn themselves in to apply for asylum in the United States.

Soon after Muñoz and his family were taken into custody, they arrived at a processing station in nearby McAllen and said they wanted to apply for asylum. Border Patrol agents told the family they would be separated. That’s when Muñoz “lost it,” according to one agent…

Unruly detainees are taken to local jails where they can be placed in more secure settings or isolation cells. Border Patrol agents found a vacant cell for Muñoz 40 miles away at the Starr County Jail in Rio Grande City. Muñoz was booked into the jail at 9:40 pm. He remained combative, and was placed in a padded isolation cell. Guards said they checked on Muñoz every 30 minutes, and observed him praying in a corner of his cell the following morning.

A guard who walked by the cell at 9:50 am said he noticed Muñoz laying in the center of the floor, unresponsive and without a pulse. Local sheriff’s deputies recorded the incident as a “suicide in custody.” But the capper is this remark by an ICE agent: (emphasis by Wrongo)

Another agent familiar with what happened said he couldn’t understand why Muñoz “would choose to separate himself from his family forever” by taking his own life.

This asshole’s salary is paid by you and me! It’s time we see these agents for who they really are.

Second, last week the DOJ filed a brief urging a Texas court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act’s crucial insurance reforms, including the prohibition on refusing to cover people with preexisting conditions. In their complaint, states (including Texas and other red states) point out that since Congress has repealed the penalty for going without insurance, the freestanding requirement to get insurance, which is still on the books, is therefore unconstitutional. And because it’s unconstitutional, the courts must invalidate the entire ACA. From the Incidental Economist:

There’s a strong argument to be made in the ACA’s defense. And the Justice Department has had a durable, longstanding, bipartisan commitment to defending the law when non-frivolous arguments can be made in its defense.

If the Justice Department can just throw in the towel whenever a law is challenged in court, it can effectively pick and choose which laws should remain on the books. That’s a flagrant violation of the President’s constitutional duty to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. More:

The President has a duty to take care that all the laws are executed, not just the ones he likes. And while there are cases in which the Justice Department has deviated from that principle, they are extremely rare.

The Trump administration has just announced that it doesn’t care that a law was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. All that matters is that it hates the law and has a (weak) argument for casting it aside.

Time to wake up America! There is a revolution underway, and we’re being fed the elephant of authoritarianism one little slice at a time. This time, the revolution is televised every day, but we’re not connecting the dots quickly enough.

To help America wake up, here is Iris DeMent with “Living in the Wasteland of the Free”, from her 1996 album, “The Way I Should”:

This song is 22 years old, but still rings true. Iris says: “The poor have now become the enemy” and “Let’s blame our troubles on the weak ones“.

Today, both are true, and are simply sickening.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 3, 2018

Roseanne, Starbucks, Singapore, Trade War. We had a rockin’ good time last week. Let’s start by acknowledging that June 2nd was National Gun Violence Awareness day. These days, active shooter drill has a new meaning:

You may have missed that the White House made a coin for the Singapore Summit. Why?

Trump’s pardoning this week didn’t include those who could really use it:

Sessions tries to count all the captured kids:

Roseanne was invited to the Starbucks training:

Trump rushes into trade war without a strategy:

Trump didn’t get the numbers right in Puerto Rico either:

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The US Also Has Immigration Issues

The Daily Escape:

One World Trade Center viewed from Brooklyn, NY – 2018 photo by nyclovesnyc

Yesterday, we talked about immigration-skepticism in Europe. As if to underline that toxic atmosphere, the Hungarian government just announced it has drafted new laws to criminalize acts that help illegal migrants in Hungary. From the BBC:

If passed in its current form, the legislation could make printing leaflets with information for asylum-seekers and offering them food or legal advice a criminal offence.

Reuters quotes Hungary’s Magyar Hirlap newspaper saying that prison sentences ranging from a few days to a year, are part of the new legislation. Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all oppose an EU plan to relocate 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece, where migrant camps are overcrowded.

While the US is now wrestling with its own immigration issues, it has more immigrants than any other country in the world. Today, more than 40 million people living in the US were born in another country, about one-fifth of the world’s total migrants in 2015.

The US granted nearly 1.2 million individuals legal permanent residency in 2016, more than two-thirds of whom were admitted based on family reunification, a policy that Trump wants to end. Other categories included: employment-based preferences (12%), refugees (10%), diversity (4%), and asylum seekers (3%). At the end of 2017 there were more than four million applicants on the State Department’s waiting list for immigrant visas.

Donald Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have many anti-immigrant views. Trump has tried to ban immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries, but it’s clear that his main issue is with migrants from Mexico and Central America, not Muslims. From the Council on Foreign Relations:

Trump more than halved the annual cap of refugees admitted to the US to fifty thousand, and his orders could make it more difficult for individuals to seek asylum; more than 180,000 applied for asylum in 2016. In 2017, the administration ended temporary protected status (TPS) for thousands of Nicaraguans and Haitians who were allowed into the US after environmental disasters in their home countries in 1999 and 2010, respectively….In 2018, Trump ended the same relief program for nearly two hundred thousand Salvadorans who came after a 2001 earthquake.

Trump signed several executive orders (EO) affecting immigration policy. The first, focused on border security, ordered the construction of a physical border wall across the US border with Mexico.

The second EO restricted federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities. That isn’t as bad as Hungary prosecuting anyone who assists migrants, but it’s getting close.

The third banned nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from entering the US for at least 90 days, and blocked nationals from Syria indefinitely.

Trump also cancelled the DACA rules.

But the new policy of separating immigrant kids from their parents should earn the Trump administration a special place in hell. Families crossing the border are being separated, with kids going to a separate place of detention, while their parents go to a different holding facility. To help facilitate the process, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, (ICE), developed a bus fitted with child seats for the small children who still need them, and who were separated from their parents when ICE arrested the parents. Here is a screen grab from website of the ICE contractor, the GEO Group:

Of course putting children on buses can be innocuous. Most of us have ridden on school buses. But the picture is disturbing even if you didn’t know that it was used as part of an immigrant round-up, because every seat is a car seat.

It implies that there are going to be a bunch of infants and toddlers in the bus with few, or no parents. The damage being done by the Trump administration by separating these kids can’t be undone.

It’s like those kids in Detroit drinking lead-laced water. This will damage all of them.

Just when we think humanity’s capacity for vileness can’t be exceeded, we are again proven wrong. It’s not just that the Trump administration had the idea for a prison bus for children to begin with. It’s not just that the contractor is proud enough to advertise the bus on their website. What are they both telling us?

Why do they bother with the child seats?

The implication is: “Sure, we rip these small children away from their mothers, but we care a lot about their safety in traffic.”

Trump and Sessions should live in a pit of fire in their special place in hell.

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