February 28, 2017

Are You Ready, America?

In less than 30 minutes, we'll hear from the "American Carnage"president as he addresses a joint session of Congress for the first time.

In preparation for the big event, the president reportedly suggested (again) that the recent actions against Jewish Community Centers and Jewish cemeteries could be 'false flags' - actions taken by the opposition to make him look bad or something. In this case, it could be Democrats, or it might be Jewish organizations themselves.  Or, of course, there's at least a chance that maybe it's actually anti-Semites.

He rolled back legislation from the Obama administration that would have required folks over at Social Security to report mental-illness disability recipients to the federal background check folks. Because, while we are constantly told by Republicans that we don't have a gun problem, we have a mental health problem, nothing says let's ignore both problems like refusing to link them together and maybe preventing a problem person from having access to a gun which could be used to cause a serious problem for innocent people. This bill he signed behind closed doors, rather than having one of his patented signing opportunities.

He also, in the spirit of deregulation, signed a bill that tells NASA how to encourage women to participate in programs like those offered by NASA (I've written about this one before).

And, it seems, he suggested that the buck in fact stops someplace other than with him when it comes to Americans being killed on military missions.

We have so much to look forward to, tonight.  Are you ready, America?

February 26, 2017

The Immigration Question

A friend posted a snippet of an article about immigrants being arrested for illegally crossing the border from the US into Canada, and wondered why it was OK for Canada to arrest them, but not OK for America to do the same, and she asked her political friends to try and explain it, before removing the post.

I don't blame her for removing it. She's asked challenging questions before, and has been extraordinarily tolerant of the responses, even as her friends digressed into equally extraordinarily intolerant squabbling, name-calling, and arguing, none of which are necessary, but all of which are really too frequent. really.

There was no way I was going to try and answer on her page, but I do want to consider the question because it's one I've heard before, and one that I try and answer for myself. I will try here, knowing that my answer probably won't satisfy anyone, including me.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
The picture at right, from a recent New York Times article, shows just one of those arrests; the article notes that the RCMP has seen a surge in illegal crossings over the past several months.

And lately, we've heard many news reports about people losing fingers and toes to frostbite, as they're crossing the border in the middle of winter, grossly unprepared for the weather, in their haste to leave America and get to someplace safer.

Crap -- did I just write that? Is it just me, or is it hard to actually contemplate people fleeing America to get to safety?

Back to my friend's question: the simple answer is, it's not OK to enter a country illegally. That's why we have the Border Patrol, and why we have checkpoints, and it's why we reject so many people and send them back, and why we work so hard to try and keep them out, whether they come through the checkpoints with fake papers or are smuggled in, hidden in cars and trucks, or if they cross onto some farmer's ranch and we catch them. It's why we deport so many people every year, following a defined process (because that's the way we do things).

Unfortunately, the immigration issue is not as simple as keeping people out, or even sending people back when we catch them. If only it were that easy, though. Because the question that was not asked is the one that gives most of us pause, including both Democrats and Republicans, legal and illegal immigrants, religious and the nonreligious,rich and poor.

It's the part about America having a long tradition of accepting people seeking asylum, people who are fleeing persecution in their home countries, whose lives would be in danger (in their perception, anyway) if they were to stay. So they come here, some of them through normal channels such as being sponsored by aid groups, and some of them in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.

Many of these folks pay every last penny they can muster up to good people or bad people who may or may not be able to get them to the border; these people risk everything to try and make it to America, or to get their children safely to America, knowing that if they manage to make it here, there's a strong chance that they'll get caught and sent back. And they try anyway, and they come anyway, because to them anything is better than where they come from. That is the America the rest of the world used to see; some still do, particularly those who come across our southern border from Central American countries, or from Mexico. Those are the ones that wall is supposed to keep out.

And, we have the people we know are here illegally, the ones we 'keep track of' but don't force to get a green card, don't put in jail, just let go about living their lives, having children, becoming part of the fabric of our communities and our country. The ones who work in construction, building our houses; they work for landscapers, keeping our yards and gardens beautiful; they work in agriculture, traveling with the seasons, with the vegetables and fruits that grace our tables; they work in the hospitality field, parking our cars, making the beds and cleaning our hotels, serving us food and drinks in restaurants and clubs; they work the amusement circuit, putting up rides, taking them down, loading and unloading the prizes we work so hard to win.

These, and the others who are here illegally that we don't necessarily know so much about, are the 11-odd million that we don't know what to do with. If we're honest, we know we can't just ship them back, leaving their American-born children with no parents and nowhere to go. And leaving a giant whole in the workforce in the fields outlined above. These are the folks who need a path to citizenship that shouldn't entail going back to wherever they came from for some random number of years, only to be allowed to stand at the back of the line trying to come back to their adopted home.

If we're dishonest, or fooling ourselves, we say they all need to go back, too. But that would be the same as saying that people who get speeding tickets or parking tickets should be in jail, when most of them never do more than pay a fine - if they bother doing that. We in America have a process for things, including not treating all criminals as criminals.

When the politicians talked about comprehensive immigration reform for the past several years, they weren't talking about the easy stuff; they were talking about the hard stuff like the 11 million, or the kids who could lose their parents to deportation; they were talking about the people who work hard at jobs most of us wouldn't take; and, to at least some degree, they were talking about those who are now fleeing to someplace safer than America.

February 23, 2017

You Can Say Anything...

On the subject of disliking someone and not want to do business with them, have you met Milo Yiannopoulos, and heard about his incredibly bad adventure?

Milo, the flamboyant, trouble-making, free-speech-advocating, banned-from-Twitter-for-life former senior editor at Breitbart (the Trump Administration's 2nd most-loved news network), was a fave of the alt-right. He'd say anything for the conservative cause and he was the guy the Right sorta kinda hated to love - I mean, he's a pearl necklace-wearing gay man, after all - but they did love him, sorta kinda, because he was a conservative, and that's all the matters. You remember - party over country and all that, which made Donald Trump an acceptable President.

Among the groups Milo has insulted or offended? Women. Lesbians. Fat people. Ugly people. Muslims. Blacks. Whites. Gays. Native Americans. Liberals. Rape victims... the list goes on.

Milo was invited to speak at Cal-Berkeley until the riots let to cancellation of his appearance, causing our alt-President to threaten the University of California.

Soon, Milo was invited to speak at CPAC, that annual clutch of cackling crony-capitalist conservatives. Here was the American Conservative Union's announcement, from Matt Schlapp:
We realize that this invitation will be accompanied by controversy which we think the conservative movement and our CPAC attendees can handle. Each will use his or her individual judgment as to the worthiness of each speaker, including Milo. ACU has publicly taken on racism and the alt-right and will continue to do so aggressively, like ACU's founders before us. We look forward to hearing Milo's message and having him sit down with Scott Walter to answer some tough questions. We believe that all of us are up to the challenge at a time when political correctness is properly being discarded. 
And of course, there was the tweet, too. The one about free speech, and Milo's "important perspective" on conservatism and political correctness and all the rest, I'm sure is what they were hoping for.

If only.

What happened next? Conservatives got upset with the CPAC invitation, and some among them apparently dug up some old videos of Milo's comments on sexual relations between adults and children, in which he seemed to defend pedophilia, or at least that's what it was made to look like.

The troll was trolled, as self-respecting conservatives took control of the narrative.  The CPAC invitation was rescinded in a tweet saying, in part:
Due to the revelation of an offensive video in the last 24 hours condoning pedophilia, the American Conservative Union has decided to rescind the invitation... We realize that Mr. Yiannopoulos has responded on Facebook but it is insufficient. It is up to him to answer the tough questions...
Which is sort of ironic, since the invitation itself was made based on the premise of Milo answering "tough questions" (albeit a different set of them, I'm sure).

And then, Simon and Schuster cancelled his book deal. And then came his resignation from Breitbart.

Milo is far from done 'being Milo.' His book will come out this year as planned, he said -- other publishers have expressed interest, and he'll of course add a chapter on this most recent part of his life. His "important perspective" will continue to be heard, somewhere, I'm sure.

Whether or not he rises from the fire he himself created, his name will live on, along with the rest of the folks who have been taken down by using their free speech rights to purposely, or accidentally, offend others.

February 22, 2017

Wondering, on Wednesday (v80)

I wonder what it was that finally made Donald Trump respond to a question about anti-Semitism?

Trump had at least two chances recently to condemn threats against Jewish Community Centers across the country, including the JCC here in my neck of the woods. Instead of actually doing that, though, he talked about himself. As in, "I don't have an anti-Semitic bone in my body" and "I'm the least racist person I know" and "hey, my daughter's Jewish now", all of which had everything to do with the Trump world view: that we are constantly as interested in Donald Trump as he is interested in himself.

Except that what people were really interested in was Trump using his bully pulpit (lord, the irony in that phrase now!) to call for universal condemnation of the bomb threats, and now the destruction in the cemetery outside St. Louis, and he finally did that Tuesday. Some organizations are not appeased, holding out hope that the next time (and there will be a next time), Trump will answer forcefully and without prodding.

Speaking of prodding, I wonder whether Ivanka tweeted her message about religious tolerance Monday night in order to prod her father into finally saying something about the threats?

I also wonder what would have happened if Trump had quickly tweeted his dislike of people attacking his daughter's adopted faith, just as he did his dislike of companies who no longer wanted to carry her under-performing products?

People are also wondering why the official White House statement about Trump's comments doesn't mention Jews or Judaism, just as the official White House statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day last month also didn't mention Jews.

This administration doesn't have a problem making sure everyone knows that Christians are under attack, and that Muslims are on the attack, but for some reason can't seem to mention Jews unless the words Ivanka, Jared, or grandchildren are also used. Why is that, I wonder?

And speaking of Jared, who along with Ivanka does not partake of many activities on the Sabbath, he might indeed have a calming influence on his bombastic father-in-law. Someone at Slate examined Trump tweets to see if there was a difference when Jared was around during the week and when he was not. It seems that the 'crazy' score of Sabbath tweets was a 4.49 out of 5, whereas the non-Sabbath tweets scored only a 3.92 on the same scale. If anyone was wondering, Kushner might just be necessary to the survival of the nation.

And one final thought on this - I wonder what people close to Trump think about these comments, from his press conference earlier this month. According again to an article in Slate, Jared Rizzi, a reporter for SiriusXM followed up on one of those questions I mentioned at the start of this post.

First is the question and then Trump's answer follow. The NY Times video and transcript confirm the reporting in Slate:
Rizzi: I'll follow up on my colleague's question about anti-Semitism It's not about your personality or your beliefs. We're talking about a rise in anti-Semitism around the country. Some of it by supporters in your name. What can you do to deter that?
Trump: And some of it - can I be honest with you? And this has to do with racism and horrible things that are put up. Some of it written by our opponents. You do know that. Do you understand that? You don't think anybody would do a thing like that. Some of the signs you'll see are not put up by the people that love or like Donald Trump, they're put up by the other side and you think it's like playing it straight?  
No. But you have some of those signs and some of that anger is caused by the other side. They'll do signs and they'll do drawings that are inappropriate. It won't be my people. It will be the people on the other side to anger people like you. OK.
And I end up wondering, as I do just about any time Trump is asked a question, why he seems incapable of just answering the darn thing.

February 21, 2017

Tidbits and Trivia (v1)

A quick look at some un-fact-checked facts, quotes, and trivia:
  • Every week in both 2015 and 2016, a toddler three years or younger accidentally shot either himself or another human being in the US.  The rate of toddler shooting was 6% up year-on-year in 2016.
  • At the time this tidbit was published, in early January, Donald Trump owed at least $1B to 150 Wall Street banks and other financial institutions including Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Fidelity Investments.  Conflict, anyone?
  • "Great talents encourage great incapacities," according to poet Sarah Manguso, "but maintaining an inability to cook an egg or drive a car won't make you into a genius". Thankfully, I can cook an egg  - and have no aspirations for genius.
  • According to Oxfam, the world's eight richest people are worth as much money as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of the word. Gates, Buffett, Zuckerberg and the rest of  the gang of eight collectively have $426B, compared to the $409B the poorest 50% have between them. 
  • The Daily Telegraph (UK) reported that President Obama played 306 rounds of golf during his presidency, which amounts to some 38 or so rounds a year.  Which, I think may be even less golf than any of my friends play in an average year. 
Not sure there are any dots to connect, but I'm all for anyone giving it a try.

February 20, 2017

The Doctor-Politician-Patient Relationship

What is it with politicians, that they simply can't seem to keep themselves from getting in the way of things that really should be up to individuals to decide?

We've heard for years about how the government doesn't belong in the middle of the doctor-patient relationship, at least not as far as anything related to the Affordable Care Act is concerned, right? Except, of course, when we need the government to get in the way, we're led to believe.

We've gone through the battle on paying for contraception, even making legitimate allowances for actual religious organizations such as churches and their affiliates to not have to directly provide and pay for contraception, but leaving that up to insurance companies. And that hasn't been good enough.

And we've had the fight to make sure that companies that sell picture frames and baskets and similar decorative items also don't have to provide the full array of contraceptive methods to their employees because, well, because Republicans. And because corporations are people too, of course. We mustn't forget that.

The reason we have had the latter battles, the ones over contraception, are clear. Well, kind of,  Then-Representative (now House Speaker). Paul Ryan said back in 2012 that, when it comes to Catholics at least, what's constitutional is not up for discussion by mere mortals in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our government - someone else owns that decision. Here's Ryan talking about covering contraception under the Affordable Care Act,after the religious opt-out was implemented:
The question is, can the government mandate that people violate their religious teaching, their conscience, their freedom of religion. Look, I can tell you as a Catholic the charities, and the hospitals, they don't enforce doctrine, they don't interpret it. It's the bishops and they're very clear in saying this is a violation of our constitutional rights. So it's an issue of constitutional rights and the government having the kind of power to trump them.
Seems we need the government to get in the way when the religious leaders tell us to, I guess, to help us understand what our constitution means. Except, of course, when the religious leaders say things that the politicians don't like, then all bets are off.

We've had the battle over paying for discussions about end-of-life care decisions - you know, health care proxies, DNRs, living wills, and MOLST and POLST forms, and things like that. We've learned how those critical documents, designed to ensure that a person has the right to define their own wishes and courses of treatment - and that others must honor those wishes - became death panels.

And we need a government to insert itself between patient and doctor in other cases too, such as keeping a person on life support - or taking them off - against medical advice or against patient and family wishes.

In this post from January 2014, we have both sides of that coin. On the one hand, we have a woman who was kept on life support against her wishes, because she was pregnant and in Texas. Because in Texas, where everything is bigger including their smaller government, it's illegal to remove life support from a pregnant woman, no matter the circumstances. The courts eventually ordered life support to end, after what I would only describe as eight weeks of torture for the family. I later found out that it's not just Texas where this type of 'pregnancy' exclusion applies.

On the other hand, we have a teenager who suffered complications during surgery to help relieve her sleep apnea, and was declared dead with no brain activity. In this case, the family believed their child was not dead, even though a host of medical professionals hired by the hospital, the family and the courts concluded she was. The court eventually allowed the family to move their daughter to a facility in another state where she could be 'treated', if that's the right word. Today, she is still 'alive' on machines. Legal actions drag on.

And now, it seems, we need a government to interject itself between the doctor and patient again, specifically when we're talking about a different type of end-of-life care.

Washington DC passed a bill allowing assisted suicide, the Death with Dignity Act. Under the rules, Congress has 30 days to overturn anything DC passes, but it was unable to get the overturn votes and a Trump signature in time. The DC bill survives -- for now -- as do bills in a handful of states that have made assisted suicide legal, allowing patients to truly and finally control their own destiny.

I can't help thinking we won't have to wait long belong before the next time the politicians will come into the examining room with us again. Because, as I noted above, they simply can't help themselves.

February 15, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v79)

So, now we know that General Flynn did not treat VP Mike Pence badly, and he did not treat America badly, but instead he was treated badly by the failing press and the "intelligence" community.  I have to say, I'm wondering how Trump managed to get that all twisted around and wrapped up in a pretty little bow.

And, I'm wondering, how someone who was so excited about all those leaks about risotto recipes and emails between Clinton people talking about their boss and their boss's daughter and stuff like that, who loved the leaks, now thinks that leaks are so bad? How does that work, exactly?

And, speaking of those illegal leaks, do you think they were bused in from Massachusetts like the voters were bused in to New Hampshire to take down former Senator Kelly Ayotte? 

And where is the massive investigation, the Executive Order-signing photo op, announcing the investigation into the leaking?

And speaking of those ridiculous photo ops, does Trump even know no one can read what he's signing? 

And, I wonder, has Trump started reading them better now, since we had that report that he didn't even know that he put Steve Bannon as a permanent member of the Security Council?

I'm also wondering if there's a dining room in the private residence at Mar-a-Lago? Not because I want to see one single more picture of gold-leaf-covered decorative atrocities, mind you, but because I'm trying to figure out why it was that Trump felt the need to host Japanese Prime Minister Shinze Abo in the member's dining room? And stay there during a hurried cluster over documents by the romantic light of cell phones?

And are those all secure phones? And extremely-vetted members? I don't care if they paid $100K or $200K or $500K -- all that means is that they have money, not that they they are people that love us and want to love us and will end up loving us.

I mean, remember the blow up when those wacky socialites got into an Obama State Dinner? Oh, dear lord. But here we have golfers posting photos on Facebook of the Winter White House 'situation room' in full swing? And the quarterback of the nuclear football appearing in a selfie?

#whatthesniff is going on here, I wonder? 

February 13, 2017

Immigrants vs. Imports

I've been a bit behind in my newspaper reading lately, and spent some time catching up yesterday.

I was moving pretty quickly through last Tuesday's Post Standard, until I came across the fascinating juxtaposition of two stories shown here.

The story on the left, about immigration, is from the Associated Press. In it, we have the president talking not about his great victory in the electoral college, or voter fraud, or the size of the crowd that had eyes on his inaugural, if you can believe that, but about NATO and homeland security and the 'travel ban' we've heard so much about lately.

Here's what Trump had to say about that:
We need strong programs (so that) people that love us and want to love our country and will end up loving our country are allowed in (and those who) want to destroy us and destroy our country (are kept out). 
Freedom, security and justice will prevail...
Now, there's no surprise there in Trump's comments -- no "step away from the Teleprompter" kind of thing, just the usual stuff.

What's not just the usual stuff is what we read in the article on the right, from the Washington Post. In it, we learn that the second-highest-ranking muckety muck at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives - ATF for short -- wrote a white paper apparently on his own, and not representative of the opinions of his department, saying that we need some changes in our gun laws.

Wha?? Say it ain't so!  Well, before you get all riled up thinking someone's thinking about something thoughtful about guns and stuff, let's review what Richard Turk, the associate deputy director and chief operating officer of the ATF is talking about:

  • removing restrictions on silencers sales
  • letting gun dealers accumulate more allegations of their guns being used in crimes before having to provide additional info to the feds
  • studying whether we might want to lift bans on assault weapon imports.

Yeah, that last part about imports?Here's what Turk said in his document:
Restrictions on imports serves questionable public safety interests, as these rifles are generally legally available for manufacture and ownership in the United States.
Interesting, isn't it?

Banning imported weapons serves "questionable public safety interests" but banning individuals who have shown no ill will towards us, and who have undergone a lengthy vetting process, or banning refugees who are Muslim just to let Christians in first, or banning people who we've already approved to be here, or banning people who have helped us fight terrorism in their countries, those are necessary "strong programs" allowing "freedom, security and justice" to prevail?

We need to make sure that "people who want to destroy us" or "destroy our country" are kept out, even though there are dozens? hundreds? thousands? of people who are willing to do exactly that, destroy us, already "generally legally available" in the US?

When people who are born in the US to immigrant parents, or who came here as children, or who come here as legal immigrant adults and who happen to be Muslim kill people at parties, or in nightclubs or anywhere else, we call them terrorists.

When Americans teenagers, or young adults, or middle-aged men do things like that, shoot up a school, or a theater, or an abortion clinic, or a shopping mall, do we call them terrorists? No - don't be silly. We call them mentally ill. We call them Americans.

Banning people. Relabeling our own who destroy us, so as not to confuse them with the immigrant kind of terrorist. Ignoring those who hate us who are already generally legally available.

Changing gun laws to keep the noise down.

Who loves you, America?

February 12, 2017

Grains of Salt (v20): Full Consensus Transparency

In my last Grains of Salt post, (v19), I talked about a proposal from our Sonofa Gov, Andrew Cuomo, that would allow county executives to pretty much unilaterally move to consolidate governmental agencies in their jurisdictions, even going so far as to getting ballot initiatives in place this coming November.

And, I mentioned that we were still awaiting for a report from the Consensus CNY group, which had been tasked with coming up with a way to move towards 'government modernization' which is just another word for nothing left to lose. Oh wait, sorry -- that's freedom.

Government modernization is consolidation. It's not inherently a bad thing -- I want to be clear on that. Conceptually, I support reasonable consolidation, but at the same time I understand the not inconsiderable angst that even thinking about it can cause impacted residents, whether they live in the Syracuse, the city that would be absorbed? abolished? by the larger Onondaga County, or if they're suburban county residents who fear being saddled with the ills of the city, with no tangible (or even perceived) benefit.

Now that the report is here, we all have a lot of work to do, starting with reading it, and trying our best to understand what it means.  And, we then have to find out what other people think it means, and we have to find out what it will look like and feel like and what will our new home even be called? We all have our 'hometown' identities, whether it's Jordan or Fayetteville or Syracuse or The Valley... As I said, we have a lot of work to do, particularly if we want to avoid that unilateral county executive proposal thing.

I'm in the process of reading the report and getting my thoughts together. I know I promised I'd do that when we received the draft report (you can read other posts on Consensus here), but this time I'm committed to getting a handle on it now that we've got the real deal.

And as to making sure that I can learn what everyone else is thinking about? Well, today I sent the following email to all of our local televisions stations:
I’m writing to all of the Syracuse area television stations, asking that you work independently or collaboratively to ensure that all public meetings related to the Consensus report on consolidation are broadcast live, on air and online.
Now that we finally have the report, it’s critical that everyone in the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County has the opportunity to see and hear for themselves - from the Consensus team, local politicians, and other members of the community - what consolidation will mean and how it might work.
With Governor Cuomo’s planned legislation (introduced in his State of the State package) that will allow county executives to ‘go it alone’ and place consolidation initiatives on the ballot in November looming on the horizon, the Consensus report and the various community perspectives on it become even more important that they might have been otherwise – and there is greater urgency than before.
In addition to ensuring that scheduled meetings are carried live, I’d ask that you also please consider hosting sessions at SU, OCC, the Civic Center, and your own studios (similar to how you host candidate debates, for example) with panels of politicians and Consensus team members (together or separately), where questions from the community can answered by the experts. Allow questions to be submitted in advance, so that folks who can’t make it to a meeting still have a chance for their voice to be heard.
I appreciate your consideration of these and any other opportunities in which your station can participate, to help facilitate these critically important conversations over the coming weeks.
Thank you!
I'm hopeful they'll take these suggestions to heart, and do something similar, or better, using all of the creativity they can bring to bear. As always, I'll keep you posted on outcomes.

And if you're in my neck of the woods, I strongly encourage you to please do your part, too.  Click here to access the full report and learn more about what might be in store for us.

Quick Takes (v16): Immigration Man

Quick Takes
So I'm sure many of you have seen the story about Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, the woman in Arizona who was recently deported to Nogales, Mexico.

Rayos came to America illegally at the age of fourteen twenty years or so ago; she eventually married another illegal immigrant, and raised two American-born children, now teenagers.

She used a fake social security number on her papers and got a job working at a water park; in 2008 she was caught up in a raid, the outcome of which was that she was required to attend annual meetings with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, pretty much like a parolee checking in with their parole officer.

She attended her check-ins as required, and was never deported because she was low risk: working, married, two citizen-children, that kind of thing. Even after a deportation order was issued in 2013, the government made no move to deport her, but allowed her to continue making her check-ins as required.

Unlike some 2,000,000 illegal immigrants, Rayos was never considered a priority deportation under the 'deporter-in-chief's' administration (that would be Obama), but things are different now. Very different.

Her ICE check-in this time became detention, and deportation, and separation from her children, and the likelihood that she will not be allowed to return, or that the process for her to return will take so long as to make it almost moot.

President Trump signed an executive order in January ordering a crack down on illegal immigration, including
removable aliens who: (a) have been convicted of any criminal offense; (b) have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved; (c) have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense; (d) have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency (e) have abused any program related to the receipt of public benefits (f) are subject to a final order of removal, but who have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States or (g) in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security. 
As an outcome of that order, it seems, ICE has conducted "sweeping immigration raids" in several states, according to this article.

Now, obviously, Rayos meets the guidelines under the EO for deportation; the fact that she was allowed to stay under two previous administrations notwithstanding, she was here illegally, she had faked credentials for work, and there was a deportation order against her.

But what message have we sent when we officially allow her and others similarly situated, with children who are legally citizens, to stay for years? And what is to become of her children? Are we to simply say too bad, so sad, especially if their father reads the tea leaves and decides to leave? Do we have the kids hang out on welfare and other benefits because they have no means of support? Do we send them to Mexico to live with their parents?

These are the questions that need to be considered in any comprehensive immigration reform, something that Congress understands but that our businessman president might not. Sure, we can throw every single illegal immigrant out of the country - of course we can, and it is within our rights to do so.

But is that really what we need to be doing now, without any legislation that outlines a plan to deal with all of the nuances, and by nuances, I do mean children, among other things, that are in play here?

February 11, 2017

No, It's Not a Double Standard

White House Communications Director and Press Secretary Sean Spicer frequently gets himself all entwangled fighting off the press in the tiny White House briefing room. Like he did the other day, when speaking to comments made by the Trump SCOTUS nominee.

Neil Gorsuch, in a conversation with Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, said that "any criticism about a judge's integrity and independence" were "disheartening" and "demoralizing."
The comments were conveyed as being in reference to statements made by Trump regarding the "so-called judge" (that would be James Robart) who issued the temporary restraining order halting the Executive Order on Immigration.

Gorsuch confirmed the dis- and de- comments were his, even as Trump suggested otherwise (and, of course, personally attacked Blumenthal).  While others confirmed that Gorsuch was specifically referring to Trump's comments, Spicer offered this instead:
There's a big difference between commenting on the specific comments that have been made, and the tweet, and his general philosophy about the judiciary and the respect for his fellow judges. 
He literally went out of his way to say I'm not commenting on a specific instance. So to take what he said about a generalization and apply it to a specific is exactly what he intended not to do. 
And Spicer also noted that executive criticism of the judiciary was a time-honored tradition, and even Barack Obama did it in a State of the Union address.
I get it, but at some point is seems like there's clearly a double standard when it's how this is applied. When President Obama did it, there was no concern from this briefing room. When (Trump) does it, it's, you know, a ton of outrage. 
So, I checked to see what Obama said in his 2010 SOTU, where he made some very well-reported (and seriously wrong place, wrong time) comments, to see whether I could find a personal attack on one or more justices of the Supreme Court in Obama's remarks (emphasis added):
With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests - including foreign corporations - to spend without limit in our elections. I don't think elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems.
In 2015, on the fifth anniversary of the decision, Obama made a broader statement on the case, and I looked again for a personal attack against a SCOTUS justice (again, emphasis added):
Our democracy works best when everyone's voice is heard, and no one's voice is drowned out. But five years ago, a Supreme Court ruling allowed big companies - including foreign corporations - to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections. The Citizens United decision was wrong, and it has caused real harm to our democracy.  With each new campaign season, this dark money floods our airwaves with more and more political ads that pull our politics into the gutter. It's time to reverse this trend. Rather than bolster the power of lobbyists and special interests, Washington should lift up the voices of ordinary Americans and protect their democratic right to determine the direction of the country that we love. 
Unless I'm blind, I don't see Obama doing what Trump did to Judge Robart - including allocating blame directly to the judge, "should anything happen."  And, if there's nothing Robart-like in Obama's statements, there certainly isn't anything remotely close to Trump's comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the Indiana-born "Mexican" judge who was involved in the Trump University case.

Remember that one, when Trump was a candidate?  Let's all refresh our memories, by reviewing these comments from campaign appearances and media interviews (emphasis added):
...very hostile judge...because it was me... there's a hostility toward me by the judge, tremendous hostility, beyond belief...he happens to be Spanish... he is Hispanic... a judge who is very hostile... extremely hostile to me... he has been extremely hostile to me... a very hostile judge. Now he is Hispanic, I believe. He is a very hostile judge to me. I said it loud and clear... A hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He's a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel and he is not doing the right thing... judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great. I think that's fine... I think Judge Curiel should be ashamed of himself... it's a disgrace that he's doing this... the judges in this court system, federal court... they ought to look into that Judge Curiel because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace... he's proud of his heritage, OK? I'm building a wall... we are building a wall. He's a Mexican.We're building a wall between here and Mexico... he is giving us very unfair rulings, rulings that people can't even believe... he is giving us unfair rulings Now, I saw "why?" Well, I'm building a wall, OK? And it's a wall between America and Mexico. Not another country. He's of Mexican heritage and he's very proud of it... 
It makes me want to vomit all over again, just reading all of this hatred from the man who wanted to be - and now is - the president.

But - back to the point -- I'm STILL trying to find a similarity between Obama blasting a SCOTUS decision and Trump's comments about either Judge Robart or Judge Curiel. There is no double standard here, is there?

We might need some clarification from Sean Spicer on this one.

February 8, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v78)

Wow. As in Wondering on Wednesday, and as in wow!

First, I admit I wondered how far I should go with the so-called bit and I've decided that there's no more wondering. I will refer to the so-called President just as the so-called President referred to District Judge James Robart as the so-called judge who ordered a temporary halt to the executive order on immigration (EOI). I suppose after the whole "Mexican, we believe" crap about Judge Gonzalo Curiel, there should have been no surprise that the so-called president would stick his foolish neck out and make a rash statement about any other member of the judiciary who might see an issue with any of Trump's ideas.

What I am wondering about are the comments from Trump's SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch.

He called Trump's attack on the judiciary "demoralizing" and "disheartening" when he was meeting with legislators in advance of his confirmation hearings. Are these the comments of a man who's trying to show his independence by disagreeing with Trump in a venue that was sure to see the light of day? Or are these the comments of a many who's doing exactly what Trump wanted him to do, to appear independent and outspoken, a free thinker not tied to Trump's beliefs? And I wonder, what would the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia have done in these circumstances? Because from all I've seen, he's really the Gorsuch compass.

Except for the whole fascist thing, I guess.

I mean, was anyone really wondering if we were considering an admitted fascist, the Founder and President of the Fascism Forever Club in prep school, for a lifetime seat as a Supreme?

Of course not; and of course, we're  not considering any such person. Because there wasn't any such club, Gorsuch's yearbook entry notwithstanding.

And then, I'm wondering why Elizabeth Warren was silenced for impugning the reputation of another senator? Warren was being her usual fierce self expressing her opposition to the nomination of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III as Attorney General (he was confirmed today by the way). At some point, she touched a nerve and was officially shut up by a Senate rule about being mean to your peers.

Somehow, reading a letter from the widow of a civil rights leader is impugnatory, but calling the Senate leader a liar is not. Elizabeth Warren was bad, but Lowell Weicker was not. Fun stuff here, for sure, but like many people, I have to wonder whether this move will backfire against lying Mitch McConnell. Warren went from a C-SPAN hearing to some 10,000,000 people watching her read the letter on various media.

And speaking of 10,000,000, that's probably the number of people the so-called President's daughter wishes was purchasing her branded merchandise over the past few months. Had that been the case, maybe Nordstrom wouldn't be dropping her. Now, there's no wondering how Daddy would react to that, right? Of course not!

A tweet here, a tweet there, and, well, we're right smack dab in the middle of a conflict of interest again, and right smack dab in the middle of yet another situation where the #MAGA man, and #BAHA man, is slamming an American company to suit his personal need -- and, oh just by the way, tweeting about it using the official @POTUS account, which we pay for. And having his press secretary blather on about it, spreading alternative facts on why the luxury department store did what they did. We pay for him, too.

Oh - if you were wondering, Nordstrom stock went up today, when they fought back against the Daddy in Chief. How cool is that!

But 10,000,000 is a piddly little number, one that pales in comparison to the $150,000,000 value placed on Melania Trump's multi-year gig as First Lady, and the associated business and branding opportunities she may have lost out on because some reporter suggested she was a call girl, or an escort, or some other term meaning hooker at the same time she was a model in the years before meeting her so-called husband.

Not that she was planning on capitalizing on her First Ladiness, for heaven's sake, who could even wonder such a thing?

As I said at the outset -- wow, this was one busy Wednesday!

February 5, 2017

Sunday School 2/5/2017

We visited three classrooms today.

First up: Jake Tapper on CNN's State of the Union chatted with Still Not a Democrat Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders about (so-called) President Trump when Tapper asked about changes to the Dodd-Frank regulations.
You know, it's hard not to laugh to see President Trump alongside these Wall Street guys.  I have to say this Jake. And I -- I don't mean to be disrespectful. This guy is a fraud. This guy ran for president of the United States saying "I, Donald Trump, I'm going to take on Wall Street. These guys are getting away with murder." And then, suddenly, he appoints all these billionaires. His major financial advisor comes from Goldman Sachs and now he's going to dismantle legislation that protects consumers...  
So, I hope that all of those folks who voted for Mr. Trump because he - they thought that he would stand up for working people, man, this guy is - you know, he's a good showman. I will give you that. He's a good TV guy.  Look at his cabinet. We have never had more billionaires in a Cabinet in the history of this country. Look at his appointees. These are people who are going after the needs of working families. the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor. That is called hypocrisy. And by the way, I think people like Mitch McConnell...who is a mainstream conservative politician, are going to be put into a very, very difficult place.
Next, we checked in with John Dickerson on CBS' Face the Nation, where VP Mike Pence was trying to defend his boss's indefensible comments to Bill O'Reilly about America, and Russia. ICYMI, O'Reilly asked if Trump respected Putin. Here's how it went
POTUS: I do respect him
O'Reilly: Do you? Why?
POTUS: Well, I respect a lot of people, but that doesn't mean I'm going to get along with them. He is a leader of his country...
O'Reilly: He is a killer, though. Putin is a killer.
POTUS: A lot of killers. We have got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?
Pence, for the defense, talking with Dickerson:
This is a -- this is an enormously important moment in  - in the life of our - our nation on the world stage because we now have a president who is re-engaging a world from which America has been stepping back over the last eight years...
Dickerson challenged again.
When you re-engage the world, you have to do it with a moral voice...I will quote from Bret Stephens who is on the Wall Street Journal editorial page, who tweeted "President Trump puts the United States on moral par with Putin's Russia. Never in history as a president slandered his country like this."   A president speaks with a moral voice when he is re-engaging the country. He suggested America was on the equivalent par with somebody who was a killer.
I simply don't accept that there was any moral equivalency in the president's comments. Look, President Trump throughout his life, his campaign and this administration has never hesitated to be critical of government policies by the United States in the past. But there was no moral equivalency...What I can tell you is there was no moral equivalency in what the president was saying....but we recognize, we recognize the extraordinary superiority of the ideals of the American people and the implementation of those ideals. But...
Dickerson asked, at least twice, whether America was morally superior to Russia. The first time, Pence reiterated Trump's re-engaging the world blather. The second time, when Dickerson applied a yes or no to the end of the question, Pence answered
I believe that the ideals that America has stood for throughout our history represent the highest ideals of humankind.
Dickerson tried one last time, wondering if we shouldn't be able to just say yes to the question, that America is morally superior to Russia. Pence, one last time, failed to just give that simple answer
I think it is without question...That American ideals are -- are superior to countries all across the world. But again, what the president is determined to do, as someone who has spent a lifetime looking for deals, is to see if we can have a new relationship with Russia and other countries that advances the interests of America first and the peace and security of the world
And my patriotism is questioned?

Finally, on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace chatted with California Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Dem on the Senate Judiciary Committee, about the nomination of Neil Gorsuch as Trump's first SCOTUS pick. Feinstein is one of the senators still in office who approved Gorsuch's appointment to the federal appeals court bench by a unanimous voice vote back in 2006. Wallace asked if Gorsuch was a mainstream pick. Feinstein's answer?
Well, at this stage, I can't comment. Let me tell you where we are at this stage. Friday evening, the questions went out from the committee to the nominee. I view the minority party's challenge to do a full and fair hearing, and to have the time to garner the facts to really understand the history of this nominee. And we will do that. And I believe the chairman has given us the tine to do this, and also believes that the hearing should be full and fair.
If it's a product of this hearing, we make the decision that he is not in the mainstream of judicial thought, that there are some positions he holds which are, in fact, egregious - I do not know that at this time - then it's a different story. But I want the Democratic side to start out from a neutral base and really do the proper exploratory work and then be able to hold full and fair hearings.  And we will do that. 
Hear, hear.

And with that, the classroom lights are off until next Sunday.

Grains of Salt (v19): Waiting for Consensus

I've been neglecting things that are going on around Syracuse and Central New York, what with all of the bluster and noise coming from Washington DC, so I thought it was time to throw around a few Grains of Salt.

You remember the Consensus Commission, right? The group of local businessmen, educators, movers and shakers that were trying t come up with some kind of recommendation for a metropolitan government in this neck of the woods?

I've written about this group a few times in the past, but not lately, as we're still waiting for their final report. The group itself has been quiet, so I guess I can go a little easy on myself.  For example, their official Facebook page hasn't been updated since August of last year, when they posted an article by Tim Knauss of the Post-Standard and syracuse.com stating that their report would be out by "mid-fall" according to Consensus co-chair Neal Murphy. Noting that "no deadline has been set" Knauss reported
Since any public referendum on the initiatives is likely more than a year away, the commission is taking time to deliberate and refine its recommendations...It's more important that we get this right than that we commit to an arbitrary timetable. 
While the commission has been deliberative (the latest was that the report was expected by the end of January, which has come and gone with no update), and while I've been neglectful, I can assure you our Sonofa Gov Andrew Cuomo and our local county executive, OnJoanie Mahoney, have not been sitting idly by, oh no sirree.

Cuomo announced a plan to Empower Voters to Approve Plans to Lower the Cost of Local Government as part of his Rolling State of the State Address, delivered in various cities across the state. This 23rd recommendation from Cuomo requires county execs to come up with consolidation plans, put them in front of their county legislature (not the impacted jurisdiction) by August 1, 2017. If the county's elected officials don't get the plan implemented, it goes to the voters on the ballot in November for approval or, if not approved, the process starts all over again the following year, with similar August and November deadlines.

Sounds like fun, right? Because, after all, according to the Gov,
The property tax is the most burdensome tax to homeowners and business owners in every part of the state, inhibiting their ability to grow and contribute to our economy. By challenging local governments to create a plan to streamline government bureaucracy for voter approval, this innovative and powerful initiative will empower communities and lead to real, recurring property tax savings... this proposal will reduce the burden of the tax and establish New York as a national model for government efficiency.
OnJoanie has said that she thinks people want consolidation, and she'd put a proposal on the table; for example,
We're good at parks, and we can take on the city parks. I would put it on a referendum if I thought the public wanted that, really, regardless of the other political agendas in town. 
We'll see whether Mahoney's judgment on what the people want is on target or not when the final report from Consensus gets here, but if the open comment period last year is any indication, there may bes less support for it than she thinks.

And, of course, we'll have to wait and see if the state legislature, or the three men in a room, even approve the Gov's plan. There's no guarantee the local politicians will set aside their spiteful political agendas and support this, and state senators and representatives are very likely to get an earful.

Consensus, anyone?

February 3, 2017

OrangeVerse VI: The ABC Interview (part 2)

More Presidential poetry from the Trump interview with David Muir.

Nothing Bigger
Let me just tell you
you know what's important,
millions of people agree
with me
when I say that if
you would've looked on
one of the
other networks
and all of the people
that were calling in
they're saying
We Agree
With Mr. Trump. 
They're very smart people.

probably. But possibly
We're gonna get to
the bottom
of it.
If people are
registered wrongly... 
which they are,
if dead people
are registered...
and voting,
which they do....
We're gonna try 
finding that out.

We're gonna try finding that out
Well, we're gonna find out.
We're gonna find out
And -- and, by they way
when I say you're gonna find out.
You can never really find,
you know, there are gonna be -- 
no matter what
numbers we come up with
there are gonna be
lots of people that did things
that we're not
gonna find out about.
we will find out
because we need
a better 
where that
can't happen.

February 1, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v77)

What's on tap for tonight?

First, I was wondering if I was crazy last night when I thought I noticed that the Trump Boys on camera during the announcement of Neil Gorsuch as the pick for the Merrick Garland seat on the Supreme Court. I mean, I thought they were supposed to be out of the mix on the governmental stuff and very busy running the business, so the couldn't possibly be front and center there, right?

I could have been confused, but the boys both tweeted pictures of the announcement ceremony, so it must be true. So, now I'm wondering, will they be at every announcement at the White House? And if they're not able to stay away from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, will their Dad be able to stay away from Trump Tower? Time will tell, I guess.

Anyone remember Kim Davis, the clerk in Kentucky who not only refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, but ordered her staff to do the same? Davis was sent to jail for her outright refusal to obey the law and provide the required services to the taxpaying constituency she served.

Now, I wonder, where were those conscientious Republicans when Trump fired  Acting Attorney General Sally Yates when she indicated she would not send Justice Department attorneys to defend the Executive Order approving cherry-picking of refugees based on their religious beliefs, or refusing entry to people who had risked their lives helping America fight terrorists, or stopping legal residents of the United States at the gate?  Something seems wrong about that, doesn't it?

Switching gears...

With Super Bowl IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII just around the corner, I wonder how many people will be rooting for one of the two teams, how many for the commercials, how many for the half-time show, and how many for their board numbers?  

And speaking of the Super Bowl, the commercials are already being 'previewed' on the news - both online and TV - well in advance of the game. I know about two of them so far -- one, for GNC, was refused by the NFL. Why?

Well, according to this report,
GNC is listed under 'prohibited companies' on a memo from the NFL and its players union, It warns players not to endorse or have a business relationship with GNC because it has been "associated with the production, manufacture or distribution of NFL banned substances."
It stinks, as GNC rightly notes, that they were rejected less than a week before the game, long after they had made their investment and more than a month after it was made known they planned an ad. I wonder if there's a supplement they can take for that?

The other ad we're seeing a lot about is the almost Clydesdale-less Budweiser ad, featuring the story of how Adolphus Busch ended up in St. Louis, where he meets the patriarch of the Anheuser clan. And the rest, as they say, is history. It's a great ad, on which development started early last year - and the timing couldn't be better under the circumstances.

But what I'm wondering is, will there be a backlash from Trump supporters, thinking that the ad is a commentary on his recent executive order? If Trump decides to tweet about this, similar to how he rallied his forces against Macy's, what will happen to the Bud brand?

I'm also thinking about the Super Bowl ad that isn't -- the one that Kraft Heinz could have done, would have done, except that instead, they gave all of their salaried employees the day off. Not just because they're a kind and generous company, but because they support having Super Bowl Monday be a national holiday.  The company is even backing a petition for it.

It is, after all, a huge day of wasted productivity, and a huge day of sick-calling-in, which of course the salaried KH employees won't have to worry about.  Their factory brethren? Yeah, they don't have the day off.  I wonder, is this just another example of the haves wielding it over the have nots?

And finally - on the whole day off thing: I wonder, does it make sense for America to have Super Bowl Monday an official holiday?

Or, maybe, could we think about having Election Day be our next holiday?

Just wondering.