Tag Archives: Trump

Trump reportedly doesn’t think high-school kids should be able to buy guns and may seek law raising the age limit???

  • President Donald Trump reportedly told those close to him that he was open to the idea of a law barring those under 21 from buying rifles like the AR-15.
  • The AR-15 has been used in the deadliest shootings in recent US history, including last Wednesday’s massacre in Parkland, Florida, and handgun sales by federally licensed dealers are already restricted to those over 21.
  • Trump has already signaled he’s willing to take steps toward gun control, moving this week to ban bump stocks.

President Donald Trump’s meetings with victims of last week’s Florida school shooting appear to have made an impact on him, as he reportedly has told people close to him that high-school kids shouldn’t be able to buy guns.

Jonathan Swan of the news website Axios reports that Trump privately said he was open to a law barring those under 21 from buying rifles like the AR-15, which has been used in the deadliest shootings in US history.

Today, federal law has a minimum age of 18 for purchases of rifles or shotguns from licensed dealers and of 21 for handguns. Federal law also says, however, that unlicensed people, such as a friend who is making a one-off sale, can sell rifles or shotguns to those of any age and can sell handguns to those over age 18. States are allowed to make further restrictions.

Handguns are thought to be a higher security risk because they are easily concealed, even though rifles like the AR-15 are more capable in terms of range and ammunition capacity.

Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old suspect in last week’s Parkland, Florida, attack, the deadliest high-school shooting in recent US history, legally bought the AR-15 authorities say was used in the attack.

Swan cited an anonymous source as saying Trump was holding “loose and open-ended” talks about gun legislation, though the source cautioned that any proposal regarding ages of gun buyers was not close to being decided. Trump is hosting a listening session with high-school students and teachers from Parkland at the White House on Wednesday.

Throughout his presidency, Trump has proved responsive to media coverage, and the survivors of the Florida school shooting have become a sustained and vocal presence calling for gun control in the wake of the tragedy.

Trump has already proved flexible on the issue of gun control, on Tuesday ordering the Justice Department to hasten its proposed regulations on the sale of bump stocks, the devices that attach to the back of a semiautomatic rifle and allow it to function as an automatic weapon.

By Alex Lockie/BusinessInsider

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Four Observations on the Latest Mueller Bombshell in ‘Russiagate’

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian nationals and several Russian entities. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP)

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has blown the lid off the “Russiagate” scandal. In a 37-page grand jury indictment filed last Friday, Mueller charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian businesses with an elaborate conspiracy to defraud the United States aimed at disrupting the 2016 presidential race. At the intersection of law and politics, it doesn’t get much bigger than this.

Since news of the indictment broke, every interested party on the planet has worked hard to spin the story—from President Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the talking heads on cable news and the nettlesome trolls who haunt your favorite websites.

Taking to Twitter, Trump has insisted the indictment exonerates him of collusion and does nothing to tarnish his election, while Lavrov has blasted the filing as pure “blather.”

The talking heads have been all over the map, with some on MSNBC and CNN predicting Trump’s inevitable downfall, and others on Fox dismissing the indictment as insignificant. The trolls continue, as before, to wail about Mueller and the machinations of the “deep state.”

If all the noise has left you a bit dazed and confused, here are four observations to help make sense of the situation:

1. Russiagate isn’t a hoax.

Until the indictment, the official position of the White House and the president’s Fox News echo chamber—and even some pundits on the left and independent groups—was that there was no proof whatsoever to the claim that Russia or individuals acting on behalf of the Russian government attempted to intervene in the 2016 election. The scandal was trivialized as a hoax or fake news, or worse, a witch hunt and a new form of McCarthyism designed to discredit Trump’s victory.

On the right, advocates of this viewpoint were motivated by a desire to defend Trump at all costs because they supported his positions on immigration, hostility to the media, rolling back voting rights and the social safety net, accelerating mass incarceration, dismantling Obamacare and redistributing the nation’s wealth even more obscenely in favor of the super-rich through a combination of tax cuts and economic and environmental deregulation.

Skeptics on the left were understandably leery of alleged Russian intervention because of the hypocrisy and lies the country has been fed for years about foreign policy and the threat of terrorism by the intelligence community (the federation of 17 agencies, including the FBI and CIA, responsible for monitoring and protecting national security). Some elements on the left also were doubtful because of their opposition to the destructive economic and social consequences of neoliberalism as a governing philosophy, as represented by the Clintons and the dominant corporate wing of the Democratic Party.

Some on the left even saw Trump as a “peace candidate” who would pursue détente with Vladimir Putin in contrast to Clinton, who would promote continued U.S. aggression. Some pushed the slogan during the campaign that “Trump is the symptom [of the illnesses of American capitalism], Clinton is the disease.”

Both groups of skeptics argued that if there were any substance to the theory of Russian intervention, we would have learned the details by now. It wasn’t enough for either group that emails from the Democratic National Committee or from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta Jr.’s personal account wound up being published by WikiLeaks. The skeptics countered that the DNC’s emails were leaked from the inside rather than hacked from the outside.

Other instances of Russian meddling, such as the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a collection of Russians led by Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, a well-connected lawyer with ties to the Russian Federal Security Service, were derided as inconsequential “nothing burgers.”

The new Mueller indictment undermines the skepticism. It lays out in meticulous detail the allegation of a conspiracy to “sow discord in the U.S. political system” through a variety of means, including, but not limited to, the creation and use of false and stolen social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and the opening of bank accounts based on Social Security numbers stolen from unsuspecting Americans. Although the conspiracy began in 2014, the indictment charges that ultimately it was directed at helping Trump win the 2016 election.

As alleged in paragraph six of the indictment:

“Defendants posted derogatory information about a number of candidates, and by

early to mid-2016, Defendants’ operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign”) and disparaging Hillary Clinton. Defendants made various expenditures to carry out those activities, including buying political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities. Defendants also staged political rallies inside the United States, and while posing as U.S. grassroots entities and U.S. persons, and without revealing their Russian identities and ORGANIZATION affiliation, solicited and compensated real U.S. persons to promote or disparage candidates. Some Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities.”

The individuals responsible for the conspiracy are listed by name. They include a dozen computer hackers and operatives employed by the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency LLC (IRA), long considered Russia’s premier espionage “troll factory.” Also named are the IRA’s parent companies, Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering, and Concord’s owner, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, a Kremlin confidant who reportedly has made a fortune in the food-supply business. Moscow insiders jokingly have nicknamed Prigozhin “Putin’s chef.”

The defendants are accused in eight counts of the crimes of conspiracy against the United States in violation of federal election laws that prohibit foreign influence; wire and bank fraud; and aggravated identity theft.

The specific overt acts the defendants allegedly undertook in furtherance of the conspiracy are meticulously laid out in the indictment one by one, paragraph after lengthy paragraph, perpetrator by perpetrator, deed by deed, date by date, place by place. Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—the special counsel’s Justice Department supervisor, who announced the indictment at a Friday afternoon news conference—believe they can prove each and every allegation beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Although the chances are virtually nil that the defendants will ever be extradited, the indictment is clear and precise, and by no means the product of a hoax.

2. Although the indictment does not charge Trump and members of his inner circle with criminal conduct, it by no means clears them.

In his news conference, Rosenstein emphasized that no Americans were named as defendants in the indictment. Under the terms of the indictment, he explained, no Americans are accused of “wittingly” or “knowingly” participating in the conspiracy.

On the heels of the news conference, Trump and his supporters have seized on Rosenstein’s remarks to claim that the indictment clears the president and his campaign of any charges of colluding or plotting with the Russians.

They could not be more wrong.

The truth—always an elusive commodity in the hands of the 45th commander in chief—is that the indictment is silent on the criminal liability of any Americans. It does not prove there is no liability.

We know this because Mueller also disclosed on Friday that he and his team had secured a guilty plea earlier this month from a California man named Ricky Pinedo on charges of identity fraud for using stolen identities to set up bank accounts that he later unwittingly sold to the Russians to facilitate their social media mischief.

Nowhere is Pinedo, who has entered into an agreement to cooperate with Mueller, mentioned in the new indictment filed against the Russians. It is simply wishful thinking on the president’s part to conclude that additional Americans, including some possibly linked directly to the Trump campaign, won’t be subsequently prosecuted. Trump and his minions also seem to have forgotten, or wish the rest of us have, that Mueller also has secured guilty pleas from two other former Trump advisers—George Papadopoulos and Gen. Michael Flynn—for lying to the FBI. Like Pinedo, they have promised to cooperate with Mueller in his ongoing probe.

In another late-breaking development, former Trump adviser Rick Gates is expected to plead guilty to money laundering charges, and agree to testify against ex-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort in a trial slated for early May.

As such cases illustrate, the Mueller investigation as a whole is concerned with far more than Russian efforts to disrupt the elections by infiltrating social media platforms. Most critically of all, the investigation is focused on the president’s personal liability for obstruction of justice stemming from the May 2017 firing of former FBI Director James Comey, and possible money laundering involving his business dealings with Russian interests both here and abroad.

3. The indictment does not prove the election was stolen from Clinton, but neither does it establish the opposite.

As the old saying goes: “Even a broken clock is right twice day a day.” In at least one respect, Trump was correct in asserting in a weekend tweetstorm on Mueller and the FBI that nothing alleged in the new indictment shows the conspiracy affected the outcome of the election. In his news conference, Rosenstein made the same observation, although without the histrionics.

Still, nothing alleged in the indictment will lift the cloud of illegitimacy that has surrounded the Trump presidency. In all likelihood, the indictment will have the opposite long-term effect, as it alleges that the Russian disinformation operation managed to reach millions of Americans.

The election was decided by under 78,000 votes in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. Clinton may have been the worst candidate the Democrats could have nominated, but had she prevailed in all three, she would have won the Electoral College by a tally of 278 to 260.

4. For the moment, Rosenstein and Mueller are safe.

Since his appointment, Mueller has been a constant thorn in Trump’s side. According to The New York Times, he threatened to fire Mueller last June, when stories first circulated that Mueller was looking into the obstruction issue. Trump reportedly stopped short of giving the termination order only because White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II threatened to resign.

It’s also no secret that Trump distrusts Rosenstein. Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself in March 2017 from overseeing the Russia investigation, Rosenstein is Mueller’s boss. Under the law, only Rosenstein has the authority to carry out a presidential order to fire Mueller, and he may do so only for good cause.

Should Rosenstein refuse, Trump could fire him or force his resignation, and command the official next in line in the Justice Department’s hierarchy to get rid of Mueller. With the impending retirement of Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the task would fall to Solicitor General Noel Francisco, whose basic responsibility is to represent the administration before the Supreme Court. Francisco is a movement conservative long affiliated with the Federalist Society.

It’s by no means certain that Francisco would agree to fire Mueller, but if he did, he would follow in the footsteps of Robert Bork, who as Richard Nixon’s solicitor general fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” of 1973.

Whether by design or not, the new Russia indictment, with all the details it sets forth, should stave off a repeat of the massacre—but only for the time being. With Mueller negotiating with Trump’s attorneys to set up a face-to-face interview of the president under oath, anything could happen in the coming months.

By Bill Blum/truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Trump’s Food Stamp Overhaul Sounds Like a Boondoggle Waiting to Happen And, weirdly, grocery store cronyism might be the thing that stops it.

As part of the budget proposal unveiled earlier this week, the Trump administration is calling for a radical overhaul of so-called “food stamps” that would have the U.S. Department of Agriculture shipping boxes of nonperishable food to low-income Americans every month.

Think Amazon Prime, but for terrible canned food selected by bureaucrats.

The problem here isn’t the general idea of reforming the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). The Government Accountability Office has raised red flags about abuse of SNAP benefits, and the U.S. Department of Agricuture’s inspector general says “the magnitude of program abuse due to recipient fraud is unknown,” in part because states do not have uniform reporting requirements about beneficiaries. There’s also a glorious history of outrage journalism focused on particularly egregious abuses of the SNAP system, like the infamous California surfer dude who told Fox News in 2013 that he was eating lobster on the taxpayers’ dime. And while those stories may be more anecdotal than systematic, there’s also plenty of run-of-the-mill government waste in SNAP.

Meanwhile, spending on food stamps doubled under George W. Bush, despite the fact that most of his presidency saw relatively low unemployment, and it continued to climb under Barack Obama, thanks to the Great Recession and the stimulus bill, which eased income requirements for recipients. Enrollment in SNAP has fallen slightly since peaking in 2013, but there were still more than 42 million Americans getting food stamps in 2017, up from just 17 million at the turn of the century. The average benefit is about $125 per month.

But Trump’s “America’s Harvest Box” proposal is a boondoggle waiting to happen. There are many, many good questions about how the program would actually work, and very few answers in the budget proposal. Even if the USDA figures out how to deliver food to the homeless or account for possible nut allergies, there’s still the bigger fundamental question of how the government is going to pack and ship hundreds of millions of food boxes each year.

The USDA claims the America’s Harvest Box system will save about $129 billion over 10 years. That may sound like a lot, but USDA spokesman Tim Murtaugh told Politico it “does not include shipping door-to-door for all recipients,” which, you know, seems like a pretty big expense to leave out. Making 5 billion food shipments over the next 10 years—that’s 42 million people, times 12 shipments per year, times 10 years—will surely wipe out a good chunk of those savings. It may well wipe out all of them.

Chart by Eric Boehm; Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture 2018 SNAP Participation and Costs report https://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snapChart by Eric Boehm; Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture 2018 SNAP Participation and Costs report https://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snapOn a fundamental level, SNAP benefits are a voucher system—they distribute public benefits without having the government directly involved in the distribution. This is generally a better way to go about providing welfare and other government services (like schools!) because it allows the market to do the work of providing goods and services to consumers, while the government’s role is reduced to merely helping fund the operation. They’re not perfect, of course, as the history of waste and abuse in the SNAP system demonstrates. Voucher systems also require bureaucratic oversight—SNAP spent more than $4.3 billion on “administrative costs” in 2017—that consume tax dollars without helping anyone, and they create rent-seeking opportunities for the businesses that collect government voucher money in exchange for providing goods and services to the needy.

In fact, that latter phenomenon is likely to be the thing that stops the administration from implementing its plan to replace SNAP with these weirdly paternalistic government-issued food boxes.

Jennifer Hatcher, chief public policy officer for the Food Marketing Institute, which represents grocery stores and other retailers that sell food, has already declared that the food box proposal “would increase costs in other areas that would negate any savings.” Her institute warns that government-delivered food boxes would be far less efficient than the current setup.

There are two things happening here. First, grocery stores are protecting their own bottom lines. They make billions of dollars each year from SNAP recipients, and they understandably don’t want to see those people getting their food somewhere else. This sort of behavior is exactly why reforming welfare and entitlement programs is so politically difficult. Grocery stores like SNAP, hospitals like Medicaid, and so on. Regardless of how you feel about the administration’s plan to radically alter the SNAP program, that inertia presents a real problem for instituting changes.

Second, well, the grocery stores aren’t exactly wrong about the inefficiency thing.

Prosperous countries shouldn’t allow people to starve to death in the streets, so the debate over SNAP benefits is really a question of efficiency. The government is going to provide some form of safety net for those who otherwise would not be able to eat, but what’s the best way to do that with as little waste (“administrative costs”) and abuse (“lobsters for surfer dudes”) as possible? The current voucher system obviously has shortcomings, but an alternative that involves more central planning and fewer market forces seems like a step in the wrong direction, especially if the goal is budgetary savings.

Better to go in the opposite direction: Just give the SNAP beneficiaries cash and let them spend it as they choose. Sure, some will waste their cut on beer and cigarettes, but is that really much worse than getting a box of government cheese (and maybe some nuts and dried fruit, I guess) from the USDA once a month? Whatever money is wasted like that will surely be less than what the USDA spends administrating the current SNAP program, and far less than creating a government agency to compete with Blue Apron and Amazon.

Amazon, by the way, is already rolling out plans to deliver food to the needy. So if the USDA sucks at getting your Soviet-style box of food rations to you, there’s another option.

By Eric Boehm/Reason

Posted by The NON-Confomist

How Haiti became poor


In case you missed it, the President of the United States called Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries “shitholes,” then pretended like he didn’t say it, but basically said it all over again.

This matters not just because it’s racist (the President is racist, in fact, he is professionally racist), because it’s vulgar (“shithole,” one of the all-time great swear words, is forever sullied by this), and because it’s catastrophically bad for foreign and domestic relations. It matters in part because of the history of Haiti, and the history of racist discourse about Haiti.

Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, a professor of education and scholar who’s closely studied these narratives, writes:

The reason why White nationalists like 45 always name Haiti because the Haitian nation & people are unique. Haiti defeated Napoleon, threw off the chains of slavery, and exposed the lie of White supremacy & European imperialism. So there’s no end to their hatred for Haiti.

Jonathan Katz, a journalist and former AP correspondent in Haiti who wrote The Big Truck That Went By about Haiti’s 2010 earthquake and the cholera epidemic that followed, has a longer thread spelling out how these narratives about Haiti were generated and how they work. Here’s a thick excerpt:

In order to do a victory lap around the GDP difference between, say, Norway and Haiti, you have to know nothing about the history of the world. That includes, especially, knowing nothing real about the history of the United States… You’d have to not know that the French colony that became Haiti provided the wealth that fueled the French Empire — and 2/3 of the sugar and 3/4 of the coffee that Europe consumed…

You’d have to not realize that Haiti was founded in a revolution against that system, and that European countries and the United States punished them for their temerity by refusing to recognize or trade with them for decades. You’d have to not know that Haiti got recognition by agreeing to pay 150 million gold francs to French landowners in compensation for their own freedom. You’d have to not know that Haiti paid it, and that it took them almost all of the 19th century to do so.

You’d then have to not know that Haiti was forced to borrow some money to pay back that ridiculous debt, some of it from banks in the United States. And you’d have to not know that in 1914 those banks got President Wilson to send the US Marines to empty the Haitian gold reserve… [You’d] have to not know about the rest of the 20th century either—the systematic theft and oppression, US support for dictators and coups, the US invasions of Haiti in 1994-95 and 2004…

In short, you’d have to know nothing about WHY Haiti is poor (or El Salvador in kind), and WHY the United States (and Norway) are wealthy. But far worse than that, you’d have to not even be interested in asking the question. And that’s where they really tell on themselves… Because what they are showing is that they ASSUME that Haiti is just naturally poor, that it’s an inherent state borne of the corruption of the people there, in all senses of the word.

And let’s just say out loud why that is: It’s because Haitians are black.

Racists have needed Haiti to be poor since it was founded. They pushed for its poverty. They have celebrated its poverty. They have tried to profit from its poverty. They wanted it to be a shithole. And they still do.

If Haiti is a shithole, then they can say that black freedom and sovereignty are bad. They can hold it up as proof that white countries—and what’s whiter than Norway—are better, because white people are better. They wanted that in 1804, and in 1915, and they want it now.

The history of Haiti is weird because it is absurdly well-documented, yet totally poorly known. It’s hard not to attribute that to ideology. We don’t teach the Haitian Revolution the way we teach the American, or the French, or the Mexican, because it’s a complicated story. Kids are more likely to hear variations of “Haiti formed a pact with the devil to defeat Napoleon” (this is real thing, I swear) than Toussaint Louverture’s or Jean-Jacques Dessalines’s names.

Also, while Haiti’s revolution was an early, signature event in world history-the first time a European power would be overthrown by an indigenous army (but not the last)-the causes of Haiti’s poverty are basically identical with those of almost every poor nation around the world: a history of exploitation, bad debt, bad geopolitics, and bad people profiting off of that poverty (almost all of them living elsewhere). And this is basically true about poverty in American cities as well (with all the same attendant racist myths).

Posted by Tim Carmody

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Harley-Davidson to Close Kansas City Plant Citing Trump Tax Cuts Factory workers are catching on the the president’s con.

Harley-Davidson executives rode into the White House compound nearly one year ago to meet with Donald Trump, who promised a bright future ahead for the motorcycle maker. From that embarrassing speech:

So it’s great to have Harley-Davidson.  What a great, great group of people and what a fantastic job you do.  And thank you for all of the votes you gave me in Wisconsin.  Some people thought that was an upset; I thought we were going to win it.  From the beginning, we thought we were going to win it.

Harley-Davidson is a true American icon, one of the greats.  Your motorcycles have carried American servicemembers in the war—in the wars.  They take care of our police officers.  And I see it so often—whenever I go—whenever there’s a motorcycle group, oftentimes it’s a Harley.  And the sound of that Harley is a little different, I have to tell you.  It’s really good.

So thank you, Harley-Davidson, for building things in America.  And I think you’re going to even expand—I know your business is now doing very well and there’s a lot of spirit right now in the country that you weren’t having so much in the last number of months that you have right now.  You see what’s happening.

[Emphasis added.]

Donald Trump’s predicted Harley-Davidson would expand because the spirits of the nation have been lifted with his triumph over President Obama’s booming legacy economy. Unfortunately for 800 Harley-Davidson employees in the Kansas City area, the Trump con is up and Harley-Davidson is closing the Kansas City assembly plant. From USA Today:

The Milwaukee-based company said its net income fell 82% in its fiscal fourth quarter to $8.3 million, compared with a year earlier. Earnings per share were 5 cents, down from 27 cents a year earlier. Revenue was $1.23 billion, up from $1.11 billion.

The earnings drop came in part because of a charge associated with President Trump’s tax cut and a $29.4 million charge for a voluntary product recall.

Harley-Davidson worldwide retail motorcycle sales fell 6.7% in 2017 compared to 2016. The company’s U.S. sales fell 8.5% and international sales were down 3.9%

Reuters initially reported on the charge:


Thanks to community member boran2 for pointing out that Harley is simultaneously planning to build an assembly plant in Thailand.

The Kansas City plant closing will cost Harley as much as $200 million through 2019, then result in annual cash savings of $65 million to $75 million after 2020. Levatich declined to say how much production capacity will be reduced. At the same time, the company is building a factory in Thailand that will assemble bikes using components shipped from the U.S.

By Jen Hayden/DailyKos

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Reason as racism: An immigration debate gets derailed

someone sounds like an “apologist” for theirs or others wrongdoing or wrong language…just saying

Calling someone a racist is the new McCarthyism. The charge is pernicious. The accuser doesn’t need to prove it. It simply hangs over the accused like a great human stain.

It has become not a descriptive term for a person who believes in the superiority of one race over another, but a term of malice and libel — almost beyond refutation, as the words “communist” or “communist sympathizer” were in the 1950s.

Moreover, the accuser somehow covers himself in an immunity of superiority. If I call you a racist, I probably will not be called one. And, finally, having chosen the ultimate epithet, I have dodged the obligation to converse or build.

If Donald Trump is called a racist for saying some nations are “shithole countries,” does that help pass a “Dreamers” bill to keep gifted young people in this nation — people who have something to give the United States and are undocumented only because they were brought here by their parents illegally?

That’s the goal, is it not? To save the Dreamers? That’s what the White House meeting last week was about. It’s what the whole week was about, until we went down the “racist” rabbit hole.

We were having an immigration debate. To the president, it is a reasonable goal, and one that most Americans would agree upon, to want to naturalize more people based on “merit.” We want more people who can contribute to our culture and economy, and they tend to come from stable nations.

If the president had used the world “hellhole” instead, would that have been racist?

If he had used the word “failed states,” would that have been racist?

But there are nations that are hellholes in this world. And there are failed states. It is not racist to say that this country cannot take only the worst people from the worst places and that we want some of the best people from the best places, many of which are inhabited by people of color. That’s not racism, it is reason.

Yes, we should take in unskilled refugees. We also want more Indian Ph.D.s and engineers.

If Sen. Dick Durbin wants to disagree about placing merit at the center of our immigration policies, if he wants to take an unlimited number of unemployed and unemployable people because, after all, that’s what most Poles and Irish were called in the 1900s, let him say that. And let Mr. Durbin and the president debate two concepts of American immigration policy honorably and finally find a middle ground where there is agreement and common purpose.

But, when we have a chance to reform the immigration system, and save the Dreamers, and find common ground, let us not get distracted by another cudgel to use against the president. Calling the president a racist helps no one — it is simply another way (the Russia and instability cards having been played unsuccessfully) to attempt to delegitimize a legitimately elected president.

Did the president use a crudity in a private meeting? He says he did not. No one who was there has said he did on the record. But if he did, so what? So what? America today is a sadly crass place where many of us use vulgar, corrosive language we ought not use in private and work conversations. How many of us would like to see and share a transcript of everything we have said in private conversations or at work?

And how many presidents have said crass things in the Oval Office in private meetings? Think of Kennedy, Clinton and Nixon, to name three.

If the president is wrong on immigration — on merit, on finding a balance between skilled and unskilled immigrants, on chain migration, on the lottery — let his opponents defeat him on these points, and not by calling him a racist. If he is to be removed from office, let the voters do it based on his total performance — temperament as well as accomplishment — in 2020. Simply calling him an agent of the Russians, a nutcase or a racist is a cowardly way to fight.

We need to confine the word “racist” to people like Bull Connor and Dylann Roof. For if every person who speaks inelegantly, or from a position of privilege, or ignorance, or expresses an idea we dislike, or happens to be a white male, is a racist, the term is devoid of meaning.

We have to stop calling each other names in this country and battle each other with ideas and issues, not slanders.

Posted by The NON-Conformist

I Live in a ‘Shithole Country.’ It’s Called the United States This country has never really been “great” for everyone.

It takes a level of pomposity inconceivable to most of us to describe another country as a “shithole.”

It’s unfortunately just one more of the obnoxious, racist, and altogether absurd statements we’ve come to expect from President Donald Trump. If the president were to venture beyond the manicured lawns of Mar-a-Lago or the White House, he might see that the U.S. is not exactly in a position to judge, much less denigrate, our global neighbors.

In case you missed it, here’s what Trump reportedly said: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He was referencing Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, and apparently most of Africa. He went on to ask why more people from Norway (a nearly all white country) weren’t coming to the U.S.

The story was first reported by the Washington Post. It’s been confirmed by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who heard the words firsthand.

Trump and his defenders completely ignore the direct and disgraceful role America has played in making life worse in the countries he cited. Among many other things, we’ve backed right-wing death squads in El Salvador, supported cruel dictators in Haiti, and trapped poor countries the world over in debt through International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans with tight strings attached.

I’ll leave it to foreign relations scholars to parse the rest. What I’m concerned about is Trump’s complete lack of concern over the “shit-holiness” of the country he leads.

Gandhi taught us that a country’s greatness is measured not by its richest, but by how it treats its most vulnerable members. By this measure, the U.S. is a certified shithole.

The U.S. is the wealthiest country on earth. Yet one in five children here will go to bed hungry tonight. Thirteen million American children live in poverty, the highest rate among the world’s wealthy countries.

One shining light for poor American kids is that almost all of them have health insurance, thanks to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) put in place in 1997. That light is rather dim right now, however, as Congress waffles on funding the program, leaving millions of children’s lives in the balance.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, conducted a two-week tour of the U.S. in late 2017. He found some of the most extreme inequality anywhere in the world.

“The United States is one of the world’s richest and most powerful and technologically innovative countries,” Alston wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian, “but neither its wealth nor its power nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty.”

America also has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, the highest infant mortality rate among developed countries, and is the only industrialized country not to guarantee health care as a basic human right. The list goes on, but you get the point.

As Alston put it, “Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy.”

This is not to say that many, many Americans aren’t living happy, healthy, wealthy lives. They are. And some kids born into poverty will someday work their way to financial security. But the proportion of those actually succeed is steadily shrinking.

Still, this is a country where disoriented hospital patients can be dumped on the street in freezing cold weather, wearing only their thin hospital gowns—as a viral videorecently captured happening to a woman in Baltimore.

Fortunately, far from the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, dedicated activists and organizers are working tirelessly to make the U.S. a better place. Social movements like the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, Indivisible, #MeToo, and a new Poor People’s Campaign are leading the nation in this direction.

Leaders, some whose names we’ll never know, are doing the tireless work to right the wrongs and correct deep-rooted injustices. They know that despite Trump’s slogan, this country has never really been “great” for everyone. They’re the ones working to clean this shithole up.

By Josh Hoxie / Fortune

Posted by The NON-Conformist

%d bloggers like this: