NYC police officer finally fired, five years after viral video of deadly chokehold arrest

It has been five years since an unarmed Eric Garner was choked to death by New York Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo for allegedly selling “loose” cigarettes illegally. After years of virtually no movement of the scales of justice, Pantaleo was finally suspended from duty at the beginning of August. This came hours after a NYPD administrative judge officially recommended that Pantaleo be terminated from duty.

It is finally being reported that after all of those protests, after all the calls for justice, and the t-shirts reading “I can’t breathe” (Eric Garner’s dying words and the words that fueled the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement), Daniel Pantaleo has been terminated from his position as a New York police officer. Police commissioner James P. O’Neill told reporters that “The unintended consequence of Mr. Garner’s death must have a consequence of its own. Therefore I agree with the deputy commissioner of trial’s legal findings and recommendations. It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has taken heat over the past couple of months for his lack of action on the Eric Garner matter, said he felt that justice had been done. Protests have not stopped since Garner died in July 2014, but had come back into the national conversation a couple of weeks ago during the Democratic primary debates held in Detroit. Mayor de Blasio’s opening remarks were interrupted by protesters inside of the debate, and then Julián Castro received the most passionate applause of the night when he slammed the mayor’s inaction on the case.

Of course, not everyone is happy that a police officer who choked a man to death over a loose cigarette has lost his job. Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, said this decision is an attack on all police officers and released a statement saying police officers needed to be careful now that they can’t choke people to death for selling loose cigarettes, with virtually no consequences.

Garner’s family and others have pointed out that besides Pantaleo not facing any other serious consequences, Sgt. Kizzy Adonis, the first supervising officer to arrive on the scene, has received no disciplinary action.

Rest in power, Eric Garner.

Stephen Miller reportedly pushed for plan to illegally block undocumented kids from public school

White House aide and white supremacist Stephen Miller reportedly sought to block undocumented immigrant kids from a public school education as far back as 2017, but was ultimately unable to go forward with his plan because, well, it would be unconstitutional.

Miller and his allies “sought for months for a way to give states the power to block undocumented immigrant children from enrolling in public schools,” Bloomberg reports. “They abandoned the idea after being told repeatedly that any such effort ran afoul of a 1982 Supreme Court case guaranteeing access to public schools.” Still, it demonstrates the extent to which this administration will go to make life miserable for brown and black families—and the extent of Miller’s depravity. 

It was Miller who most recently harassed officials into hurrying their asses on a discriminatory rule change that had already inflicted immense damage in proposal form. “The public charge [regulation] has been in the works for a year and a half,” Miller scolded in one email. “This is time we don’t have. I don’t care what you need to do to finish it on time.” It’s Miller who has been behind family separation, in just one other example, and then wanted more of it.

Of course, the administration has been perfectly willing to disobey the courts on other matters, like family separation. A judge last year ordered officials to stop state-sanctioned kidnapping at the border, but nearly 1,000 children have been stolen since then. When it comes to Miller’s plan to block undocumented kids from school, Education Department spokesperson Liz Hill told Bloomberg, “The memo wasn’t issued because the secretary would never consider it.”

But stealing kids from their parents for reasons as petty and minor as a dirty diaper? For traffic citations? For “a conviction on a charge of malicious destruction of property with alleged damage of $5”? Sure, Trump officials will consider that, and have done it. This is a profoundly anti-child administration that has stooped to just about every low. So what’s perhaps almost as shocking as the Trump administration considering this plan, is the administration not just going ahead with it anyway.

Trump confirms he’d like to buy Greenland: ‘Essentially, it’s a large real estate deal’

When reports surfaced last week that Donald Trump is interested in having the U.S. buy Greenland, the world’s response was pretty much “OMG WTF no really? Really? That’s ridiculous.” But after a few days of those reactions, Trump confirmed his interest in buying the self-governing territory of Denmark. After all, “essentially, it’s a large real estate deal,” he said Sunday, although he did hedge that “It’s not number one on the burner, I can tell you that.”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow also took the “essentially, it’s a large real estate deal” line, telling Fox News that “Denmark owns Greenland. Denmark is an ally. Greenland is a strategic place. . . . I’m just saying the president, who knows a thing or two about buying real estate, wants to take a look.”

Seriously, this is the official line: Hey, he’s a real estate guy! He knows a nice piece of property when he sees it! It could get even better—there are golf courses there.

The people involved in that nice piece of property continue to push back hard. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said, while visiting Greenland, that “Greenland is not Danish. Greenland is Greenlandic. I persistently hope that this is not something that is seriously meant.” But yes, it is seriously meant, inasmuch as Donald Trump can ever be said to be really serious about anything but bigotry and personal profit. Then again, another comment from Frederiksen illuminated why this impulse to buy a place with a population that’s overwhelmingly Inuit is so creepy—and potentially linked to Trump’s deep-seated racism: “Thankfully, the time where you buy and sell other countries and populations is over.”

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: MeToo has a long way to go for justice to be served


Like Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers, justice has been elusive for women allegedly abused by his modeling agent friend

Nineteen-year-old Courtney Powell was among a handful of young models who took the bold step of publicly accusing Jean-Luc Brunel of sexual misconduct — ranging from groping and other sexual advances to drugging women’s drinks and rape — in the hope that he would be stopped.

But their allegations, nationally televised on CBS’s “60 Minutes” in 1988 and echoed later in a book and court records, sparked no apparent investigation. Nor did they prevent Brunel from continuing to exploit and assault others, according to two other former models recently interviewed by The Washington Post. Brunel went on to befriend a wealthy, jet-setting American financier named Jeffrey Epstein, who allegedly abused dozens of minors; one, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, has said in court documents that Epstein pressured her to have sex with Brunel when she was a teenager.


Do you want to meet up at around 8:00 on the astral plane?

— Cameron Kasky (@cameron_kasky) August 17, 2019

When celebs who don’t know each other interact…

Afaik, this is the first and only woman on Wall Street to sue for a MeToo issue:

Anna Silman/The Cut:

Feeding the Wolves

Sara Tirschwell accused her Wall Street boss of misconduct, but that was just the beginning of her troubles

On December 14, 2017, Tirschwell was fired from her job at TCW, the $200 billion asset-management firm where she had been brought on to manage and launch a distressed-debt offering, one of the first of its kind helmed by a woman. Tirschwell claims that she was repeatedly coerced into sex by her boss, Jess Ravich, and that the firing was “retaliation” for filing an HR complaint against him. A month after her firing, Tirschwell filed a lawsuit against Ravich and TCW alleging retaliation, gender discrimination, and breach of contract and asking for $30 million in damages. These sorts of complaints are typically handled with hush-hush settlement agreements, yet Ravich and TCW have opted not to settle quietly. Ravich denies any sexual contact occurred while he and Tirschwell worked together at TCW, and he and TCW deny that they retailated or discriminated against her.

Now Ravich, Tirschwell, and TCW are in the midst of a long and messy discovery process with a trial date yet to be scheduled. If the case does go to trial, it will be the first major Wall Street #MeToo-era battle to see the inside of a courtroom. And yet unlike similar stories emerging from the media and entertainment worlds, the Tirschwell case hasn’t set off Wall Street’s own #MeToo reckoning. In part, this is because Tirschwell and Ravich had dated years earlier. Her claims that she “reluctantly acquiesced” to Ravich’s sexual advances, instead of being physically forced into sex, have made it difficult for some of their peers on Wall Street to see this as a case of workplace abuse as opposed to an alleged affair between two consenting adults (even if one of the adults was the other’s supervisor). Many of the people I spoke with who were sympathetic to Tirschwell still seemed to view it mostly as an office romance gone wrong and refused to be quoted on the record. Ambiguity has always been the enemy of sexual-misconduct cases, and few want to litigate a he-said-she-said. Yet Tirschwell has pressed forward, putting her reputation and livelihood on the line.

“I understand why people don’t understand,” said Tirschwell during a conversation at Aquavit in midtown. “It’s hard for me to understand how someone I had a relationship with treated me like that,” she added. 

Theory of the case: these tweets and the interview that follows puts a new and fascinating spin on “electability”:


Youre 100% right Tom, I ran a survey this spring that finds for every 1 voter Trump loses to am Indie, the D loses 5. The only good Indie for Ds would be a fire breathing anti abortion, anti gay, Evangelical

— Rachel “The Doc” Bitecofer 📈🔭🗿💪 (@RachelBitecofer) August 18, 2019


Heard that a lot in 2016: “I DIDN’T VOTE FOR TRUMP!” and then quietly”i didn’t vote for hillary either”Result: Trump/4x

— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) August 18, 2019


Did you know that one forecaster got the 2018 blue wave right?If @RachelBitecofer were male (think Nate Silver) we would have all heard her name.Her work reinforces points made by @timjacobwise on why David Duke didn’t get elected in LA: turnout

— ⚡️Kathy E Gill (@kegill) August 18, 2019

Paul Rosenberg/Slate:

Does anyone understand the 2020 race? This scholar nailed the blue wave — here’s her forecast

Rachel Bitecofer predicted last year’s midterms with incredible accuracy. Her 2020 forecast is … not too bad

The good news is that so long as Trump is in office, negative partisanship gives Democrats an edge, as electoral realignment continues. Rather than fearing Trump’s ability to repeat his 2016 upset, on July 1 of this year Bitecofer released her 2020 projection, which shows Democrats winning 278 electoral votes versus 197 for Trump, with several swing states too close to call. Bitecofer also isn’t worried about the Democrats losing their House majority. On Aug. 6, Bitecofer released a preliminary list of 18 House seats the Democrats could flip in 2020, nine of them in Texas. The most significant threats that concern Democrats are actually golden opportunities, according to her model.

When made your initial prediction of a 42-seat wave, other analysts weren’t even sure there would be any blue wave at all, and everybody had toss-ups where you are saying these will flip or are likely to flip. You were proven right, but the common-sense explanation that Democrats won over moderate Republicans by campaigning on health care was very much at odds with your explanation. You had this very prescient insight, and then everyone else catches up, but they sort of drop your insight. So how did you know, and how is that explanation mistaken?

I’m really glad to hear you frame it that way. I haven’t heard it framed that way, even in my own brain, but you’re exactly right. I am way ahead of everybody, they finally catch up as we move into the final two months before Election Day — certainly that last month — and then the election happens and it happens exactly that way, and then they abandoned my explanation. Now I’m out there trying to fight to get the explanation accepted.

The explanation, of course, is that it was this giant turnout of core constituencies, that either are Democrats or favor Democrats — they’re independents who favor Democrats — and they have a huge turnout explosion. So it’s not the same pool of voters changing their minds and voting Democrat after voting Republican because of the issue of health care. It’s a whole different pool of voters.

Republicans will turn out, too, so expect that. They have to be outvoted  and not persuaded.  Whereas persuasion is great, remember you are persuading independents and not Republicans. That’s why this primary is good, not bad. Whoever motivates the base and subsequently independents, wins (states where indies vote in primaries will be fascinating). That means no Joe Biden-Mr Generic Bland ticket, if you get my drift. If Biden wins, he may well have to pick a strong voter motivator. And he may not win the primary if he is not a vote motivator. Another excerpt:

In Texas and Georgia, O’Rourke and Abrams both carried the votes of independents, whereas in Missouri and Indiana, where [incumbent senators] Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly positioned themselves much more in the Blue Dog camp in terms of issues positions, both of them lost independents.

So you might think, “Why is that? If one group of candidates took more liberal issue positions, why did they win over independents?”  It seems counterfactual, and the reason is what mattered was turnout. O’Rourke and Abrams carried independents because turnout surged, with different independents showing up to vote, motivated by the  targeting strategy deployed by those campaigns, which were run under my suggested model rather than the old playbook that used to work back in the ’90s and ’80s.

Read the whole piece, it’s great.


Friday night update: Dem 2020.Two things stand out in polling since the 2nd Dem debates (unclear if debate effect or other things):Warren has moved into 2nd place for both standard and less sensitive trend estimates.Biden has dropped. Now upper 20s, about 9 points ahead.

— Charles Franklin (@PollsAndVotes) August 17, 2019

And squaring the circle:

Jesse Ferguson/Morning Consult:

To Persuade or to Turn Out Voters — Is That the Question?

The persuasionists wax nostalgic about changing the hearts and minds of voters who are already going to vote in 2020. They obsess about the 206 pivot counties that voted for Barack Obama in 2012 but backed Donald Trump in 2016. They focus on the suburban voters — especially professional, college-educated white women — who fueled the flip of 37 suburban House districts to Democratic control in 2018. From rural diners to suburban office parks, persuasionists think our path to victory in 2020 relies on persuading these voters.

The turnouters see the world the other way. Instead of changing hearts and minds, they want to change motivation and behavior. They obsess over the 30 percent of the country who didn’t vote in 2016 — more than half of whom are nonwhite and two-thirds of whom are under 50. They fondly remember the breathless coverage of a rising American electorate that fueled Obama in 2008 and 2012, hoping we can replicate it.

The reality is that persuasionists and turnouters are both right — and they’re both wrong. …

In the end, we need to work on persuasion and turnout simultaneously, and to do that, we need to find the through-thread that works for both. 


NBC/WSJ Poll: Trump approval drops five net points, falling to 43-55 (was 45-52).This is Trump’s worst net approval (-12) since April 2018.While Trump has a 43% approval, only 40% will either definitely or likely vote for him – again below his approval. That’s bad for Trump.

— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) August 18, 2019

Josh Kraushaar/National Journal (read with the Bitecofer piece):

Why Elizabeth Warren Is Trump’s Weakest Opponent

The progressive senator from Massachusetts has an outside shot at winning the presidency. She also has a real chance to hand Trump a second term.

The other argument Warren’s team advances is that candidates seen as polarizing can win presidential elections, though the assertion dodges the fundamental question at hand. Modern presidential elections demonstrate that some candidates viewed as too far outside the mainstream—like Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Donald Trump in 2016—can indeed prevail. Yet other ideologically driven presidential hopefuls, such as Barry Goldwater in 1964 and George McGovern in 1972, have suffered embarrassing defeats.

The relevant question isn’t whether an ideologically extreme nominee can win a presidential election. As I’ve written, Trump’s consistently weak approval ratings all but guarantee that any Democratic candidate will be competitive. The question is how costly choosing such a nominee will be. The threat that Warren poses to Democrats is that she could turn an easily winnable election into a dogfight.

But think about this and imagine what people said about Beto and Stacey Abrams before their campaigns. Remember, the idea is to motivate the base where you have one + pick up indies. And, as it happens, not all indies are disaffected Republicans. So, it might not work in KY with Mitch but might well work in TX or AZ where there are independent suburban women to win over, etc. as well as MI and PA. WI is gonna be close, whatever you do.


Feels like these arrests happening weekly if not daily

— Megachurch Pastor (@buddaprotocol) August 18, 2019

Dan Balz/WaPo:

Trump has one playbook, and very few plays left in it

Trump is following the same limited playbook that got him elected. Whether those tactics have the same potency they once did is the question that will determine his and the country’s future. Meanwhile, serious problems are in front of him, and he is struggling to find the answers.


This is a key point: Not only jas Trump failed to shift public opinion his way, it has shifted against him.

— David Lauter (@DavidLauter) August 18, 2019

Dan Hopkins/FiveThirtyEight:

Obamacare’s Unpopularity Suggests Medicare For All May Be A Hard Sell

Let’s take the Affordable Care Act as an example. Just before Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, 51 percent of Americans in an Associated Press poll said “implementing a national health care plan” was a top priority. And early in Obama’s presidency, the majority of Americans surveyed in a 2009 CNN poll approved of the job he was doing on health care. But once the law passed in 2010, it was generally rated unfavorably until President Trump took office and the prospect that the law would be scrapped became real.

Still, if Americans’ overall attitudes toward the ACA were a weighted average of their views on its individual parts, the ACA should have been popular. But that clearly wasn’t the case: In that KFF survey, 41 percent had a favorable view of the law overall compared with 46 percent who had an unfavorable view. In other words, Americans’ opinion of the law overall were quite close to their opinion of the individual mandate, its least-popular provision.

And that may be in part because of the law’s many provisions, only a few have gotten sustained public attention, including some of the law’s more unpopular features. In a March 2017 KFF survey, 82 percent of Americans said they knew about the individual mandate while 69 percent said they knew about the subsidies for low-income Americans and 65 percent said they knew about the Medicaid expansion.

Complex means hard to sell, even if complex works better. There’s always something opponents can fixate on (like individual mandates, death panels, or “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor”) even if untrue or nuanced or incomplete. And when you’re explaining, you’re losing.


Pediatricians know that #PublicCharge harms some of our most vulnerable patients.Programs that have been proven to help kids are being avoided due to a policy that disproportionately affects low-income families of color#RacismAndHealth #tweetiatrician

— Nusheen Ameenuddin MD MPH MPA FAAP🧕🏽👩🏽‍⚕️ (@namd4kids) August 18, 2019

Jeff Jarvis/Medium:


Oh, I hear a lot of talk about impact in journalism but it is reliably egocentric: ‘What did my story accomplish?’ Impact starts with journalists, not the public. And it’s always positive in discussion. I rarely hear talk of our negative impact, how we in media polarize, fabricating and pitting sides against each other, exploiting attention with appeals to base instincts.

Coming to a university I learned the need to begin curriculum with outcomes: What should students learn? I wonder about outcomes-based journalism, which would begin by asking not just what the public needs to know (our supposed mission) but how we can improve the quality of the public conversation, how we can bring out voices rarely heard, how we can build bridges among communities in conflict, how we can appeal to the better nature of our citizens, how we can help build a better society.

If we did that, our metrics of success would be entirely different — not audience, attention, pageviews, clicks, even subscriptions. Thus our business models must change; more on that below. We cannot begin this process until we respect the public’s voices and build means to better listen to them. We also need research to understand communities’ needs and our impact on them. This is not nearly so practical a worry as Jay [Rosen]’s are, but it’s my biggest concern.

See also Jay Rosen/Pressthink:

1. The entire system for covering the Trump presidency is wrongly conceived. It needs to be rebuilt, faulty premise by faulty premise. But there has never been such a rebuild while the story is running hot. No one knows how it can be done. Reporting what he said today amplifies his falsehoods and hatreds, which is unacceptable, but ignoring what he said pretends it never happened, which is unacceptable in a different way. 

(Here’s my thread about that problem. Here’s an article about it. This podcast is also good.) 

2. Explicitly or implicitly, it seems likely that Trump is going to run a racist re-election campaign in 2020, in which “othering” (not a word I like, but it’s the best I can do…) is basic to his appeal to voters. This goes way beyond noisy controversies like whether to use the term “racist.” Is the press ready for a campaign like that? Does it have the people and practices in place to respond? Is it willing to break with precedent to meet a threat without parallel? I doubt it. 


Here’s the scary news for Team Trump in the FOX poll:Trump polling below *40* against every tested D challenger. Biden 50, Trump 38.Sanders 48, Trump 39.Warren 46, Trump 39.Harris 45, Trump 39.

— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) August 15, 2019


“My worst polls have been coming from Fox. There’s something going on with Fox, and I don’t like it,” President Trump says in NJ before heading back to DC. “Fox is making a big mistake because, you know, I’m the one who calls the shots” on the general election debates.

— Alexi McCammond (@alexi) August 18, 2019

Sunday open thread for night owls: New film reveals how little we know about push for war with Iraq

Martin Bright at The Nation writes—‘Official Secrets’ Reveals How Little We Still Know About the Push for War in Iraq:

It was a cold Friday morning at the end of January 2003 when Katharine Gun first saw the e-mail that would change her life. The 27-year-old Mandarin specialist was working as a translator at Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The memo came from a man called Frank Koza based 3,500 miles away at the National Security Agency in Maryland. In these feverish weeks in early 2003, the British and American governments were desperate to persuade the United Nations Security Council to authorize war against Saddam Hussein‘s murderous regime. The instructions from Koza were plain. The British spies at GCHQ were being told to mount an intelligence “surge” on the United Nations itself. In particular, they were to target those members of the Security Council that were still undecided: Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria, and Guinea, “as well as extra focus on Pakistan.”

One purpose of the operation was to provide ammunition for Secretary of State Colin Powell’s now notorious address to the United Nations on February 5 making false claims about the threat supposedly posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Katharine and her colleagues were instructed to gather “the whole gamut of information that could give US policy makers an edge in obtaining results favorable to US goals or to head off surprises.”

After examining her conscience over the weekend, the young spy printed off the e-mail and posted it to a friend with contacts in the media. The memo eventually found its way to The Observer, where I was working at the time. What happened next is the subject of a new Hollywood movie starring Keira Knightley as Katharine Gun. Official Secrets, directed by Gavin Hood, is the third in a loose trilogy of political thrillers from the director, which also includes Eye in the Sky (2015) and Rendition (2007). The story of British and American “dirty tricks at the United Nations” broke at the beginning of March 2003 and was briefly on front pages across the world before a bigger story (the Iraq war itself) almost literally blew it away. Katharine Gun did not stop the war in Iraq, but what she did demonstrated that the US and UK were prepared to twist arms to fix the vote at the UN. She is in part, responsible for there being no specific Security Council resolution to authorize war, and so she can claim some responsibility for removing legal and moral cover for intervention.

In recent weeks I have been taking part in a series of panel discussion across the United States to accompany screenings of the film. The questions have often focused on what a story that took place over 16 years ago can tell us about the situation we find ourselves in today. Parallels with the present state of relations with Iran are obvious. But beyond that, it is important to ask why our institutions failed us so woefully during this period and how far this has fed into the rise of a populism so hostile to mainstream politics. This doesn’t just apply to the institutions of representative politics—the UK Parliament and the US Congress—but to the intelligence services on both sides of the Atlantic, our legal institutions, and our media. In their different ways, they all failed. […]




“Right now, the government is spending billions of dollars supporting the problem-makers in the U.S. economy—the polluters, despoilers, incarcerators, and warmongers.”
               ~~Van Jones, 2007



At Daily Kos on this date in 2008—Republican House Members Love DC:

It seems like Republican House members have decided that they’ll have a better chance at reelection if they don’t remind voters back home of their existence. We’ve seen it during this August recess while they flocked to the floor to play at being Congressmembers over drilling instead of hanging out in their districts having to deal with real constituents and real issues.

Now they’ve announced that they want to stay in DC all fall if that’s what it will take to get a drilling bill through. 

House Republicans said Monday they would refuse to consider any energy bill that came straight to the floor from the Democratic leadership’s offices, rather than working its way through committee markups — a process that can take weeks or months.

Granted, there’s safety in numbers, and they like each other better than anybody else–particularly their constituents — like them. But this would suggest they really are afraid of voters.

It also suggests that any need to find “compromise” with them on the part of House Democratic leadership is bullshit.

Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at, and find a live stream there, by searching for “Netroots Radio.”


The Republican Party is laying the foundation for minority rule

The paradigm has changed. Political decorum is dead. When Democrats win big in 2020, they must be as methodically calculating as Republicans were in their attempt to establish minority rule.

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid published an op-ed in The New York Times on Aug. 12 in which he explained the purpose of the filibuster: to create conversations that allowed for decisions made deliberatively. Reid wrote,

I am not an expert on all of government, but I do know something about the United States Senate. As the former majority leader, I know how tough it is to get anything through the chamber, which was designed to serve as the slower, more deliberative body of the United States Congress.

But what is happening today is a far cry from what the framers intended. They created the Senate as a majority-rule body, where both sides could have their say at length — but at the end of the day, bills would pass or fail on a simple majority vote. In their vision, debate was supposed to inform and enrich the process, not be exploited as a mechanism to grind it to a halt.

Reid further pointed out that the Senate has become an unworkable legislative graveyard. He reminded readers that the ideas of the Republican Party are not all that popular. He said the future of the country is sacrificed at the altar of the filibuster. And then the former leader of the Senate called for it:

I am now calling on the Senate to abolish the filibuster in all its forms. And I am calling on candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president to do the same.

If a Democratic president wants to tackle the most important issues facing our country, then he or she must have the ability to do so — and that means curtailing Republicans’ ability to stifle the will of the American people. It’s time to allow a simple majority vote instead of the 60-vote threshold now required for legislation. When the American people demand change and elect a new Senate, a new majority leader must be able to respond to that call and pass legislation.

The list of issues stalled by the Senate filibuster is enormous — and still growing.

The senator reminded us that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell crippled the Obama agenda.

If not for abuse of the filibuster, we would have passed major legislation addressing some of our country’s most pressing issues under President Obama: Millions of undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children would have a pathway to citizenship through the Dream Act; millions of Americans would have a government-run public option as part of health care reform; and the American Jobs Act and the “Buffet Rule” requiring the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes would be law, further strengthening the economy and helping to address the issue of income inequality. … As I said in 2013, the Senate is a living thing, and to survive, it must change — just as it has throughout the history of our country.

Senator Michael Bennet appeared on Morning Joe a day or so after Harry Reid’s op-ed was published. Sam Stein asked Bennet if he would abolish the filibuster. Bennet, one of the candidates on an eternal search for the mythical center, gave an answer that shows he has learned nothing from the reality of Republican Party leadership.

I believe that we need an agenda that the middle of the country geographically is going to support. That’s what we have to do. I don’t think there’s a shortcut to that. Every single person, including Harry, and I love Harry, who are calling for the end to the filibuster doesn’t remember that Mitch McConnell is majority leader of the Senate. He could end the filibuster tomorrow. If he wanted to add congressional seats in Utah or wherever else, he could end the filibuster tomorrow.

This is a clear indication that candidates such as Mr. Bennet are unready to lead the country in a new direction. They never miss an opportunity, on cue, to dis Medicare for All. Bennet implied that campaigning on it would leave the Senate with just 30 Democrats. It is clear that there is more to his obsession. It is as if his purpose in running is to be onstage to cast doubt, even as it is clear he has no chance of winning.

We’ve shown ad nauseam that the polls clearly prove that progressive democratic ideas are where the public is. It is incumbent on good politicians to lead. Sometimes that involves doing the difficult work of educating a cross section of the citizenry about policies they may not be all in on yet.

Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Republican leadership know exactly what they are doing. They blocked President Obama at every turn because that was their plan and they had the filibuster. And when necessary, they change the rules to get their way. Democrats not recognizing that this is their modus operandi has already cost the poor and middle class dearly.

The Republican Party has successfully ensured minority rule by its installation of judges who will likely make many progressive programs dead on arrival when challenged in court. Only a supermajority that presents an impeachment threat to those lifetime appointees can ensure that they are not solely tools of the plutocracy.

All white men who own property and have a certain level of income are created equal

It seems like a lifetime ago that we had a competent, scandal-free, empathetic president. We had two terms with President Obama, who maintained his dignity and grace even when the Republican leadership did everything to undermine him. If it was not clear before, it should be now: racism played a large role in the Republican treatment of President Obama, with the final indignity being a denied Supreme Court appointment. 

Russian interference into our election process stirred up racism and hatred to levels I have not seen in my lifetime. Granted, as a people, we tend to look back at the past with rose colored glasses. I know I often look back on my time in the service as being devoid of racism because we were all “green.” I also know that is not a realistic portrayal of military service in the ‘80s; Racism existed and was common especially with postings in the American South. 

Racism has always been a part of the American experience going back to the beginning of our nation. We have often failed at meeting the promise of “All men are created equal.” For most of American history that has meant, “All white men who own property and have a certain level of income are created equal.”

Donald J. Trump is the epitome of “All white men who own property and have a certain level of income are created equal.” If there were truly justice in the world, he would be a drunken hooch hound sitting at the end of the bar in a darkened tavern boasting of all his great deeds and female conquests during his glory days of high school to anyone who would listen—but we do not live in a just world. 

We live in a world where a narcissistic grifter and his crime family  were able to con just enough people in this country using dog whistles, outright racism, and a brand of populism that attracted the lowest common denominator of the American people—our friends and neighbors, the people we thought we knew. Hillary Clinton was right when she stated

[D]on’t get complacent, don’t see the latest outrageous, offensive, inappropriate comment and think well he’s done this time. We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?

We have one side who has used George Orwell’s novel 1984 as a road map for their foray into power. Never-ending wars, newspeak, and the constant lies that leave us permanently outraged.

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”  — George Orwell, 1984

We see, and hear it with the words of Acting Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli:

“‘Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

Changing the words to Emma Lazarus’ poem, “The New Colossus,” he’s changing the very meaning of the promise this nation has always represented to the rest of the world:

…“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The promise, while our nation has never truly lived up to it, has always been that we are all created equal, and that we will take the people in that no one else wants. When my great grandparents arrived at Ellis Island, they came with nothing. Most of our ancestors came here with no more than the clothes on their backs, and in many cases, less than that. Immigrants to our nation have always been treated poorly. Doing the jobs that no one else would do, often residing in squalid living conditions. That has not changed today. 

In a recent ICE raid in Mississippi, 680 undocumented immigrants were arrested.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents swept through seven work sites in six cities across Mississippi on Wednesday, arresting approximately 680 people the agency said were undocumented immigrants in what officials said is the largest single-state workplace enforcement action in U.S. history.

The raids targeted agricultural processing plants, part of a year-long investigation into illegal employment of immigrants in the state, officials said. They did not say how many individuals they were targeting in the operations, nor what proportion of those taken into custody were what ICE calls “collateral” arrests — those who were swept up along with those ICE was seeking.

ICE acting director Matthew Albence said at a news conference in Jackson, Miss., that some of those arrested will be prosecuted for crimes, others will be swiftly deported, and some will be released pending immigration court hearings. 

Not a single hiring manager or company executive was arrested for hiring undocumented workers. It should also be noted, especially for the “They are taking our jobs crowd,” that only 100 applicants showed up at a job fair held almost immediately after the the raids.

The job hopefuls expressed skepticism that the poultry plants would be able to find enough workers to replace the jobs wiped out in the ICE raids. “There are 680 jobs that were lost, and there are not 680 people here,” said Hailey Brewer, 26.

It should also be noted that these jobs are brutal, hard, and low-paying.

On a muggy August morning, black, white and Latino job applicants filed in and out of the Win job center, a nondescript office building where workers can apply for jobs and unemployment benefits. Some people had never worked at a chicken plant, and others were looking to return to the industry, drawn by hourly wages ranging from $9.20 to $12, well above the minimum wage of $7.25.

The Washington Post article notes that the minimum wage in the United States is embarrassingly low—at $9.20 to $12 an hour—while above the minimum wage is still below the poverty line and is still an incredibly low wage for such dangerous work.

Work at a poultry plant can be messy and dangerous. Workers with past and current experience at meatpacking plants describe gruesome scenes from the “live hang” line, where chickens are slaughtered, of bird feces and blood splattering on their faces. Employees often have to work in frigid rooms, and mistakes with the slicing equipment can be fatal.

One would need $12.37 an hour for a family of four to meet the poverty line, and that is assuming no unpaid time off for 52 weeks. In Mississippi, where these raids took place, you would need $14.43 an hour to rent a two bedroom home for your family of four. Is it any wonder why people are not pounding at the gates to get one of these jobs? Is it any wonder why plants like this prey on undocumented immigrants?

Executives and managers have little to fear. They likely know the documentation they run through E-Verify is falsified. But without fear of prosecution, they continue to hire undocumented workers who are the only ones who will work these low-paying, dangerous jobs. Then when the people who are being exploited by these companies get deported by ICE, these companies will just do the same thing all over again. Because it is cheaper to exploit immigrant labor than it is to improve plant conditions and pay a living wage that would attract a workforce that was comprised of American citizens.

Which brings us back to, “All white men who own property and have a certain level of income are created equal.” You can bet that we will never see the owners and managers of these workplaces be punished for hiring undocumented immigrants. But the people who came here for a better life for themselves and their children, who work hard every single day will have their families ripped apart. They will pay the price for the hubris of these rich white men who will exploit anyone they can to make a buck—then they will blame the very people they are exploiting as being the problem. 

Whew! Breathe easy, folks. Larry Kudlow, Trump’s chief economic adviser, sees ‘no recession at all’

Here’s Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, responding to the spreading talk of a possible recession on August 18, 2019:

“I don’t see a recession at all,” Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday.” On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he urged Americans, “Let’s not be afraid of optimism.

“Consumers are working at higher wages,” Kudlow said. “They are spending at a rapid pace. They’re actually saving also while they’re spending. That’s an ideal situation. So I think actually the second half, the economy’s going to be very good in 2019.”

Here’s Larry Kudlow on December 7, 2007:

“There’s no recession coming. The pessimistas were wrong. It’s not going to happen. . . . The Bush boom is alive and well. It’s finishing up it sixth consecutive year with more to come.”

Here he is on January 16, 2008:

“[B]anks are taking significant steps to repair their balance sheets. Even though some people might not be happy with the speed, the reality is things are improving.”

Here he is on February 5, 2008:

“I’m going to bet that the economy will be rebounding sometime this summer, if not sooner. We are in a slow patch. That’s all. It’s nothing to get up in arms about.” 

And then there’s Larry Kudlow on April 1, 2008, saying that recessions are “therapeutic”:

If the current slump began in November, it could be over by late summer.

And let’s also remember that recessions are therapeutic. They’re even necessary to create the foundations for the next recovery. Economic excesses always occur in free-market capitalist economies, and from time to time they must be cleansed. Just think about the excessive risk-speculation, leverage, and housing prices of the current episode. If anything, recessions make for clean starts.

Clean starts. Uh-huh. Tell that to the millions of people who still haven’t fully recovered from the damage caused them in the recession Kudlow says wasn’t going to happen 12 years ago. 

Trump and his cohorts just don’t understand what America truly is

In the last week the Trump Administration has made a set of moves on immigration that truly and absolutely show that they honestly don’t understand what America truly is and what it’s about. Apparently, they think America is a some form of country club with an entrance fee and rope line to keep the riffraff from getting into the secret Kool Kids Klub behind the velvet curtain. The people from the “shithole” countries are welcome to come in, but only through the back door servant entrance because dishes need to be washed, floors need to be scrubbed, and sometimes somebody needs a happy ending.

They don’t get the idea that people aren’t supposed to bring things to America to make it economically stronger, their very presence and the addition of their efforts are what makes America vibrant, dynamic, and strong. It’s frankly very much Ayn Randian bullshit that they’re selling. In Rand’s world the wealthy and the self-defined worthy are extremely put out that the measly worker people are so demand-y, and want rights and stuff, and the government is obviously in cahoots with these lowlifes putting all kinds of rules and limits on their wonderful creativity and also awesomeness.

Yeah, that is until all the rape and mass murder starts happening; case in point, The Fountainhead.

When Donald Trump was running for the GOP nomination, he told USA Today’s Kirsten Powers that Ayn Rand’s raped-girl-decides-she-likes-it novel, The Fountainhead, was his favorite book. […]

Powers added, “He [Trump] identified with Howard Roark, the novel’s idealistic protagonist who designs skyscrapers and rages against the establishment.” Roark raged so much in the novel that he blew up a public housing project with dynamite just to get his way. […]

Rand was quite clear about the characteristics she wrote into her heroes, and in particular Howard Roark. In her Journals, she writes of the theme of the book, “One puts oneself above all and crushes everything in one’s way to get the best for oneself. Fine!”

On Howard Roark, she writes that he “has learned long ago, with his first consciousness, two things which dominate his entire attitude toward life: his own superiority and the utter worthlessness of the world. He knows what he wants and what he thinks. He needs no other reasons, standards or considerations. His complete selfishness is as natural to him as breathing.”

Howard Roark stands alone. He is awesome. He’s a rapist terrorist shithead, but he’s great—in his own head. And he’s Donald Trump’s personal hero. Some of the rest of us like Luke Skywalker, or maybe Indiana Jones, or possibly James Bond or Jason Bourne. Trump likes Howard Freaking Roark. Yeah.

When you put that in context it all makes slightly more sense how Trump pretty much doesn’t give a shit about the blue color “little guy.” Enter into this tableau former Virginia attorney general, Acting head of USCIS and walking, talking Howdy Doody doll Ken Cuccinelli who predictably wouldn’t say if Trump’s massive ICE raids in Mississippi would separate families, again, then dodged questions about punishing companies that hire undocumented workers. He also denied that Trump’s tweets were racist while claiming he didn’t see them, except that Jake Tapper had read them to him 24 hours previously.

“So what? So what?” he snapped. “I told you I haven’t been on Twitter in 24 hours. I’m not in there doing the Twitter war.”

He later passionlessly announced that the Trump administration was now changing the rules for legal immigration—repeat, legal immigration—to exclude any person from gaining a green card or citizenship if they had ever used public services such as Medicaid, TANF, or housing assistance.

In defending that policy change Cuccinelli decided to rewrite the Emma Lazarus poem which is etched into base of the Statue of Liberty to “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet. And who will not become a public charge.”


Cuccinelli when asked if the Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty still applies under the new “public charge” rule on immigration: “I’m certainly not prepared to take anything off the Statue of Liberty.”

— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) August 13, 2019

In 2017 when Jim Acosta asked Stephen Miller about the Lazarus poem which clearly seemed to contrast with his policy positions he stated:

“The poem that you’re referring to was added later (and) is not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty,” Miller responded.

Neither Cuccinelli nor Miller, as well as clearly Trump himself, seem to understand the intention of the poem, the statue, or the purpose of Ellis Island. Lazarus wrote her poem after meeting with Eastern European jews who were escaping persecution in their home nations by coming to America.  They were absolutely considered “wretched refuse” in their home, and the point was that that was specifically the reason that they were being welcomed into America. Because people are starting off from the lowest point have the greatest potential for improvement. People who start off with nothing have the greatest possibilities for achievement, the greatest possible desire to reach their goals, and the greatest level of appreciation of America itself for allowing for that possibility.

There’s also the likelihood that Trump’s own German immigrant grandfather who was kicked out of his home country for draft dodging and whose only skill was being trained as a barber or his Scottish immigrant mother who had been a maid might not have been allowed to stay in the U.S. under these kinds of rules.

Later on, Cuccinelli again tried to defend his rewrite by claiming that the poem was “meant for Europeans who had different ‘class status’” when talking to Erin Burnett on CNN, but then immigration lawyer Michael Wildes—who had handled the immigration case for Melania Trump’s parents who came through what Trump called “chain migration”—opposed that view.

YouTube Video

During his interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, Wildes stated that he was the grandson of Holocaust survivors, and that his grandfather would tell him:

My grandfather told my father, “You’re a citizen by chance, I’m a citizen by choice. People work harder when they come to this country and they travel through historic discrimination and challenges. A person that talks like [Cuccinelli] writes off history.”

Trump and his ilk don’t understand this. They have no clue about any of this. Neither does Fox News or its base. Brian Kilmeade insists that calling southern immigration an “invasion” isn’t anti-hispanic racism which makes sense for him to say since The New York Times documents that there are hundreds of examples of Fox News using the same “invasion” rhetoric as the El Paso shooter.

All of this is part of their “scare the white people” strategy by suggesting that the nation is being overrun by a flood of dirty scummy criminal brown people. It’s certainly racist, but it’s also classist and elistist as Nicole Wallace recently stated in a rant against Cuccinelli. 

“That famous saying on the Statue of Liberty — a shining a welcome message to all those seeking a better life in America — getting an update from Acting US Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli, in the wake of a new Trump administration rule targeting immigrants who have come here legally, which says those applying for a green card for US citizenship will be penalized if they used public assistance programs like food stamps,” she explained.

“Meaning those being let into the country will be, wait for it, wealthier and whiter,” she added.

“I worry Donald Trump has moved the goalposts around unacceptable language so much, someone like Ken Cuccinelli — who at one time was welcome in polite Republican circles — can stand up and tout an extremely racist elitist policy,” Wallace concluded.

The elitism is a key factor in all this and as a strategy it does appear to be working well with Trump’s base of supporters, as noted by Amanda Maricotte at Salon.

Illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border appeared much more substantial precisely because the Trump administration had choked off access to legal ports of entry for many migrants seeking legal access. This was likely a clear strategic move by White House adviser Stephen Miller, deliberately turning otherwise would-be legal asylum seekers into lawbreakers. This campaign worked and activists were left to protest that asylum is a right recognized by international law while children were separated from their parents and shepherded into cages. Trump supporters, meanwhile, grew more obstinate in their opposition to immigrants.

Trump has repeated this strategy over and over again.

The president and his supporters insist that they aren’t against immigration — only, you know, the illegal kind — yet they have systemically hacked away at an already byzantine legal process, making it dramatically more difficult to access legal entry into the U.S. By stripping away at the last remnants of functional immigration policy, the Trump administration makes clear that this was never about the law and only about good old-fashioned xenophobia. Calls for immigrants to come into the U.S. “the right way” or “the legal way” have always been a deflection tactic, used so immigration foes don’t have to show their hand.

Trump and his people constantly argue that people should “enter the right” way, but as Marcotte points out his administration has been deliberately and systematically closing off the pathways to the “right way” with some rather quasi-legal strategies.

When Trump made his comments last year about “shithole countries” and “why can’t we have more people coming from Norway” it’s important to note that that discussion happened in the context of discussing people who had legally immigrated and had been granted TPS (Temporary Protective Status) as a result of natural disasters and tragedies in their home country.

Last Friday, in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, the first hearing was held for a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s revocation of Temporary Protected Status for over 200,000 foreign nationals from four countries who currently live in the United States. The lawsuit alleges that Trump’s rhetoric demonstrates that his administration’s cancellation of TPS was motivated by bigotry, rather than policy concerns.

“The Trump administration’s decision to end TPS for people from these countries was motivated by its racism against non-white, non-European immigrants,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “That racist motivation was obvious from a number of statements that this president and others in the administration made, including about TPS holders specifically.”

Created by Congress in 1990, TPS designations are extended to countries that have suffered from war, natural disasters, or other humanitarian emergencies that make it unsafe for their citizens abroad to return home. Expatriates of TPS countries in the U.S. are shielded from deportation for as long as their country’s designation remains in place.

Norway has not suffered from a devastating earthquake like Haiti. It hasn’t gone through the same problems that have affected El Salvador or some of the African nations which have been granted TPS status. It makes absolutely no sense for Norway to enter this discussion unless you’re suggesting that that nation be made to suffer some type of war or national disaster forcing their people to flee in desperation. Or you just (heart) white people.

The lawsuit is attempting to block Trump from sending hundreds of thousands of TPS recipients, even when their countries still remain damaged and dangerous, back to their home nations after some of them have been here for as long as 17 years and now have made families here including native-born children. So if they parents suddenly have to leave, what happens to the kids who are U.S. citizens?

The nation has been up in arms that Trump separated about 2,000 immigrants from their kids. Imagine if we’re soon talking about 200,000 child separations? All that’s on top of the fact that it’s fully and completely legal to enter the U.S. in order to request asylum if you have a legitimate credible threat against your life.

(1) In general

Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where applicable, section 1225(b) of this title.

There is a natural conflict between this and general immigration law, which had been resolved to the benefit of the asylum seeker who would be prosecuted, sued, or held by the U.S. government until after their asylum proceedings. Trump has reversed this policy and instead treated any person caught crossing the border under the most extreme criminal violations available under immigration law while essentially ignoring asylum law altogether. This is why we now have a “border crisis”; Because Trump has been treating the legal process for seeking asylum as if it were a crime. It’s not.

While it’s fair to ask why asylum seekers don’t use other means to legally enter it comes down largely to the fact that there are strict limits and costs on gaining access to legal visas that simply place such an option completely out of their reach. Specifically most people who are coming to the U.S. to work and build a new life as a economic migrant the price tag starts at $4,500 for a company to submit a request for the visa to bring a foreign worker to the U.S. By comparison, most other visas only cost about $160.

Petition-based visas are those that require an employer or someone from the US to petition for the applicant who wants to temporarily live and work in the US. Before the applicant can submit their Form DS-160, the employer must first submit a petition to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the US Department of State, or the US Homeland Department. The petitioner must also pay a fee for the petition, which can vary depending on the visa. […]

For petitioners for H visas, there is a fee of 4,500.00 USD for petitioning to the US institutions to bring a foreign temporary worker to the US.

There is no process for someone to immigrate to the U.S. and legally work unless they go through this petitioning process with a U.S. company. The immigrant can not offer to pay the $4,500 on their own. Everything is based on the company’s request. If you immigrate through other means, with a couple exceptions, you can only be here temporarily as a student or a vacationer but you can’t legally work here. You can’t buy a home, you can’t raise a family, you can’t start a new life.

Also there are specific limits and caps on the number of these types of visas which can be petitioned by the companies. Sixty-five thousand highly skilled workers per year are allowed in using H1-B visas while 66,080 non-agriculture H2-B Visas are available for blue color temporary workers per year. (Although the Trump administration has raised this second cap by another 30,000 per year.) Not counting the H1-A visa for agricultural workers which has no cap, this means that U.S. companies can only bring in 161,080 workers in per year using the current legal process. These visas last for two years so all together there are slots for about 322,000 legal migrants workers in the U.S. And that’s it.

This quite simply does not meet the demand for workers that many U.S. companies have for blue-collar workers especially on grueling, difficult, and dangerous jobs such as the Koch Foods chicken factory in Mississippi which was recently raided by ICE.

If Koch Foods had petitioned for a legal visa for each of the 680 undocumented workers that they were employing, it would have cost them over $3 million, so you can guess why they might have an incentive to turn a blind eye to the fact that some of these workers were undocumented and even to possibly help provide them fraudulent documentation the way that Trump’s Golf Clubs apparently did with their own set of undocumented workers.

Supervisors at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, provided fake green cards and Social Security numbers to undocumented employees, according to a report in the Washington PostAnibal Romero, a lawyer representing five immigrants who were undocumented while working at the Trump property, told the newspaper that he turned the fraudulent documents over to the FBI.

“I’m confident that federal and state authorities will conduct a complete and thorough investigation,” Romero told the New York Daily News in an interview. Romero first contacted Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor investigating the president, but Mueller told him it was not within his jurisdiction. A few weeks later, though, an FBI agent contacted Romero.

This is consistent with Trump’s questionable immigration shenanigans with his modeling agency.

But the mogul’s New York modeling agency, Trump Model Management, has profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here, according to three former Trump models, all noncitizens, who shared their stories with Mother Jones. Financial and immigration records included in a recent lawsuit filed by a fourth former Trump model show that she, too, worked for Trump’s agency in the United States without a proper visa.

Foreigners who visit the United States as tourists are generally not permitted to engage in any sort of employment unless they obtain a special visa, a process that typically entails an employer applying for approval on behalf of a prospective employee. Employers risk fines and possible criminal charges for using undocumented labor. […]

According to three immigration lawyers consulted by Mother Jones, even unpaid employment is against the law for foreign nationals who do not have a work visa. “If the US company is benefiting from that person, that’s work,” explained Anastasia Tonello, global head of the US immigration team at Laura Devine Attorneys in New York. These rules for immigrants are in place to “protect them from being exploited,” she said. “That US company shouldn’t be making money off you.”

Two of the former Trump models said Trump’s agency encouraged them to deceive customs officials about why they were visiting the United States and told them to lie on customs forms about where they intended to live. Anna said she received a specific instruction from a Trump agency representative: “If they ask you any questions, you’re just here for meetings.”

The reason that the worker visa caps are so low, and the cost for them so high, is so that companies have an incentive to hire workers outside the system and instead to use undocumented workers—some who may have come using a legal visa but aren’t allowed to work, or without any visa—in order to answer their workforce needs. 

The point is maintaining an endless supply of cheap labor. But more importantly, an endless supply of cheap, compliant labor that won’t become too uppity since the threat of being revealed and deported is always there to keep them in line. 

In the case of Koch Foods, perhaps the reason none of the company executives have been prosecuted yet for having hired so many undocumented employees could be the possibility that the ICE raid did them a favor by solving labor, discrimination, and sexual harassment issue they were having. 

Wednesday’s raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which led to nearly 700 workers being detained, targeted seven Koch Foods Inc. poultry plants in Morton, Mississippi. As it happens, last year, Koch Foods settled a $3.75 million lawsuit for racial discrimination, national origin discrimination, and sexual harassment against its Latinx workers in that very same Morton facility.

According to the suit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), supervisors, “touched and/or made sexually suggestive comments to female Hispanic employees, hit Hispanic employees, and charged many of them money for normal everyday work activities.” Many workers were reportedly either discharged or subjected to other forms of retaliation when they complained.

As part of the settlement, Koch Foods not only paid out a massive sum to the victims, but also agreed to implement training for employees and set up a 24-hour hotline for reporting discrimination complaints in both English and Spanish. The settlement lasted three years, which means Koch Foods is still under supervision to continue efforts to reduce discrimination in its work place.

America by design, is supposed to be a safe haven for people fleeing danger, discrimination, and persecution and for those who wish to start their life over anew with greater possibilities and potential. But people like Trump don’t see it that way. They see immigrants as resources for use by companies, as fodder for corporate exploitation and profit or otherwise a threat. He talks about immigration based on “merit” but he defines those merits as being good, obedient, and compliant workers who will do what they’re told and stay in their place. 

He doesn’t consider that America is a gift, that it shouldn’t come with a high cost of entry so that only the “good not shithole people” get in. The promise and the potential of America is that it is intended to provide freedom to the people, not that the people are expected to provide easy accessible labor to its oligarch class as Ayn Rand would imagine.

Demonizing immigrants in order to pander to the economic, racial, and cultural anxiety of his base is a ploy that Trump has used quite effectively, but other than the fact he’s a bigot he doesn’t really mean it. He doesn’t really intend to help the blue collar workers in the Rust Belt because from his perspective, they’re shithole people too. 

Just imagine if you worked your entire life then suddenly came down with a chronic illness, the company you worked with never granted you more than 39 hours so you don’t have health coverage, and as a result you find you have to go onto Medicaid because the costs of the emergency room bills are too much. You remain injured and you can’t go back to work so you lose your job, then you lose your house because you can’t pay the mortgage. (And I’m not making this up. I have a cousin who recently suffered a stroke and all of this just happened to her.) Now a guy who received six bankruptcies is telling you that you’re a “freeloader” and that if you happen to be a immigrant—you no longer deserve to stay?

As has been repeatedly noted, the states that take the most money in federal dollars compared to what they generate are not necessarily the so-called blue states. 

Federal Tax spending per state

People in these states are often the people who are the closest to poverty and in the most need of aide, but that doesn’t make them weak or “unable to fend for themselves”—it happens. Sometimes people need a handout and a hand up because that’s part of life. If people in those states and situations were trying to get into the country as an immigrant under these new rules they likely wouldn’t make the cut. 

These new rules don’t consider the “can do” spirit of the heartland, it doesn’t consider that people don’t come to the U.S. to lounge around on the government largess. The rate crime by immigrants is lower that native citizens, and the rate of welfare use by immigrants is lower than native-born citizens. 

With very few exceptions (such as access to medical care for victims of human trafficking), undocumented immigrants are not eligible for federal public benefits such as Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and food stamps. In addition, most immigrants with lawful status are not entitled to these benefits until they have been in the country for five years or longer. This means that Social Security is often being deducted from immigrants’ paychecks but they cannot access those benefits. According to a 2018 study by the CATO Institute, eligible immigrants use 27% fewer benefits relative to U.S. natives of similar incomes and ages.

These stereotypes are all bogus. Becoming an American isn’t in your skin, it’s not in where you came from, it’s in your desire to improve your life, to provide a better life for your family. It may not happen quickly, it may not happen for a generation or two, but the point is the pursuit of happiness, and benefiting from the prosperity of liberty.

America is an idea. It’s an ideal, a value system. They don’t get even the tiniest bit of what America truly is, and what it stands for. They never will.

If Trump really cared about Jews, he’d resign and just go away

What would us Jews ever do without President Charlottesville? It’s amazing to me that we even survived almost 5,800 years before he took up shop in the Oval Office. We are so lucky we have him to look out for us, to tell us who hates us and who doesn’t, whom we should fear and whom we should embrace. When he bear hugged that American flag, all I could think was that I wish he could be hugging the Jewish people, all of us together, at the same time. Oh, and Ivanka’s Jewish now, which is just the icing on the cake at the Viennese table that is Trump’s overstuffed, sweet love for us. 

Who could ever doubt Trump’s love after a rally full of neo-Nazis chanting “Jews will not replace us” led him to declare that there were “very fine people on both sides” of that rally—a statement he’s even this week still lying about (Aaron Blake at The Washington Post did a terrific job debunking the most recent round of lies). Bear in mind, that chant derives from exactly the same content—namely the idea that Jews supposedly want to bring in lots of brown immigrants to “replace” the white Christian majority in the United States—that motivated the terrorist who murdered 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as well as the one who attacked a synagogue in Poway, California, murdering Lori Gilbert Kaye. That white nationalist terrorist wrote: “[Latinos] and [blacks] are useful puppets for the Jew in terms of replacing Whites.” Very fine sentiments indeed.

Although I don’t speak Yiddish all that well, I’ve managed to learn a few phrases over the years from family members. I’ll use one of my favorites here to discuss how much Jews actually do benefit from and need the care provided us by Donald Trump. We need it like we need a loch in kop. Here’s a translation: “Literally a hole in the head, refers to things one definitely does not need.”

This provides some of the background for what the Man Who Lost The Popular Vote did this week. As I mentioned earlier, he told Jews who hates us. Specifically, he told us that Democrats Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan “hate Israel & all Jewish people.” Not only that, Trump added “there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.” He shared these insights because the two congresswomen—whom he has attacked in hateful, racist terms numerous times in recent weeks—had been planning an official visit to Israel. Trump tweeted that if Israel allowed Omar and Tlaib to make such a visit it would show “great weakness.”

Trump seems to think that attacking these women of color, whom he hopes (as his own tweets make clear) to make the face of the Democratic Party in 2020, will help him stay out of jail—and, secondarily, in the White House—for another four years. So he saw their planned visit to Israel as another opportunity to go after them. But he did not limit his activities on this matter to his Twitter account. As Reuters reported:

Israel had initially chosen to allow the visit. A source who took part in consultations Netanyahu held with Cabinet members and advisers on Wednesday told Reuters that Israel backtracked due to pressure from Trump. The pressure was reported by the Axios news site on Saturday but denied by the White House.

“In a discussion held two weeks ago all the officials were in favor of letting them in but, after Trump’s pressure, they reversed the decision,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

For its part, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer had stated flatly only a month ago that “out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel.” President Individual 1 made sure Israel had to walk that one back.

On Friday morning news broke that Israel would allow Rep. Tlaib to come to Israel specifically to see her elderly grandmother, who lives in the West Bank, in what was termed a “humanitarian visit.” Tlaib apparently promised to not “promote boycotts against Israel.” However, after facing criticism from supporters of the BDS boycott, Tlaib then announced that she had “decided to not travel to Palestine and Israel at this time. Visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother’s heart.” Trump couldn’t resist pouring out even more bile late on Friday.

In all of these shifting developments, one thing is crystal clear. The president of the United States interfered directly in a decision by Israel, and essentially got our ally to switch its position on a matter of significant diplomatic and political importance. He told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu what to do, and Netanyahu did it. Boy, Trump sure does love Israel. AIPAC, on the other hand, which virtually always moves in lock-step with the Israeli government, broke with Trump and Israel on this decision. As Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, the liberal counterpart to AIPAC, wrote:


Hugely significant. Potentially groundbreaking. First time I remember @aipac publicly disagreeing with a government of Israel decision. Memo to the PM and @AmbDermer – when you’ve lost AIPAC in your efforts to play to @realDonaldTrump, you’ve clearly gone too far.

— Jeremy Ben-Ami (@JeremyBenAmi) August 15, 2019

To be sure, I haven’t always agreed with everything Omar and Tlaib have said when it comes to Jews and/or Israel. I’ve both criticized Rep. Omar, and subsequently praised her for changing the kind of language she uses when she offers what are legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy. Rep. Tlaib’s position is more problematic, in that she, unlike Omar, rejects a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (after coming out in favor of it during her primary race in 2018 and earning the endorsement of J Street, which it subsequently withdrew following her change in position). Thus, Tlaib rejects the idea of a national homeland for Jews, something the history of this world has made clear is a necessity, and which the United Nations endorsed specifically when it created two states, one Jewish and one Arab, out of British Palestine in 1947. Additionally, both Omar and Tlaib support BDS.

Despite these disagreements, myself and, more importantly, congressional Democrats who have raised concerns in the past on these matters have rallied around their two colleagues—the only two Muslim-Americans ever to have served in Congress. They have soundly condemned Trump’s statements and interference, along with the decision by Israel to go along with him on blocking the two congresswomen’s official visit. As Alana Abramson wrote in Time, what happened to Omar and Tlaib has “resulted in the most unified show of force House Democrats have shown on this issue since January.”

Here’s Nancy Pelosi’s official response:

As one who loves Israel, I am deeply saddened by the news that Israel has decided to prevent Members of Congress from entering the country…Israel’s denial of entry to Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar is a sign of weakness, and beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel.  The President’s statements about the Congresswomen are a sign of ignorance and disrespect, and beneath the dignity of the Office of the President.

On a related topic, how about the fact that Trump decided to tell the democratically elected government of Israel who it should and should not let come into its country, yet somehow can’t bring himself to say much of anything to the unelected, authoritarian government of China as it faces off against pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. President Trade Wars Are Easy To Win couldn’t muster any support for the protestors—a number of whom were waving the American flag and singing our national anthem—and their push for freedom and a government by, for, and of, the people. All he did was to offer praise for China’s President Xi, saying “I really have a lot of confidence in [him],” and adding that if the protestors could meet with Xi, “things could be worked out pretty easily.” Trump also characterized Xi as “a good man in a ‘tough business.’” Netanyahu, on the other hand, is a man who simply must snap to attention and do what the Orange Julius Caesar tells him. Democracy got no respect and no dignity from Trump when it came to either China or Israel.

x x
YouTube Video

When the 2020 elections roll around, American Jews need to do even better than we did in 2016, when we delivered our votes to Hillary Clinton by a three-to-one margin, and better still than we did in the 2018 midterms, when Jews voted for Democratic candidates over Republicans by an almost five-to-one margin. Trump thinks that by lying and slandering Representatives Omar and Tlaib he will ingratiate himself with Jewish voters. That’s not going to happen because we know the truth.

The truth is that Donald Trump does not have the best interests of the Jewish people at heart. Furthermore, he is not helping the State of Israel in its quest to build a secure homeland in the Middle East—something that will require compromise on all sides and a recognition of the rights of Palestinians to a state of their own roughly corresponding to the 1967 borders.

But it’s much worse than that. Trump aids, abets, and, yes, directly peddles hate of the worst kind, hate that puts Jews, not to mention immigrants and all Latinos, in the crosshairs of white nationalist racists. He is not our friend. The best thing he could do for American Jews, and for the country we love, would be to simply resign and go away.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh’s Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas).