I am writing again about the situation in Syria, which I am sure is of great concern to the entire country. My main concern is that I do not want the United States to be dragged into a civil war in Asia. I don’t completely understand the reasoning behind the Republican President’s decision to attack the Syrian government at this time. Mostly I am disgusted with the administration’s decision to lash out at the government of Syria, when his other actions in office are directly harming the people being murdered by that government.
Obviously, there are limits to what you are able to do about this. My hope is that you will do what you can to help the Syrian people to escape this terrible situation and to help other refugees, both in the Middle East and in other places that are also in dire straits but are not making the headlines. We should continue to give aid to these people and ignore the Administration’s budget on this and other issues. We should do more to help refugees to settle in the United States, again in spite of the administration’s desire. In a better political situation, we would have Congress taking the lead in these matters with an AUMF document that keeps the United States out of this civil war.
While I understand that domestic issues are front and center right now, I believe this is something that would have a large amount of support from both parties and may do more to bring some comity back to Congress. Something that has been missing these past few months.
So we can add another major failure to the Republican agenda since their healthcare plan is toast. I put some effort into this even though it was kind of pointless because none of my delegation was going to break ranks. But thanks so much to everyone who put the effort in. It’s also proof that the issues with the Republican party in the house still exists and they really are their own worst enemy. Also, it’s proof that the Republican President is unusually weak politically as well as being inept at his job.
Would just like to add that my Senator is an idiot. I could hope that there was hope, and I’ll keep writing both of them. But daaamn this is just stupid and self-inflicted. Like so much else the GOP has to offer right now.
The most surprising recent news was this article about an Israeli teen who is apparently responsible for hundreds of the bomb threats called into Jewish community centers in the U.S. and around the world. A slip-up in his call to a Jewish Center in New Zealand was apparently what got him caught. This is bizarre news and the best theory so far is the teen literally has brain damage.
It’s good news overall and also proof that the world is much weirder than we can believe. On the other hand, we’ve still got the people vandalizing Jewish Cemeteries, burning down Mosques in the U.S., and attacking people because of race and religion, and we can’t pin it all on this one dude.
Going through maybe a month’s worth of notes, for now:
March 22, 2017
White man traveled to New York to kill black men and ‘make a statement,‘
This is a pretty disturbing story. It reminds me a great deal of the murder of George Tiller a few year’s back where you had a White a-hole completely convinced he was in the right and just kill someone then go directly to jail. Only what the Baltimore white guy this year believes is that killing Black men is right. This is the damage that the white right reality distortion field can do and it may not let up for years.
UK, US ban electronics in carry-on luggage from Middle East airports The story here is two fold: it’s going to be that much harder for travelers from Muslim countries to travel to the U.S., and we still don’t know if we can trust the U.S. government enough to just go on with this new piece of security theater. I mean, probably since it didn’t come directly from Trump and the U.K. is going along?
Africa Trade Meeting Has No Africans After US Visa Denials
This conference in California usually has over a hundred delegates from across Africa, and this time none of them were allowed to attend. And we don’t know if this is just a fluke or part of new policy because there’s no one in Congress investigating and hardly anyone in the Republican Administration to ask about this.
World Faces Largest Humanitarian Crisis Since 1945, U.N. Official Says
Millions across the Middle East and Africa are facing starvation and war and the Republican Administration’s policy is to close our doors and cut foreign aid. I don’t understand how anyone can think that is even a remotely good idea as a foreign policy. If these countries don’t turn to the U.S., they will turn to China and Russia. And that’s setting aside the fact that they are people in peril who desperately need our help.
I’ve been writing my delegation, from avery Republican state, constantly since January. I’m posting these in the hope there may be some arguments others can use in their letters or articles.
March 20, 2017
I saw through the local paper that you recently attended a town hall meeting at the Dole Center. I am glad you were able to attend and I hope you continue to meet with your constituents from Lawrence. While I was unable to attend, I understand it mainly focused on healthcare. I have already sent you a couple of emails on this, so you likely do not need to hear more from me for now.
However, one of your remarks at the start of the town hall worried me a great deal. I believe the moderator mentioned that 100 people at KU were directly affected by the travel restrictions, and you were asked about your feelings on the second travel ban. I believe you called the second ban a “step in the right direction to keep us safe.”
I have been opposed to the Republican President’s travel ban from the beginning and it is this mistaken belief that it is supposed to keep the U.S. “safe” that I am especially unhappy about. Refugees are the ones who are most affected by this ban, and there is absolutely no evidence that refugees are a meaningful threat to our safety. Of the 784,000 refugees admitted since 9/11, exactly three have been arrested for terrorist activities in the U.S. Two of those were for sending support back to Iraq, not for an actual attack on the U.S., and the third did not prove to have a credible threat of attack.
This is an incredible rate and should demonstrate that the Refugee vetting program is working as well as humanly possible. There is absolutely no justification for including refugees in any ban, temporary or not, and at a time when we are facing the greatest refugee crisis since WWII, there is every reason to want to help these people. The Republican President has proposed turning our backs on all of them, and in his current budget proposal has asked to cut foreign aid as well. I do not support his decision or his proposed cuts. If implemented, I believe the decision will be seen as terrible as when we turned our backs on Jewish refugees fleeing Fascism, or as the internment of Japanese-Americans in WWII.
I hope you will take this under consideration and reevaluate your support of the President’s immigration ban.
I’ve been writing my delegation, from avery Republican state, constantly since January. I’m posting these in the hope there may be some arguments others can use in their letters or articles.
February 26, 2017
I am thankful that the courts have chosen to intervene on this issue and I can understand not wanting to spend valuable time on the legislative calendar on an issue that will likely be settled elsewhere.
I still am unconvinced on the security justification for the executive order. George W. Bush never felt the need to pass such an order even in the wake of 9/11. None of our closest allies have passed such a ban. Great Britain, which has fought beside us through all of this, has not only decided against any refugee ban, but has gone so far as to pass a unanimous resolution condemning the Republican President’s current action.
In short, I find it difficult to trust the judgement of an Administration that believes, in its first week, that it knows more than our past two Presidents and all of our closest allies.
However, I am more worried right now about the impacts of “Extreme Vetting” which has not been covered by the court rulings and has the potential to do much damage to our country’s reputation.
In the past few weeks, I have seen news reports of actions targeted against Muslims by US CIS and CBP agents.
These actions include:
A report of a British Citizen, not a dual national and so not part of the order, who was refused entry at a pre-screen in Iceland. He is a school teacher from Wales who was on a class trip to the US, and also a Muslim.
A report of a Canadian student athlete who was refused entry to the U.S., supposedly because of a tie to a jihadist he may have known in High School, but the connection was tenuous at best. He is also a Muslim.
A report of a Syrian family seeking asylum, so currently allowed entry due to the court situation, who chose to flee US CBP agents through below freezing temperatures to Canada because of the uncertainty about whether they would find safety in the U.S. They are also Muslims.
A report of a US Citizen, Muhammad Ali, Jr., who was detained for several hours and nearly refused entry, in spite of a valid US Passport. He is also a Muslim.
A couple of reports of US Citizens being denied global travel permits without adequate explanation even though they were originally on track for approval before the Executive Order. They are frequent business travelers that are ordinarily granted such permits without any difficulty, and they are also Muslims.
A report of Mem Fox, a 70 year old Australian Children’s author, who was insulted by U.S. Border agents and detained for several hours in Los Angeles. No explanation was given as to why she was treated so, though a formal apology was given later on by the U.S. government. She has traveled to the U.S. hundreds of times and now says she will never do so again.
Reports of CBP stopping all travelers on a domestic U.S. flight and forcing them to show ID, even though CBP does not normally act outside of U.S. border crossings.
And these are just the reports that make the news, there may be many others that do not.
I do not know if this is part of some new policy by the Administration, some action taken by CBP and CIS on their own, or simply unconnected incidents that were picked up by the media. And neither does any one else from what I can tell outside of (possibly) the Administration. These actions by themselves would seem to call for some oversight by Congress, but so far no one in the Kansas delegation at least seems willing to look into this, even informally. I understand wanting to concentrate on your own priorities and those of the Republican Party, but public oversight is the best antidote to the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that is affecting U.S. religious minorities, immigrants and visitors to our country.
And this is setting aside the effect this order has had on extremists in the U.S. Since the order was signed, mosques have been burned, people have threatened Jewish Centers and vandalized Jewish Cemeteries. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Garmin engineers in Olathe, KS who were shot by a man who simply hated immigrants.
The lack of transparency by the Republican Administration regarding its current immigration policy, the unnecessary haste in passing the Executive Order, and the lukewarm response towards attacks against religious minorities has shown a complete lack of leadership and is hurting our country’s standing around the world. I hope that Congress will not continue to keep silent or the damage being done may be difficult to repair.
A very well written article that gives alot of background on what Russia’s aims are and why they continue to be hostile to the West. Their discussion of the election interference was very enlightening.
Be Vewy Vewy Quiet!
I’m hunting for a Wussian Spy…
Sessions mislead the Senate during his confirmation hearing about his ties to Russia
This completely overshadowed the Republican President’s address to Congress earlier in the week, and it’s more evidence that their campaign’s ties to Russia have not been completely uncovered.
I believe the Russia affair will continue to nag the Administration from now through the next elections. There is very little short of Congressional hearings that would clear this up, and the Republicans don’t want to spend time on those as it wastes legislative time and can only harm their party. The President’s party nearly always loses seats in the midterms and the GOP is well aware of that, which means they have a very limited amount of time to get their agenda passed.
If there is, in fact, any evidence of coordination or illegal communication between the campaign and Russia, this will derail the party for the foreseeable future. Something that Russia probably viewed as favorable as well, since their goal is to turn our Democracy in on itself, and #45’s election was just an unexpected windfall.
Immigration: Muslim Ban
Again this threatens to completely overwhelm anyone in the breadth of people affected by this. I’ve been focusing alot on the “Extreme Vetting” angle, but we should also be thinking about the people who are directly affected by this policy.
Muhammed Ali, Jr., a U.S. citizen, was detained for two hours at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after telling CBP that he was a Muslim.
A Jordanian with a valid US-visa was detained and then deported by CBP in Chicago this January after explaining to agents that he was born in Syria but left as a child to Jordan and that both of his parents are Jordanian.
More stories of the indirect impacts of this policy:
“This is probably what it felt like to be a British foreign service officer after World War II, when you realize, no, the sun actually does set on your empire,” said the mid-level officer. “America is over. And being part of that, when it’s happening for no reason, is traumatic.”
In an ordinary year, this would seem like crass rabble-rousing from a magazine well known for it, but this seems restrained compared to the weird mix of Authoritarianism and Incompetence we’ve seen so far.
I think everyone who was there wishes they could just block out the entire thing. The press conference is worse than anything even George W. Bush managed to put together. This is like Reagan without a Nancy to keep him on track.
The Republican Administration seems to be regrouping after its stinging defeats in court, and will issue an new Executive Order with fewer obnoxious and illegal provisions.
The people running the show here may think they can pull some “Art of the Deal” nonsense and sneak through half of what they want, instead of all, but so far indications are that the new Executive Order will just get caught up in the same court battles as the previous one was.
This hasn’t stopped the administration from going ahead with the Extreme Vetting part of the Muslim ban. Examples include:
The U.S. is pushing for a new law in Canada that would expand the role of pre-screening officials. This is hard to analyze but troubling in that Muslims from Canada may be subject to searches and other intensive vetting actions when attempting to enter the U.S.
And more quotes from the Third World Dictator’s Guide to Media Relations:
WH Sr. Policy Adviser Stephen Miller: "The powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned" pic.twitter.com/sn3GyFATPD
The Administration is also expanding its deportment actions including increased ICE raids throughout the country.
This includes reports of ICE roadblocks, arrests happening outside schools and churches, and door to door canvassing for undocumented immigrants.
Apparently scammers are already taking advantage of the situation in New York by claiming to be ICE agents and extorting money from people.
Overall, this is a very troubling trend as it shows more expansion of Federal activity than has been seen in decades. The only other issue that has been Federalized to this extent is the Drug War, which of course disproportionally affects Black minorities, just as this is affecting Latinos.
I expect a scathing response from the Tea Party crowd on “encroaching Federal power” any day now…
The Voter Fraud BS Continues
The Administration’s latest round of claims seems to involve people being bussed into New Hampshire to fraudulently vote and hand the state to Clinton. This is on top of their continued claim that the Republican President’s loss in the popular vote was due to millions of illegal votes.
I can’t remember any politician even talking about the election a month after the fact, let alone three months later, and I lived through Bush v. Gore. I know there are people who want to see this as some kind of 12-dimensional chess move, but there is a stain of illegitimacy about this administration, and the way they carried the election, that isn’t going away. And these attacks on the media, legitimate protesters, and even the voters themselves stem from this insecurity.
Is This Washington Infighting—or Administration Incompetence?
So we have an Administration plan to review intelligence agencies by an allied corporate group. Apparently, they’re obsessed with leaks coming from various agencies, which is a symptom of how unpopular their policies are as well as a lack of communication, in my opinion.
The Administration also fired a National Security Council staffer for making “disparaging” remarks about some of the President’s advisors and was forced to quietly fire 6 staffers from an already understaffed White House, including the Chief Digital Officer, because they failed to pass their FBI Background checks.
This could be a warning shot from the FBI not to start investigating them, or just the fact that the Administration doesn’t have enough legitimate contacts to staff an organisation and they are forced to bring in flunkies.
Overall, a troubling trend for this Republican Administration that had to withdraw its nominee for Labor Secretary, had a few issues finding a replacement for Flynn, and which has only filled 14 of the 549 key positions it needs Senate Confirmation on. This is way behind a normal Presidency and will leave them unable to carry out much of their agenda. Hopefully, they won’t decide to bring in a few hundred recess appointments over the Summer or something.
DoJ Investigation of Comey Continues
It’s kind of surprising the guy has kept his job this long since no one really likes him that much in either party. But I suppose he has allies in the Administration since he helped hand them the election.
So there’s plans to remove the Endangered Species Act, moves to allow drilling for oil in National Parks, another Executive Order to rollback Wall Street regulations put in place after the Great Recession, and changes in Title IX to remove protection for Transgender students in Education. All of which are bad news, and are kind of a sideshow compared to the complete meltdown going on.
Another good reflection on the past week by Andrew Sullivan. It’s impossible to overstate how deeply weird and dysfunctional this administration is, even in the first month, and we’re still creeping towards the end.
Sully’s back, and his first piece is a magnificent look at our trip through the Upside Down.
This has been going on in the background for a couple of weeks. What we know:
The President’s National Security Advisor talked to the Russians before Trump took office and directly undermined the sanctions put in place by President Obama.
This was probably illegal, though that would depend on exactly what Flynn said to both the Russians and the FBI.
This is very troubling, but it’s hard to say whether Congress will get do their job and investigate or stay in denial. It looks like the House is going to wait for more troubling information to come out. The Senate, which has fewer Trump allies, is likely to start some kind of investigation.
Paranoid hatchet piece or accurate examination of a 70-year-old President with no policy or governing experience? Either way, it seems to fit into the narrative of the Republican President as a potential pawn of both the White Right and Russia.
The fact that this isn’t some conspiracy website but NY Magazine shows how much this Administration has done to damage itself in just these few weeks.
This New Yorker piece by Sarah Stillman referred to in the article is also important reading even nearly four years later.
More Reports of “Extreme Vetting” in Action
First, this report of a growing number of Syrian refugees fleeing to Canadafrom the United States during freezing winter weather.
This is a direct result of the Republican Administration’s Muslim Ban and is not likely to either improve the image of the U.S. abroad or to help our relations with Canada. But 45 doesn’t care.
Another report of a Canadian denied entry to the U.S. because of someone he may have known in High School. The CBC claims he was held for five hours and asked about his religion and his parents’ birthplace before being denied entry.
Another of the Republican Administration’s campaign promises partially delivered. The execution of these raids seems to be less clumsy than the Muslim Ban, which means the end result is only a cruel attack on hard working immigrants including the parents of many young American citizens.
Where ICE is going to keep all of these immigrants, how they will be treated, and will their rights actually be respected are also open questions which were completely ignored during the campaign.
The media and popular response to this was the reason why the policy changed under Obama and he was one of the more popular Presidents. I can’t imagine how bad this will play out for an Administration already on a rocky footing.
The protests reported here by the Washington Post may give us a clue, however.
The bill as proposed is very unlikely to pass, but still a picture of where this Republican Administration, and the White Right lawmaker allies are wanting to take us. I’m already writing my Senators about this.
This is just more of the same Republican attacks on voting rights, nothing to see here! The good news is, these will all likely get struck down eventually, but they only need them to last through another round of close elections. Have you talked to your State Lawmakers lately?
This is our closest ally, and it is a troubling picture of how Canada and Australia are likely to respond if the situation doesn’t change.
The Old Guard Is Slowly Waking Up
No, not woke
While this crisis has pushed many ordinary citizens into political action, the Old Guys in the Room are still trying to leave their state of denial at their own pace. Two interesting takes on how this may look from the inside. Never Too Soon for a Functional White House by Jonathan Bernstein.
And this tweet thread:
Spent afternoon discussing politics with staffers who have been in business 30+ years. We're all asking how we can help lead right now.
The Awl keeps chugging on despite the odds. And they’re still producing the best content for those of us who want to be less stupid.
The Immigration Tempest
This is my issue. I know there are other people who are worried about domestic actions, especially by law enforcement, but I am an immigrant to Australia as well as a 5th generation American. I have written all of my Congressmen and women for the first time ever, including a cursive longhand letter to my Representative who is quitting this circus in two years and may be moved on this issue.
There are too many articles to pick just one link. There are so many angles: the legal process, the Republican President’s unprecedented verbal attacks on the Judicial system, and the stories of how this mess has affected real people on the ground.
What is chilling about this story is the fact that she was not targeted by her work for the ACLU, but by her national origin. Others have been stopped and extensively questioned because of their religion. Even U.S. citizens. This is what “Extreme Vetting” really is. It’s a policy of making sure that anyone who isn’t welcomed by the race-bating crowd can no longer feel welcomed in America. And even if every change made by the Republican Administration is overturned, it is still going to cause long term damage to America’s image.
Another case where the Republican Administration’s incompetence manages to overwhelm what would otherwise be a simple “rally the troops” moment. I don’t expect them to necessarily get their act together as they have no clue about foreign policy, but if they find someone who does, then we may have more Wag the Dog moments to act as a distraction from the administration’s domestic agenda. If putting American lives at danger and killing civilians for no good reason can really be called a distraction.
Again we see the Republican Administration’s incompetence on display, as everything about this is weak-ass minor league dictator bullshit. But we also have the administration trying to bypass any media they don’t control as much as possible. Which is scary.
This will all blow over in less than a week. But the Republican Administration put out an inaccurate list of terror attacks that were supposedly not covered by The Media.
Again, we have their incompetence battling their attempt to pull something from the Third World Dictator’s Handbook on media relations. Their endgame is mostly to delegitimize The Media so they can
attempt to get through their tenure only talking to Breitbart or other outlets that will allow them to lie at will.
This is my new style guide on how to refer to the Republican President. Note the suggestion to refer to “The Republicans” who are responsible, most especially their base, for what is going on in America.
Which is why they spend so much time going after “the media” and pretending like they don’t own this.
Again there are too many articles on both DeVos and Sessions to link to something definitive. The Democratic Senators were finally motivated to show some backbone. The Republicans had to pull out every trick they could think of and my own Senators from a very red state (Kansas) had to justify their votes, especially for DeVos. They know they’ve done wrong, but in their political calculus the cost
of handing the administration a major loss outweighs anything else. They can’t afford to stop believing this is a normal administration or they would have to fight against both the center and right flanks and the entire party would probably split.
I know there are people who were discouraged that their first taste of political action was a defeat, but 1.5 million calls a day is enough to get everyone on the hill worried. This gives the handful of moderates who can be pushed cover to break from their party on other nominations. As long as we can manage to keep the pressure on in any case.
Final thoughts from a fellow Twitter user:
Hey! If you’re a Democrat in a red state and you’ve spent the last month screaming at your Senator about DeVos – thank you