Congressional Democrats vote to give Trump unlimited spy powers

Thanks for nothing, Adam Schiff.

When Congress voted last week to renew the NSA’s controversial Section 702 powers, which gives the spy agency the power to conduct mass, secret, warrantless surveillance on Americans, they also voted down a bipartisan amendment that would have limited the president’s ability to abuse these powers, injecting the barest minimum of accountability and proportionality into a system that Republican and Democratic presidents alike have abused for decades.

The amendment was voted down because Democrats didn’t support it. The same Democrats who show up on the news every night, telling us that Trump is a dangerous authoritarian who can’t be trusted, just caved to the “intelligence community” and gave that dangerous authoritarian virtually unlimited powers to spy on every one of us.

When racism is accepted, this kind of thing happens (over and over)

When deportation is a death sentence

Sarah Still man of the New Yorker documents the deaths of people who were deported from the United States to their deaths.  Customs and Border Patrol agents have been emboldened by Trump’s overt racism, but many abuses took place quietly during the Obama administration.

Allegations abound of Customs and Border Protection officers dismissing asylum seekers more brazenly. According to a 2014 American Civil Liberties Union report based on conversations with nearly a hundred people who were removed without seeing an immigration judge, “Fifty-five percent said they were not asked about fear of persecution or torture,” while “forty percent who were asked and said they were afraid were ordered deported without seeing an asylum officer.” For years, the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has documented Customs and Border Protection’s noncompliance with asylum-seeker protections, including, in more than fifty per cent of cases, officers at ports of entry neglecting “to read the required information.” More recently, after Trump’s election, civil-liberties groups began documenting an apparent increase in rejections in some places on the border. According to a recent lawsuit, C.B.P. officers have told prospective asylum seekers, “The United States is not giving asylum anymore,” and “Trump says we don’t have to let you in.”

 

Republicans totally focused on protecting Trump and stopping Russia investigation

We now have the transcripts of the closed-door Senate testimony of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, regarding the evidence of criminal activity by the Trump campaign with the Russians.  It is not pretty.  Senator Grassley should resign in disgrace for what happened in his Judiciary Committee.

Every question asked by Republicans in the meeting—every single question—focused on trying to find information they could use to demean and defame the witness. They wanted to paint Fusion GPS as a “Democratic operation.” They were determined to turn Christopher Steele’s visit to the FBI into a partisan act. They used every moment of their time to find something Fusion had done wrong, or that Steele had done wrong … some way that both the company and the information they had gathered could be dismissed. In a day-long interview that was supposed to further the investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, no Republican expressed the slightest interest in that topic.

Republicans protecting the crooks

At some time in the future, when a Republican tries to distance himself from the disgrace of Donald Trump, remember how it really was at the beginning of 2018.  At a time when new evidence is making an even stronger case that the President has obstructed justice,

In perhaps one of the most coordinated episodes of their entire tenure of single-party rule, House Republicans began a campaign to end their own Russia probe and oust Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Senate Republicans recommended the indictment of a key Trump-Russia whistleblower, the Justice Department decided to reinvestigate Hillary Clinton’s email use, and the FBI is taking aim at the Clinton Foundation—again.

I keep saying it because it needs saying:  the Republican Party is the Party of Trump.  Never let them live it down.

Remember who evangelicals backed in 2016-2017

Credit is due.  Some evangelical Christians understand the hypocrisy of backing an Alabama child molester on religious grounds.  No less a leading light than the editor of Christianity Today, the publication founded 61 years ago by Billy Graham, had this to say about the election in Alabama.

No matter the outcome of today’s special election in Alabama for a coveted US Senate seat, there is already one loser: Christian faith. When it comes to either matters of life and death or personal commitments of the human heart, no one will believe a word we say, perhaps for a generation. Christianity’s integrity is severely tarnished.

I could not have said it better.

If it walks like a fascist and quacks like a fascist…

If Donald Trump says all those racist things when he’s putting on his best face for the cameras, what must he be like when the cameras are off?  We don’t have to speculate.  In June of 2017, this was Trump in front of his staff:

  • He said Afghanistan was a terrorist haven.
  • He said of legal Haitian immigrants, they “all have AIDS.”
  • He said of legal Nigerian immigrants, that once they had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts.”

That’s right.  The President of the United States said that people from the most populous country in Africa live in huts.  About what you’d expect from the guy who thought there were “fine people” among those making Nazi salutes in Charlottesville.

Yes, you may be thinking, but it’s a long way from being a racist to being a fascist dictator.  Not so long, perhaps.  Trump has just asserted, with regard to the Russia investigations, that he has the “absolute right to do what I want with the Justice Department,” a claim that Richard Nixon would have been embarrassed to make.  I’d like to see a comment on this article, from a Republican who has one of those little copies of the Constitution in his pocket, explaining why this shouldn’t alarm the rest of us.

 

 

Abandoning even the pretense of caring about human rights

An internal State Department memo explicitly confirms what we already knew about the Trump administration’s foreign policy priorities.

Apparently, a deputy named Brian Hook, a former Bush administration official, wrote up a memo for Tillerson explaining how the U.S. looks at human rights. And guess what? After nearly half a century we’re back to Henry Kissinger’s foreign policy from the 1970s. According to Politico, which got a peek at the memo, Hook explained to the neophyte diplomat that “the U.S. should use human rights as a club against its adversaries, like Iran, China and North Korea, while giving a pass to repressive allies like the Philippines, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.” As Tom Malinowski, former assistant secretary of state under Obama, told Politico, this “tells Tillerson that we should do exactly what Russian and Chinese propaganda says we do — use human rights as a weapon to beat up our adversaries while letting ourselves and our allies off the hook.”

Apparently Secretary of State Tillerson read and agrees with the memo.

This is what Republicans do

Of the many unsurprising things about the tax bill, here are some of the least surprising.

  • Republicans are united. You may have heard there was a civil war happening within the Republican Party, but it must be the kind of civil war in which the two factions agree with each other. Every single Republican in the Senate, and virtually all Republicans in the House, voted for cutting taxes on the rich. It’s what Republicans do. There’s no daylight between Trump and the Republican Party on this, the only major legislation they’ve been able to pass.
  • Big donors have been bribing Republicans for decades, and today their investment paid off. This will be huge for banks like Wells Fargo, already notorious for ripping off their own customers.
  • Republican lawmakers will also be benefitting personally. None have exhibited any shame, and we can expect none.
  • The destruction of the social safety net for the rest of us, using the excuse of “we can’t afford it, now that we’ve cut taxes” is already underway. Because of the sequestration deal that Democrats foolishly agreed to, cuts in Medicare will be automatic. This has been the Republican plan all along.
  • This is the kind of government that defines fascism. Anyone who denies that we now have a fascist government, also has the burden of proof.