Trump’s response to chemical attack in Syria: blame Obama

Someone, probably the Syrian government, launched an attack using both conventional and chemical weapons that killed at least 58 people, including 11 children.  The Trump adminstration condemned the attack and called it “heinous” and “intolerable,” but then proceeded to blame the Obama administration’s “weakness and irresolution” for it.

To the extent that reality still matters, what Obama actually did was seek congressional authorization for a military offensive against the Assad regime — authorization that Spicer’s Republican allies in Congress refused to offer. A guy by the name of Donald J. Trump was especially vocal in his opposition to Obama attacking the Assad government in Syria.

Bipartisan bill would end warrantless border searches of US persons’ data

From Boing Boing:

Under the Protecting Data at the Border Act, devices “belonging to or in the possession of a United States person” (a citizen or Green Card holder) could no longer be searched at the border without a warrant. Agents would no longer be able to deny US persons entry or exit on the basis of a refusal to allow such a search (but they could seize the equipment).

It doesn’t cover visitors or visa holders, but it does have bipartisan support in the Senate (Wyden D-OR; Paul R-KY) and the House (Polis D-CO; Farenthold R-TX).

The Customs and Border Protection agency conducted more warrantless device searches in Feb of 2017 than it did in all of 2015.

U.S. citizen detained three weeks by ICE

Rony Chavez Aguilar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was held in ICE custody for nearly three weeks without being able to see a judge, and without knowing why he was being detained.  His lawsuit states

ICE Chicago did not obtain a judicial warrant to arrest Plaintiff; has not provided a sworn, particularized statement of probable cause; has not promptly brought him before a detached and neutral judicial officer for a probable cause hearing; or has not brought him before a judge to understand the charges against him and receive important advisals regarding his due process rights, amongst other procedural protections.

It’s not a new problem since Trump’s inauguration, but I’m guessing we aren’t going to hear the President reading the Riot Act to the immigration cops any time soon.

No campaign funds for Democrats who won’t fight Trump’s Supreme Court pick

GorsuchEvery Democrat should sign this petition.  Tell DSCC Chair Van Hollen: No reelection funds for any Senate Democrat who votes or strikes a deal to advance the nomination of right-wing extremist Neil Gorsuch.  You wouldn’t think there would be any Democratic Senators in that group, but there are, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, even Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who should know better.

If Senate Democrats are looking for good reasons to not just oppose Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, but to force Mitch McConnell to go nuclear to get him on the court, there’s plenty. Let’s start with the fact that this is a stolen seat. By all rights, the only person who should be considered for the court is Merrick Garland, President Obama’s highly qualified and completely noncontroversial nominee who was blockaded by Republicans in an unprecedented and unprincipled display of partisanship. You don’t like the idea that maybe it’s tit-for-tat and you don’t want to look petty. Get over it.

There are plenty of reasons based in Gorsuch’s person, however, if Democrats need them. Like the fact that Gorsuch is a right-wing extremist so bought-into right-wing extremism that he uses “Democrat” as an adjective. That’s an implicit tip-off to anyone paying attention that he is a supremely political actor and will be serving the far-right before serving the constitution. He’s an ideologue and will rule as one. There’s also little indication that Gorsuch will be an independent actor when—and it’s increasingly looking like it will be when and not if—the court has to weigh in on a constitutional crisis created by popular vote loser Donald Trump.

Further, any senator who is worried about justifying a filibuster vote to their constituents only needs one story to justify their vote—the story of Alphonse Maddin, the “frozen trucker.” Gorsuch actually ruled that Maddin was justifiably fired by his employer when he disobeyed an order so that he could save himself from freezing to death. Gorsuch was in the minority in that decision, because it was an extreme position to take, but that’s who Gorsuch is. Any senator will be able to relate that story to a constituent to justify his or her vote to block Gorsuch.

Judge who blocked Muslim ban is receiving death threats and receiving 24-hour protection

This is what domestic terrorism looks like.  U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson ruled last week to block the latest Trump Muslim ban, citing “significant” evidence of “religious animus.”   In a normal government, the administration would say they disagreed with the court and/or were disappointed in the ruling, perhaps say they would seek new legislation.  But this is your new Republican government, and they’re not big fans of the separation of powers:

And just to review, the Republican Party officially stood behind Trump when he delegitimized the judicial branch of government.  So why would anybody be surprised when the authoritarian followers start making death threats to judges?  While U.S. Marshals guard Judge Watson around the clock, I’m sure other federal judges are getting the message loud and clear.

Is it fair to call Donald Trump a fascist?

Benito Mussolini  Donald Trump

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so.

A lot of people are making comparisons of President Trump to the fascist leaders of the 1930s.  Is that fair?  Well, first let’s consider what fascism is.  This article, which I strongly recommend reading now, describes 14 features common to fascist governments.  It wouldn’t be fair to throw the word “fascist” at Trump unless he matches all 14 items on that list.  Here they are.

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Yes.  This is the “Make America Great Again” guy, after all.  Trump has repeated “America First” like a mantra, a phrase is not just nationalistic on its face, but was the slogan of some of the most prominent anti-Semites who opposed U.S. entry into World War II.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Yes.  Trump is unambiguously in favor of torture.  He turns away refugees fleeing war zones, supports racist voter suppression, and rolled back protections for transgender children.  He plans to have the Border Patrol separate children from their parents in detention, as a deterrent to illegal border crossing.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – Yes.  He tried to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.  He wants to create a registry of Muslims, just like the Nazis did in the 1930s with Jews.

4. Supremacy of the Military – Yes.  He proposed a $54 billion increase in military spending.  He claims to have a secret plan to defeat ISIS (in 30 days, which expired a month ago at this writing).  He has promised to deport immigrants in a “military operation,” a disturbing way to talk about domestic policing.

5. Rampant Sexism – Oh yes.  He has already ordered cutbacks in U.S. funding of international family planning organizations.  He has bragged of sexually assaulting womenOver and over again, he has referred to women as sexual objects, criticized women for their looks, and joked about dating underage girls.

6. Controlled Mass Media – Yes.  He wants to make it easier to sue the press into submission, and has a media enemies list, and literally used the Stalinist phrase “enemy of the people” to describe the press.  It wouldn’t be accurate to say he controls the media, in the present tense, but his desire to do so is not a secret.

7. Obsession with National Security – Hell yes.  Fear is central to Trump’s appeal.  We are told to be afraid of immigrants, afraid of African Americans, afraid of Chinese.  We are told that police are under attack.  We are told in ominous tones that something is going on.  He has repeatedly claimed that the U.S. murder rate is the highest it has been in 47 years, when the opposite is true.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Yes indeed.  Trump has made no secret of his intention to prioritize Christian immigrants to the U.S.  He has promised to lift the political restrictions on religious nonprofits, making it possible for churches to participate directly in political campaigns, with anonymous tax free money.  He has promised to appoint antiabortion judges.  He promised to get cashiers in stores to say “Merry Christmas.”  He promised to bring back prayer in public schools.

9. Corporate Power is Protected – Yes.  Trump promises to reduce taxes on corporations to zero, and cut regulations.  He has the CEOs of many of the most powerful companies in the world attempting to curry favor with him.  His cabinet is dominated by corporate executives.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Yes.  Trump’s first pick for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, is a fast food CEO, with a long history of fighting against the $15 minimum wage, whose employees complain of wage theft and sexual harrassment.   His current nominee, Alexander Acosta, refuses to say he’ll enforce current regulations that protect workers’ overtime pay.  Trump has been overtly hostile to labor unions.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Emphatically yes.  Trump has taken anti-intellectualism to new levels.  This is the guy who doesn’t need to read much because he has so much “common sense.”  He literally stands opposed to the idea of the very existence of objective truth.  He proposes eliminating the arts and humanities endowments.  He has described art he dislikes as “degenerate,” a chilling choice of word that we have heard before, from actual Nazis.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Yes.  Trump favors the death penalty and asserts against the evidence that the death penalty deters crime.  He thinks we have to give more power to police, including the power to stop and frisk people without suspicion, a practice already ruled unconstitutional in New York.

13. Rampant Cronyism and CorruptionTo an unprecedented level, yes.  Trump has refused to put his assets into a blind trust, so anyone wishing to curry favor with the President of the United States can literally give him money, by staying at a Trump hotel, or playing at a Trump golf club, or just buying one of his many properties, in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.  He will fill vacancies in the National Labor Relations Board, which will referee matters between Trump hotels and labor unions.  He will fill vacancies in the General Services Administration, which will administer the lease of Trump International Hotel.

14. Fraudulent Elections – And…yes.  We know that Russia intervened in the U.S. election, according to U.S. intelligence officials.  There is evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians in that effort.  On top of the Russian angle, Trump and the Republican Party have engaged in systematic voter suppression.

Perhaps this is why Trump has an actual sworn Nazi working for him as an adviser.  Perhaps this is why the Nazi web site Daily Stormer celebrates Trump’s victory and calls him “our God Emperor.”  Perhaps this is why the Ku Klux Klan’s official newspaper endorsed Trump.  Perhaps this is why radical Serbian nationalists, who carried out actual genocide in the 1990s, support Trump.

“Fascist” isn’t a word that means “someone I don’t like.”  It’s not a word to be thrown around lightly.  It has a specific meaning.  And if you’ve read this far, you can’t escape the conclusion:  Donald Trump is, indeed, a fascist.

The Minnesotan left-wing economic miracle continues, while neighboring Republican states slowly collapse

While Iowa goes the way of Kansas,

Last fall, I wrote about the strange case of Minnesota governor Mark Dayton, a left-wing billionaire heir to the Target fortune who came to power and reversed his Republican predecessors’ Reagonomic idiocy, instead raising taxes on rich people, increasing public spending, and creating shared prosperity for the people of Minnesota.

The results of the experiment continue to surprise and delight: unemployment is down to 3.7%, private sector earnings are up 1.5% to $891/week, 47,000 new jobs were added to the economy in the past year, and the state just declared a $1.8B budget surplus, even as Forbes ranked it 9th in its table of best states for business.

But this is all the more remarkable when compared the fate of the Republican-run, austerity-fuelled neighboring states, where a succession of GOP governors and state houses have slashed taxes on business and the wealthy, eliminated social spending, and attacked trade unionism. They are running deficits, the people there are earning less than their Minnesotan cousins, they’re adding fewer (and worse) jobs, and posting less growth.

Racist border policies mean Toronto school board will no longer allow trips to Trump’s USA

From Boing Boing:

Toronto high-school students have been visiting the USA since their inception; I remember my own high-school trips to Buffalo’s Albright Knox gallery warmly. But they are a relic of the past, because the Toronto District School Board will not risk harassment and worse of its students at the US border, where people born to Arab or Muslim families, or in majority-Muslim families, report widespread discrimination.

The District may also cancel existing trips if the US continues to place new, racially motivated restrictions on travelers crossing the border.

The most important book about Republicans was written in 2006

And you can read it for free.  The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer is not about leaders, it is about followers:  the kind of people who are ready to follow the next dictator who comes along.

This short excerpt is from the introduction to the book.

Authoritarianism is something authoritarian followers and authoritarian leaders cook up between themselves. It happens when the followers submit too much to the leaders, trust them too much, and give them too much leeway to do whatever they want–which often is something undemocratic, tyrannical and brutal. In my day, authoritarian fascist and authoritarian communist dictatorships posed the biggest threats to democracies, and eventually lost to them in wars both hot and cold. But authoritarianism itself has not disappeared, and I’m going to present the case in this book that the greatest threat to American democracy today arises from a militant authoritarianism that has become a cancer upon the nation.

We know an awful lot about authoritarian followers. In one way or another, hundreds of social scientists have studied them since World War II. We have a pretty good idea of who they are, where they come from, and what makes them tick. By comparison, we know little about authoritarian leaders because we only recently started studying them. That may seem strange, but how hard is it to figure out why someone would like to have massive amounts of power? The psychological mystery has always been, why would someone prefer a dictatorship to freedom? So social scientists have focused on the followers, who are seen as the main, underlying problem.

Read this book.  Buy a paperback copy and give it to someone.