Sunday, April 18, 2021

Give me your tired excuses, your poor rationalizations . . .

The Spy's Report from Washington

By Emma Goldman, Immigration Editor
with Isidore Stone,
Spy Washington Bureau

It's not every day that the U.S. Government makes a decision that is both indefensible on its merits and universally despised.  And it's even rarer when such a decision is made by the heretofore politically astute Biden Administration.

But on a Friday afternoon, when it thought no one would be looking, the Biden team hit the Daily Double by backing down from its oft repeated promise to abandon the bigoted Former Loser Grifter limitations on admissions of vetted refugees.

It was a clusterf**k.

Around noon,

The White House announced on Friday that President Biden would limit the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year to the historically low level set by the Trump administration, reversing an earlier promise to welcome more than 60,000 people fleeing war and persecution. 

It did not go well.  A few hours later,

the move to cap the number at 15,000 prompted such an immediate backlash from Democrats and human rights activists that the White House later retreated and promised to announce a final, increased number by May 15.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, did not specify how many refugees would be allowed into the country, but she did say that Mr. Biden’s initial goal of welcoming 62,500 seemed “unlikely.”

So first the Biden Administration alienated its allies, and then by flip-flopping it provided further ammo to anti-immigration white supremacists, all while forcing long-suffering refugees to suffer even more from the uncertainty.  Talk about a good day's work. 

The Biden Administration knows refugees are nothing but trouble   (c)NY Times

The debacle proved embarrassing enough for the formerly tight-lipped Biden team to start some desperate leaking:

Unauthorized migrants crossing the border are processed differently from refugees, who are fully vetted and approved for resettlement before arriving. But Mr. Biden was concerned that lifting the Trump-era cap on refugees would overwhelm the already-strapped system, according to two senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss decision making.

Still, the Biden administration had been promising for months to raise the cap. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken notified Congress on Feb. 12 that the administration planned to allow up to 62,500 refugees to enter the United States in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, citing “grave humanitarian concerns” around the world. 

Both the practical and political concerns are, to put it kindly, lame.  Even the normally staid New York Times had to point out that two of the agencies dealing with border crossers, the Border Patrol and the inland body snatchers (ICE), don't deal with the formal refugee resettlement program.  The office that houses minor noncitizens, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, is involved with refugee admissions, but the refugee admissions group is separate from the team charged with care of unaccompanied minors.

The heavy lifting in the refugee program is the vetting process, intended to weed out criminals, terrorists, friends of Roger Stone, and other undesirables:

Before admission to the United States, each refugee must undergo a rigorous interviewing process to ensure that the individual meets the “refugee” definition. . . . Applications for refugee resettlement can be denied on health-related grounds, criminal grounds, and security grounds. They may also be denied for polygamy, misrepresentation of facts on visa applications, smuggling, and previous deportations.

And that work is done by the State Department and USCIS.  Once the refugee has been vetted, it's a matter of arranging a plane ticket and coordinating with local voluntary organizations who have done an admirable job of receiving the refugees and integrating them into their new communities.  So the supposed practical objection to letting in previously cleared refugees is a pretext.

The results of the Biden Admission refusal to resume admissions of cleared refugees are appalling:

As a result, tens of thousands of people who have already completed the complex process for resettling in the United States have been stranded abroad, often in overcrowded refugee camps where many have been waiting for years.

“These are refugees approved to come here, who have been waiting for years and whose flights have been canceled numerous times,” said Jennifer Sime, senior vice president for resettlement, asylum and integration at the International Rescue Committee. 

Of course, since they are refugees, they are by definition living in precarious and often dangerous conditions.  Otherwise, they wouldn't be refugees.

You don't have to take our word for it.  You ought to be able to rely on a report signed by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken eons ago, or, more precisely, February 12, 2021:

The United States, like UNHCR, recognizes that resettlement in third countries is a vital tool for providing a durable solution for refugees who cannot return safely to their country of origin or integrate into local communities in a country of first asylum. For some refugees, resettlement is the safest, and perhaps the only, alternative. It is a complementary tool to humanitarian assistance, supporting countries hosting large numbers of refugees, the vast majority of whom will never be resettled.

Through the USRAP, the U.S. government not only addresses humanitarian needs for specific populations but demonstrates leadership that encourages other States to identify and protect vulnerable people. For example, by resettling stateless refugees through the USRAP, the U.S. government encourages other countries to do more to help stateless people and prevent new stateless populations, including by implementing universal birth registration. Stateless refugees who arrive in the United States for resettlement not only find a durable solution to their displacement but are also placed on a path that will afford the opportunity to naturalize and resolve their stateless status.

So who could disagree with that, other than the Administration of which Secretary Blinken is a part?  Fun fact: the 62,500 figure was included in that official State Department report.

Which brings us to the real if ridiculous ground for backtracking on the commitment to undo the FLG's anti-refugee scheme:

The tortuous maneuvering reflected growing concern about immigration inside the White House, according to people with knowledge of the decision-making process, who cited worries about expanding the refugee program at a moment when critics are pummeling Biden with claims that he is too soft in his policies and rhetoric. The president is struggling to contain the soaring number of migrants arriving at the southern border, which has caused significant anxiety inside the West Wing, according to people with knowledge of the situation. 

Thanks Joe for protecting us from this
Let's try something the Biden Administration eschewed and think about this for a moment.  First, Biden isn't expanding the refugee program, he's returning to the levels that the nation accepted without difficulty prior to the presidency of a corrupt bigoted Russian-owned stooge.  Second, the refugee program involves resettling these folks in small clumps around the country, often in places desperate for dynamic young families, like Lewiston, Maine:

Yet Lewiston is more vital than it was two decades ago. Of the city’s 36,000 residents, 6,000 are now African refugees and asylum-seekers. New immigrants work in health care, retail, industry, and food service. The first Somali American kids born in the city are high school juniors, and a new elementary school opened in September with a 900-student capacity – among the largest K-5s in Maine.

Who would prefer Lewiston to be less vital than it was 20 years ago?  Answer: the bigots the Biden Administration thinks it can appease through gratuitous cruelty to vetted refugees.   As The Washington Post writes with a straight face

For all the furor, the political effect of Biden’s move was unclear. While he met a torrent of outrage from Democrats, some conservatives suggested that the impulse to hold off on a dramatic increase in refugees showed sensitivity to the politics of immigration.

“This reflects Team Biden’s awareness that the border flood will cause record midterm losses *if* GOP keeps issue front & center,” tweeted Stephen Miller, a chief architect of Trump’s hard-line immigration platform.

Stephen Miller, the anti-immigration white supremacist who spent the last four years as FLG's hatchet man intent on destroying, usually illegally, the entire federal immigration effort to satisfy his lust for a lily-white America?

That Stephen Miller?

Let's just say that if your immigration initiative is praised by that hateful ghoul, you're doing it wrong.

More fundamentally, is anyone in the Biden Administration stupid enough to believe that tormenting refugees who have already been deemed safe to enter the United States will advance the cause of immigration reform even one millimeter?

And if so why?

We've seen this movie before and frankly, despite big name talent, it sucked. 

About 100 years ago, President Barack Obama decided that a great way to persuade Republicans to back immigration reform was to punish undocumented families by locking them up while their asylum cases languished in an overwhelmed hearing system:

The Obama administration largely abandoned family detention back in 2009 after facing widespread criticism and protests about the ethics of locking up mothers and children in immigrant detention.

Last year, however, facing an unprecedented illegal crossing of some 68,000 unaccompanied minors and a similar number of mothers traveling with their children, the Obama reinstituted family detention, arguing that it would act as a deterrent. The administration constructed a new, 2,400-bed family detention center in Dilley, Texas, last year and expanded capacity for family detention at a second center in Karnes County, Texas.

Both the Dilley and Karnes County centers are run as for-profit enterprises by private corporations. . . .

Turning away refugees: what could
go wrong? (1938 edition)
The Karnes County center has been the subject of numerous complaints of abuse. At least three women who participated in two hunger strikes this year protesting their detention and the detention of their children said they were placed in isolation with their kids as punishment. Guards at the detention center repeatedly told the protesting mothers that their children would be taken away if they continued, according to a lawsuit filed last month.

In October, the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund alleged that at least three employees sexually harassed or abused several women detained there.

The point of Obama's theater of cruelty was to persuade Republicans to compromise on broad immigration reform.  The number of Republicans persuaded by the show was reliably estimated to be approximately 0.000000.  Plus or minus.

Many Obama Administration veterans now serve in the Biden Administration and all are available to consult. Which of them advised that returning refugee admission levels to Obama-era levels would somehow reduce Republican pressure to torment noncitizens at the Southern border?

And why would that view even make sense?  If you're a white Republican bigot who senses political hay to be made by whining about the supposed hordes rampaging across the Rio Grande, why would you be mollified or deterred by cruel treatment of an entirely different group of refugees, who arrive at airports in small family groups greeted by relatives and volunteers and don't produce the thrilling video of Cancun Ted hiding in bulrushes, like Moses on meth? 

If that seems unlikely, ask yourself what it would take to reach out to hard-core white supremacists like Stephen Miller and the grifting sex criminal he still drinks Coke with.

Friday's flip-flop on admitting vetted refugees at their 2016 levels was so devoid of merit, both as a matter of policy and of politics, that it could only have been the work of a famously moderate Democratic genius like Rahm Emanuel.  Well, maybe Larry Summers had a hand in it.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Plot Against America, Live 24/7


By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator

One of the brightest stars in the Fox “News” firmament and friend of the common man who just happened to inherit millions from the Swanson TV dinner fortune Tucker Carlson has run into some rough seas, as his fellow rich douchebags would say.

Some of his recent ravings about the immigrant threat have caught the attention of captious critics who have noticed the parallels between Salisbury Steak Carlson's views on the imminent peril of “white replacement” and the views of other distinguished commentators from our recent and more distant past.

Here's Trevor Noah pointing out the similarity between Turkey Breast and Peas Carlson and, um, white mass shooters:


In response, other Twitterers have pointed out it may be unfair to blame the deranged views of these vicious murderers on Fish Fingers Carlson.  It might be the reverse, or it might be simply that the racist theory of “white replacement” has been with us for a long time.

At least that's the view of Prof. Jared Sexton on Substack [Hey you mean you can get paid for this s**t? – Ed.]

What Tucker espoused was not just racist or white supremacist in nature, it was the very stuff of white supremacist terrorism and active neo-fascism in the modern world. . . . 

Before cable TV, white supremacists had to show their faces in public

One of the great misunderstandings of this moment is that any of this is new. Donald Trump obviously represented a degeneration of what we call the “status quo,” but he was representative of a larger systemic rot in American culture and politics. That he is no longer president is not proof that that disease has been cured or even particularly stalled. That disease has infected the body of America since its founding and has flared up, in new and different ways, whether it was the uprising by slaveholders in the 19th century, the paranoid, oppressive actions of the Cold War, or in the horrific development of American fascism in the 20th century, a development that serves as a prescient precursor to this crisis we find ourselves in now.

Prof. Sexton cites infamous fascists from our past, like Col. Charles “I 💕  Nazis” Lindbergh:

The America First Committee was incredibly popular and national hero Charles Lindbergh came to represent its public face and flirted with a run at the presidency. Lindbergh openly advocated for not just neutrality in the nascent war, but a partnership with Hitler to defend “the treasures of the white race.”

“It is time to turn from our quarrels,” he wrote, “and to build our White ramparts again…a Western Wall of race and arms which can hold back either a Genghis Khan or the infiltration of inferior blood.”

Lindbergh gained traction as he highlighted the struggle against people of color and the threat of losing the white world, painting a portrait of a major conspiracy being perpetrated by Jewish puppetmasters who controlled the media, liberal traitors who destroyed the country from the inside out, and people of color who were sources of potential violence wherever they might be found. It was the same conspiracy theory we’re still dealing with today under a different name.

Hey Rupert he's tanned, rested, and
ready for prime time

America First?  Why does that sound familiar? Maybe someone could check in with sources close to Jared and Ivanka and get another big A1 story for The New York Times.

Lest you think that pointing out the obvious linkage between the hateful views expressed by Whipped Potatoes and Apple Cobbler Carlson and generations of white racism is an exotic specialty of the intellectual left and late-night satirists, let's welcome Max Boot, former Republican apologist for the Iraq War and flack and bag carrier for the campaigns of noted lefties John McCain, Wilfred M. Romney and Marco Rubio.

Max, is it unfair to connect Fried Chicken and Peas Carlson to white supremacist hate speech then and now?  According to the Bootmeister:

Carlson knows exactly how toxic the word “replacement” is when used in the context of immigration, but he nevertheless put his imprimatur on it: “Now, I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World. But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening actually. Let’s just say it: That’s true.”

Now no one has ever accused Hungry Man Sized Carlson of original, or indeed, any thought.  Until July of last year the white supremacist scripts were written for him nightly by an Ivy League grad (well, Dartmouth) and unapologetic neo-Nazi, Blake Neff, until his bigoted hate speech was made public, whereupon he was shuffled off to Argentina:

Neff worked at Fox News for nearly four years and was Carlson's top writer. Previously, he was a reporter at The Daily Caller, a conservative news outlet that Carlson co-founded. In a recent article in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Neff said, "Anything [Carlson is] reading off the teleprompter, the first draft was written by me." He also acknowledged the show's influence, telling the magazine, "We're very aware that we do have that power to sway the conversation, so we try to use it responsibly." 

Carlson's writers room is an exciting place to work
When asked in a 2018 appearance on Fox's "The Five" about the writing process for his show, Carlson said he spends hours working on scripts, but referred to Neff by name, saying he was a "wonderful writer" and acknowledging his assistance. And Carlson credited Neff in the acknowledgments of his book, "Ship of Fools," for providing research. In the acknowledgments, Carlson said that Neff and two others who helped with the book "work on and greatly improve our nightly show on Fox." 

Now they are written by hatemongers with better hidden social media accounts, proving that you can take the peas and carrots out of the TV dinner but it's still pure Carlson.  And you still wonder who can stomach it.

But that's not really Boot's main point.  He proceeds to point out the hypocrisy of Fox “News” coining millions from fomenting anti-immigrant hatred when the entire enterprise is controlled by, wait for it, immigrants:

The founder and co-chairman of Fox Corp. is, of course, Rupert Murdoch, a mogul who was born in Australia and now spends a lot of time in both the United States and the United Kingdom [and is a naturalized US citizen – Ed.]. The co-chairman and CEO is his son, Lachlan Murdoch, who was born in London and now lives in Australia. The person who is often said to be the most powerful day-to-day executive at Fox is Viet Dinh, a Vietnamese refugee born in Ho Chi Minh City who is now the corporation’s chief legal and policy officer. The lead outside director is Jacques Nasser, a former Ford CEO who was born in Lebanon and grew up in Australia. Another Fox director is Anne Dias-Griffin, the founder and chief executive of Aragon Global Holdings, who was born and educated in France.

Viet Dinh?  The superstar lawyer who fled Vietnam as a child and sought asylum in the United States?  And who made $24,000,000 in 2019 overseeing the nonstop production of hot steaming lies and bigotry at Fox “News?”

Nice work if you can get it.

No one doubts his legal acumen, as proven by his Supreme Court Clerkship, a job for which we ourselves were turned down.  Hey, maybe they are replacing us!  Next thing you know, Tucker's family will be making their famous Salisbury Steak dinners out of fake meat.

The undeniable linkage between Roast Beef with Gravy and Tater Tots Carlson's extreme racist and white supremacist rants and 100 years or more of American racism and neo-Nazi extremism has led some to wonder if he really believes this crap or whether it's just a cynical ploy to justify the $10,000,000 he trousers from aged Australian immigrant Rupert Murdoch.

To which we say: it makes no difference. First, which is more loathsome: that he is a white supremacist or that he isn't but is spewing hate just to make millions?

Second, as our old friend Kurt Vonnegut said in Mother Night, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

Are illegal alien child terrorists coming for your
golf clubs? We're just asking questions here.
Of course both things can be true: this douche can be a white supremacist and also willing to say whatever crap needed to keep the mouth-breathing racists (or, as they are sometimes known as, “Republicans”) glued to the tube.

It makes you wonder whether thrifty immigrants like Viet Dinh could save serious money here.  Over the past five years, Fox “News” shed two hours of high priced  “talent:” Loofah-lovin' Bill O'Reilly and Mammy Megan Kelly, but their ratings suffered not a whit.

Could it be that the loyal consumers of Fox “News” come not for the personalities, but for the hate speech simpliciter?  If so, why not fire the current stooges and replace them with a computer avatar that generates the same bigotry but costs only pennies?   It's our willingness to give away our genius ideas for free that separates us from $25 million a year savants like Dinh.

Making $10 million a year for spewing garbage may seem like easy money, at least for those who are not burdened by either shame or guilt.  But to the pride of Yale Law School, professional ex-hillbilly J.D. Vance, it really takes courage:



We'll just say that if you think that white supremacist hate speech is a brave challenge to elite dogma, then you are a veggie and a dessert short of a Swanson 3-course dinner.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Good and Dead: Violent Insurrectionist, Paranoid Conspirator, and Great Republican dead at 90

The obituary page of The Massachusetts Spy

By Luke Reschuss
Obituary Editor

The death of violent Republican felon G. Gordon Liddy this week was greeted with recollections of his amusing penchant for bizarre political stunts, as if he was nothing more than a harmless footnote to the general insanity and criminality of the Nixon Administration.

If he had died in 2000, maybe such gentle treatment would have been warranted.  But Liddy died not three months after a succeeding generation of violent Republican insurrectionists came within a fly on a hair's breadth of overthrowing the United States Government and installing a corrupt Russian stooge as the Duce for Life of the Second Republic.

The children of G. Gordon Liddy


Let's start with a representative sample of his sendoff, from The New York Times:

G. Gordon Liddy, a cloak-and-dagger lawyer who masterminded dirty tricks for the White House and concocted the bungled burglary that led to the Watergate scandal and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974, died on Tuesday in Mount Vernon, Va. He was 90.

. . . . Decades after Watergate entered the lexicon, Mr. Liddy was still an enigma in the cast of characters who fell from grace with the 37th president — to some a patriot who went silently to prison refusing to betray his comrades, to others a zealot who cashed in on bogus celebrity to become an author and syndicated talk show host. 

An enigma? A patriot? Let's see if we can unravel the supposed mystery of G. Gordon Liddy by, um, reading some stuff, like the very next paragraph of the obit:

As a leader of a White House “plumbers” unit set up to plug information leaks, and then as a strategist for the president’s re-election campaign, Mr. Liddy helped devise plots to discredit Nixon “enemies” and to disrupt the 1972 Democratic National Convention. Most were far-fetched — bizarre kidnappings, acts of sabotage, traps using prostitutes, even an assassination — and were never carried out.

Does that sound patriotic to you?  Or nothing more than a path to celebrity, like making a sex tape or a Tik-Tok?  And how many of us think that the term “dirty tricks”  encompasses targeted assassinations?  We don't recall a lot of coverage of Osama bin Laden's “dirty tricks,” but of course he wasn't a white Republican.

Here's Rick Perlstein, the definitive historian of the Nixon nightmare, describing the formation of Nixon's Plumbers unit, tasked with committing crimes to smear Nixon's opponents and thus rig the 1972 election (which they did):

On July 19, [1971, the Plumbers] hired on another staffer . . . .As an FBI agent, G. Gordon Liddy had been pushed out because he was, in the words of a superior, "a wild man" and a "superklutz."  As Assistant DA he had fired a pistol at the ceiling while summing up a case before a jury. . . He . . . liked to demonstrate the best way to assassinate a man with office supplies: a puncture to the neck with a freshly sharpened pencil . . . .He confessed an admiration for Adolf Hitler and wrote in his memoirs about the Pledge of Allegiance: 'I enjoyed the mass salute and performed it well, unexcelled in speed of thrust . . . .Such was the caliber of the men now called to work in the Executive Mansion.

R. Perlstein, Nixonland at 583.

He sounds nice.

But to anyone who witnessed the events of January 6, 2021, he also sounds familiar.

G. Gordon Liddy would admire the zip-ties
Let's first recall what Nazi Überklutz was tasked to do. The head of the Nixon crime family, Don Richard himself, had viewed the publication of the Pentagon Papers, a lengthy analysis of the lies and disinformation that led in the 1960's to the Vietnam debacle, as somehow an attack on him. It was therefore imperative to do anything legal or otherwise he could to suppress the Papers or destroy Daniel Ellsberg, who made them public. Id. at 576-77.

Of course, G. Gordon Liddy believed (wrongly) that Ellsberg was a KGB agent and had burglarized the papers, id. at 586. This led him to justify any crime committed to re-elect Nixon (including breaking into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist and the DNC offices at the Watergate):

'in view of the thousands of bombings [Wrong – Ed.] . . . to say nothing of the murders of police just because they were police, the killing of judges [which also did not happen – Ed.]' – [Liddy] realized that for Nixon to fight coordinating to the normal procedures of democratic politics would have been just such a surrender.


The paranoia.

The lust for violence

The neo-Nazi willingness to follow the orders of depraved strongmen.

The glorification of white supremacy.

The inability to hold an honest job.

Now does he sound familiar to you?  

The Republican paranoid mindset that invented wild conspiracies that supposedly justified crimes and election rigging by Liddy in 1972 was on fulsome display during the late regime of the Former Loser Grifter and used once again to justify assaults on democracy and even violent insurrection:

Many in the crowd spoke portentously of violence — or even of another Civil War. A man named Jeff, who said he was an off-duty police officer from York County, Pa., said he didn’t know what would happen after he and his wife Amy reached the Capitol. But he felt ready to participate if something were to erupt.

“There’s a lot of people here willing to take orders,” he said. “If the orders are given, the people will rise up.”

He'd be proud of these felonious boys, we're sure

What's the difference between the off-duty police officer of 2021 and the former FBI agent of 1972?  They're both ready to follow orders, especially orders to commit mayhem.

And Liddy wasn't the only Republican whackjob to get hot and bothered by lethal weaponry and the sound of gunshots:

On Saturday, the F.B.I. arrested Guy Wesley Reffitt of Texas and charged him with obstruction. The bureau said he belonged to the Texas Freedom Force, a militia extremist group, while Mr. Reffitt’s wife said he was a member of the Three Percenters. Video shows Mr. Reffitt outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 wearing a black helmet and a tactical vest with a camera mounted on it.

In an interview with the F.B.I., Mr. Reffitt’s son said that his father told him to “erase everything” because agents were watching him. Mr. Reffitt warned his children: “If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors … traitors get shot,” according to the F.B.I.

When agents searched Mr. Reffitt’s home, they found two weapons, a long gun and a pistol. Mr. Reffitt admitted taking the handgun to Washington but said he had disassembled it. He told agents that he went to the Capitol but did not go inside.

(According to the FBI, he only participated in storming the Capitol steps but was stopped from breaking in to the building by the heroic efforts of the Capitol Police.)

Of course, in fairness to the deluded January 6 insurrectionists, in 1971 Nixon was spinning his paranoid fantasies only to his staff and not to the American public on a hourly basis:

Even G. Gordon might think this was a bit over the top
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump pressed his hopeless case for overturning the election to a crowd of supporters Wednesday, fueling the grievances of a mob that then stormed the Capitol and disrupted the confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Drawing on baseless conspiracies, Trump unleashed a torrent of misinformation to supporters already convinced that his defeat was unfair, unswayed by the sweeping verdict of election officials, judges and justices and Trump’s own officials in the departments of Justice and Homeland Security that the Nov. 3 election was cleanly run and fairly counted.

But the belief that all forms of violence, up to and including assassination and insurrection, are justified by anything that threatens to diminish white male Republican supremacy was popularized by G. Gordon Liddy and his ilk.  

Let's not deny this evil loathsome pioneer of sedition his rightful place in history as the archetype of the Nazi-adjacent Republican hit man whose successors almost ended the American experiment in democracy and continue to support those who sought that result.

Wherever he is today, G. Gordon Liddy is sleeping better than we are.