All posts by Remy Smith

illegal immigrant crimes

You Can Race-Bait with Immigrant Crimes, but not Mass Murders

The tragic death of Kate Steinle in July, 2015 furthered an already volatile debate over sanctuary cities.  Immigration conservatives used the slaying to levy false attacks on sanctuary cities by arguing these cities harbored violent criminals, a phrase they rhetorically attached to “illegal immigration.”  Legislation offered and talking points presented and popularized by the likes of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz revealed dramatic and over-the-top solutions to a relatively insignificant problem.

Their unwillingness to act on guns shows that the ilk of Trump and Cruz seize nativist sentiments that always flair after these tragedies to enact xenophobic laws.  Steinle’s horrific death provided a race-baiting opportunity make the country less safe for immigrants; gun deaths, such as the Las Vegas massacre that saw over 600 casualties, provide no such opportunity and so fade quickly and often quietly, with no reform move pushed by the far-right.

Contrary to popular belief and Trump’s claims, illegal immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the native population.  The incarceration rate for illegal immigrants stands at 0.50 whereas it’s 1.53 percent for native-born Americans.  Similarly, far from being hotbeds of crime, sanctuary cities are actually safer than their non-sanctuary counterparts.

Statistics didn’t stop Trump from directing the Department of Homeland Security to publish a weekly “comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.”  To incite racial fears, Trump directed DHS to compile and distribute a report of all crimes committed by illegal immigrants.  Imagine the outrage had President Barack Obama asked for a list of crimes committed by those here legally, or of gun crimes.

The reflexive desire to make cities safer for all should be honored.  That’s not the case with Trump and Cruz’s proposed reforms, which vilify all illegal immigrants and would make it more difficult for them to report crimes or utilize the judicial system without threat of deportation.  That, of course, makes illegal immigrant communities less safe and, for instance, could consign individuals to continued domestic abuse as going to the police could result in their own deportation.

Furthermore, Trump and Cruz’s utter refusal to act on gun safety legislation show their commitment not to public safety, but to race-baiting and using resurgent nativism to gain political power and enact xenophobic reforms.  Guns kills around 30,000 a year in a variety of manners: Suicide (about two-thirds), homicide (about 30 percent), domestic violence, accidental death, etc.  A small percentage of gun deaths from terrorism or mass shootings.

There are a number of simple reforms that would lower the number of gun deaths in a given year.  Truly universal background checks that cover all transactions, including private ones, would make a difference.  So would ending default proceed and closing the intimate partner loophole.  These reforms target the vast majority of gun related deaths and while they obviously wouldn’t bring the rate to zero, they would almost certainly lower the overall gun death rate.

Other reforms to target mass shootings wouldn’t affect the death rate much because mass shootings account for such a low percentage of total gun deaths.  That said, supporting those reforms would be in line with reflexive action to national tragedies and could prevent future bloodshed.  A very simply reform would be to ban bump stocks, modifications that make guns act like automatic weapons.

Automatic weapons are illegal.  Shouldn’t aftermarket additions that make a gun de facto automatic also be outlawed?  No one pretends this would solve the gun problem, but it seems like such an obvious reform — and one, had it been in place, that could have saved lives in Las Vegas — that even the NRA hinted at not opposing such actions (publicly, at least).

But Trump and Cruz don’t support such an effort.  The two who seized Kate Steinle’s death to push major immigration overhaul not only refuse to back gun legislation aimed at the overall problem, but won’t endorse minor legislation that in no way comes close to challenging the Second Amendment and whose logic seems so self-evident, especially after the worst mass shooting in America history.

Trump and Cruz don’t care about public safety.  They care about mobilizing racial grievances and underlying bigotry to enact sweeping legislation that casts immigrants as villains and makes communities less safe.

Two fluky events and two very different responses for one reason: You can’t race-bait with a white man killing 58 and injuring 546 others.

governing through executive order

Governing through Executive Orders

Throughout President Barack Obama’s tenure, and especially in its waning years, conservatives lambasted his governing through executive orders.  They have a point: The Constitution specifically gives Congress the power to legislate, limiting the president to faithful execution of those duly enacted laws.  Over time, however, the growing power of the president — the imperial presidency — has seen these chief magistrates increasingly assume quasi legislative powers.  But this rightful critique of Obama falls way to praise for President Donald Trump when he acts unilaterally to enact sweeping policy decisions; Trump carries further Obama’s tendency to executive orders and has used this extra-constitutional power [more in 9 months than Obama did in 8 years].  Conservatives, to retain credibility, must also hold Trump accountable for his governing through executive orders.

Trump signed 42 executive orders in his first 200 days whereas Obama only signed 22.  Trump’s on pace to sign 67 executive orders this year, almost double Obama’s yearly average of 35.  That would be the highest yearly average since Jimmy Carter.

To be sure, not all executive orders show an overbearing president encroaching on Congress’s power to make and pass laws.  One Trump executive order established an infrastructural advisory council, clearly not a move that will change public policy.  But others have been far more sweeping: Both travel bans, ending DACA protection for minors here illegally, exempting states from certain Affordable Care Act guidelines and requirements, and ending cost-sharing subsidies (a move which will destabilize the healthcare markets and increase the price of healthcare for many) all either stress the limits of presidential power or alter existing legislation.

The travel bans represent a significant increase in proclaimed presidential power.  Whereas the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act precludes discrimination based on national origin and the commerce clause of the Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate foreign commerce (a category in which people naturally fall), Trump’s bans assume the president’s authority to transgress those bounds in the name of national security.  Multiple courts found the executive failed to provide an adequate basis for national security concerns, saying that the president cannot simply use that phrase without a legitimate basis.  Unfortunately, the Supreme Court, which always treads too carefully in these areas, allowed Trump’s sweeping orders.

Executive orders undermining duly enacted legislation shows both an assumption of legislative power and a willingness to bypass the legislature to accomplish policy goals.  Undermining and putting into doubt the future of existing legislation is obviously a legislative feat, especially considering the president is tasked with faithfully executing the laws, not picking some of which to let the legislative will slide.  It blurs the line between two separately empowered branches of government and leads to overlap of duty which the president, as head of state and government (and the only elected official representing all people), uses to declare supremacy and thus assume more power.  This becomes especially important in times of mixed legislative control or when a weak president fails to get his legislative program passed through Congress.  Trump, of course, failed in his healthcare repeal and replace attempts, so he’s deliberately undermining existing law to grease the skids for a future repeal attempt.  On top of hurting Americans, it’s a power grab paradoxically made possible by Trump’s very weakness as party leader.

Trump’s actions have a direct, and at times coercive, effect on the American people, a power wielded generally just by the legislature (and, even then, only with the pulling of many teeth).  He stretches the bounds of presidential authority by assuming legislative powers and failing to faithfully executive the laws (his oath of office).  Conservatives and Republicans rightly criticized Obama for reliance on executive orders; they must now do the same to Trump, whose reliance on such actions surpasses Obama’s.  Though actions may be favored, for sake of logical constituency and to avoid hypocrisy, conservatives must speak against Trump’s executive orders and actions.

roy moore theocrat

Roy Moore’s Hypocrisy

Perennial Alabama statewide candidate and Senate frontrunner Roy Moore seems unaware of his ceaseless hypocrisy.  He routinely calls for Congress and especially the judiciary (Moore is the twice-former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court) to respect the Constitution and abide by its words and understood meaning.  All politicians say this, of course, and most mean it.  But Moore doesn’t and his hypocrisy lies in the fact that he twice had to leave his elected position for failing to follow federal law.  Moore cannot simultaneously call for others to follow the Constitution’s word when he has long ignored it when doing so fit his purposes.

Just today, he released a statement on a federal judge blocking President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban, writing “Unless we return to faithful obedience to the Constitution and the separation of powers set therein, our form of government and our liberties will be in dire jeopardy.”  He also called for the judge’s impeachment, a worrying precedent he would establish in the Senate: Impeaching a judge for decisions with which any individual senator disagrees.

The separation of powers is perhaps the fundamental philosophical underpinning of our Constitution.  Powers do not overlap, but do constrain other branches of government (or other chambers within a single branch).  This important innovation, made popular by Enlightenment writer Montesquieu, prevents any one branch from becoming too powerful and using that consolidated authority to encroach on the liberties of those from whom the Constitution’s power arise — the people.

Restraints also bound judicial power, something which irked Roy Moore during both of his briefs stints on the Alabama Supreme Court.  The strength of Moore’s religious conviction and his anger towards a secular government that, through the First Amendment, enshrines the separation of church and state makes him a theocrat, one who wants to laws and government to align with and enforce the theological teachings of a particular religion (Moore’s religion).

At various points, he’s argued that the First Amendment doesn’t protect Muslims (it does), a Muslim congressman shouldn’t be seated because of his religion (again, wrong), hinted that homosexuality should be a capital crime, contended that the SCOTUS case which legalized same-sex marriage was worse than the case which condemned blacks to slavery, and referred to the Christian God as “the only source of our law, liberty and government.”

I’ll reiterate: Roy Moore thinks that God’s laws — or what some people in some religions consider to be God’s laws — trump the Constitution, a legal document borne from the consent of the governed.  And he happily enforced that belief while on the bench.

Moore denied a lesbian custody of her children simply because of her sexual orientation, which he called “an inherent evil” that shouldn’t be tolerated.  He used taxpayer dollars to erect a monument to the Ten Commandments in the Alabama state court house, which a federal judge found to violate the Constitution by endorsing a certain religion over others (and causing negative effects in the workplace).  Moore refused to move the statute despite an order from a superior court.  His refusal to follow principles of judicial hierarchy in place since the country’s inception simply because they conflicted with his firm religious belief that all should idolize the Ten Commandments resulted in his first removal from office.

After Alabama again elected Moore to the same post, he maintained his theological ways by ordering the Alabama judiciary to ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell, which legalized same-sex marriage across the land.  His decision, which clearly violated established constitutional law and the obvious letter of the Constitution, represented tyranny from the bench: Ignoring the rule of law, he tried to supplant the Supreme Court with his own opinion, despite its hateful belief that the state should not recognize all love equally simply because of the writings in an ancient text that has no governing power. Moore again had to leave the bench for his illegal behavior.

It’s hypocritical for the same man who spurned constitutional law and federal orders that triggered him for their secularization and non-conformity with his orthodox religious views to lecture others on respecting and following the Constitution.  His actions denied the liberty of others — a workplace and government property free of religious endorsements and the ability to marry a loved partner and be treated as legitimate and equal in the eyes of the lie.

Roy Moore is a hypocrite whose theologic beliefs control his actions and will dictate how he governs all Americans.  He is a threat to the Constitution and the republic.

judicial review

Making the Constitution a Legal Document

During the early years of the American republic, the Constitution existed simultaneously as a political and legal document to which all three branches of government — and, according to some, states — had the right to interpret, a far cry from today’s understanding of the Constitution as a solely legal document over which the legislative and executive branches may present arguments, but the judiciary held unilateral final interpretative power.

“Excesses of Democracy”

The American judiciary began as a weak institution during the Articles of Confederation.  Almost religious-like belief in the people to elect an enlightened and liberty-respecting legislature meant that no executive and no strong judiciary would be needed to protect the rights of citizens.  People, acting selflessly and dispassionately, would uphold a social contract between themselves and with the government.

That utopian vision failed as the Founders realized that the “excesses of democracy” brought factious interests to power and legislatures, empowered by the people, transgressed on rights (usually the property or rent rights of the landed American aristocracy, inasmuch as the early gentry could be considered “aristocratic”).  Coming to fear the people, the Founders drafted and ratified a powerful and expansive constitution that brought the national government and its coercive powers directly to the people of the arguably sovereign, yet united, states.

A New Regime

Even with faith in the people diminished, many Founders did not see a need to imbue the judiciary interpret the Constitution and strike downs laws contrary to its text.  Richard Dobbs Spaight, a North Carolina delegate to the Constitutional Convention, argued that allowing unelected judges to strike down laws made by a popularly elected legislature “absurd” and “operated as an absolute negative on the proceedings of the Legislature, which no judiciary ought ever to possess.”

Even James Madison, an ardent nationalist, believed that such a judiciary would be “paramount in fact to the Legislature, which was never intended and can never be proper.

Despite misgivings of a powerful judiciary, the Founders and early executors of the government recognized that the judiciary could interpret laws under a quasi power of judicial review, but they balked at the judiciary having sole authority over constitutional interpretation.  All branches had a “concurrent right to expound the constitution,” Madison and Jefferson believed, and only “an appeal to the people themselves…can alone declare its true meaning, and enforce its observance.”

The American people, the ultimate sovereigns, determined the extent of the Constitution.  All legislatures had to abide by it, but the people would guarantee enforcement.  Judicial review and action would not necessarily delimit the powers of the various legislatures since judges arguably did not represent the people.

Some delegates wanted representatives of the people to revise laws along with the judiciary.  James Wilson, future Supreme Court justice, and George Mason urged creating a council of revision that included the president — representative of all people — and the judiciary.  Interpretation had to include popular elements.  Introducing overtly political figures in constitutional interpretation clearly that early theorists believed the Constitution to be a political document to which those whose power came directly from the people had a right to interpret.

Judicial Review and Supremacy

Chief Justice John Marshall disagreed with this idea.  He found the Constitution a strictly legal document, which naturally gave the judiciary power to review laws and the supremacy to unilaterally declare them unconstitutional.  Such actions would be legal in nature, not political, and not a rare occurrence to take place in only the gravest of circumstances (as many Founders believed early on; the first federal court to find a federal unconstitutional did so in an apologetic and conciliatory manner).

Marshall and other contemporaneous judges remade the Constitution as a legal document by interpreting it as they would a statute passed by a legislature.  This included applying a derivative of English common law to the document and reading the Constitution for intent, context, and reasonableness — just as they would a law.  Reading the Constitution as a type of super statute necessarily stripped it of any political interpretation and thus made obvious his argument in Marbury v. Madison  that it was “emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is” — to say what the Constitution is.

Judges as Representatives of the People

This shift came with a reframing of the judiciary’s connection with the people.  Alexander Hamilton first suggested that judges were in fact agents of the people to the same extent as were members of the legislature in Federalist 78writing that it is logical “to suppose, that the courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and the legislature, in order, among other things, to keep the latter within the limits assigned their authority.”

The people, who willfully entered into the constitutional arrangement and ceded various pwoers to the federal government, needed judicial agents to keep the legislatures in check.  “It only supposes that the power of the people is superior to both [the legislature and the judiciary]; and that where the will of the legislature, declared in its statutes, stands in opposition to that of the people, declared in the Constitution, the judges ought to be governed by the latter rather than the former. They ought to regulate their decisions by the fundamental laws, rather than by those which are not fundamental.”

Concurrently, and in response to shifting thoughts about the nature of the judiciary as representatives of the people, judges began to isolate themselves from political affairs and society began to embrace the idea of law as a science.  An independent and powerful judiciary mandated qualified individuals to serve the people admirably and dispassionately.  Though not an immediate transformation, changing legal theory in the 1790s and 1800s onward established the powerful judiciary we know today and enshrined the Constitution as the ultimate legal document; the supreme statute to which all individuals cede power and whose legitimacy arises only from the consent of those very people.

For more information on the early judiciary and history of the young republic, read Gordon S. Wood’s masterful “Empire of Liberty”and “Launching the ‘Extended Republic’: The Federalist Era” by Ronald Hoffman and Peter J. Albert.

hamilton jefferson
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launching the extended republic
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virginia election

Virginia’s Gubernatorial Election Has Big Consequences

Next week’s Virginia gubernatorial election has many important consequences, including whether a disgraced man running a race-baiting campaign will assume leadership of an increasingly blue state, but one that many voters and watchers overlook: The results may well determine whether Virginia changes its method of electoral vote allocation.

Republicans stung by Virginia’s swing to a blue state — it voted for a Democratic president in each of the last three elections after not having done so a single time since 1964 — want to take electoral votes away from future Democratic victors by ending the winner-take-all system.  Instead, they want to allocate electoral votes by congressional district, which only Nebraska and Maine do today.

The winner of each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts receives an Electoral Vote with the remaining two votes going to the statewide winner.  This policy is nothing more than an effort to benefit future Republican candidates by taking a handful of votes away from likely Democratic victors and giving them to the statewide loser.  In close elections, always a likelihood given the mix of swing states, this could be decisive, especially if Republicans in Democratic Minnesota succeed in passing similar legislation.

Had this legislation been in effect during the 2016 election, Donald Trump would have won six electoral college votes to Hillary Clinton’s seven despite Clinton winning the state easily.  Barack Obama also would have seen some five or six votes lost to Mitt Romney (Democrats would have benefited in the years prior).  That Republicans push this policy now rather than a decade ago when Virginia seemed reliably red shows they foresee losing the state in future presidential elections and want to bolster their candidate.  It’s not about accurately reflecting the statewide vote, as Republicans have claimed, because they obviously showed no concern for Democrats earning electoral votes even as George Bush won the state.

Switching to proportional allocation of electoral votes makes sense, but only if all states embrace such a reform (otherwise, it hurts the statewide winner and could potentially deny her enough votes in the election).  However, any such change to proportional allocation should not be done by congressional districts.  As we all know, gerrymandering plagues congressional districts (as does geographic clustering), so attempts to proportionally allocate electoral votes based on congressional district results falls well short of fairness.  Trump won 44 percent of the Virginia vote but 54 percent of its congressional districts.  Proportional allocation must be done at the statewide, not congressional district, level (and with a threshold requirement).

Virginia has yet to enact such a blatant Republican power-grab because it has a Democratic governor.  The measure passed the Election Subcommittee along party lines, which portends well for Republicans: They have a nearly 2/3 majority in the House of Delegates and a one-seat majority in the state senate.  But they don’t control the governorship and the governor can veto the measure.

If Ed Gillespie wins the election, Republicans will control the state legislature (the senate is not up for election this cycle) and can pass its desired measure by whipping the party into line.

This election has lasting influence on the nature of the GOP, the Republican majority in the House of Delegates, and controlling 2020 redistricting.  It also may well determine whether Virginia helps statewide Republicans losers — that is, Donald Trump — in the next presidential election.

Go vote!

trump tweet

Donald, Your Desperation’s Showing

Long ago, we had president’s who delivered fireside chats to calm an anxious electorate, labored over short speeches to memorialize lost soldiers and whose contents would be remembered for generations, and carefully watched their every step knowing that their actions would serve as precedent for generations to come.  Now, we have a president whose early morning tweet storms reveal a deeply insecure, illiberal demagogue trying his hardest to salvage a failed administration through lies meant to rally a base willing to overlook bigotry, sexual predation, and ignorance.

And recently, these tweets — to which we can set our alarms — have sounded increasingly desperate.  It seems the looming threat of Robert Mueller indicting his campaign staff and other aides coupled with a 35% approval rating and an inability to enact any of his promised agenda leaves Mr. Trump riddled with anxiety that he tries to clear through boisterous tweets.  Maybe he needs to spend more time golfing.

Trump’s 10/29 morning tweets might have shown a new low, which says a lot given he used Twitter to falsely accuse President Barack Obama of wiretapping his phone.  A Department of Justice investigation found the obvious: Trump lied.  Again.  Yet despite that libel, Trump’s tweets on 10/29 show a new low because of their desperation and further descent into illiberal rhetoric.

Here Trump touts the unity of the Republican Party even though earlier in the week, Republican Senator Jeff Flake took to the Senate floor to decry Trumpism and the rotten nativist populism it inspires among the electorate.  Another GOP senator, Bob Corker, said the White House amounted to an “adult daycare center.”  John McCain, in a notable speech, decried the “spurious nationalism” that now plagues the race-baiting Republican Party.

With regards to the Steele dossier, it seems strange to deride as “Fake” a document that encouraged an FBI investigation and whose central point — Trump’s liability to Russian influence — certainly seems truer by the day (why did Trump retain Michael Flynn after pointed warnings about Flynn’s susceptibility to Russian blackmail?).

Furthermore, why should there be any investigation into the Clinton campaign funding routine opposition research?  Unlike Donald Trump Jr holding a meeting with Russian agents after being promised dirt on his father’s political opponent (a meeting attended by then campaign manager Paul Manafort and digital strategist Jared Kushner), hiring a firm to conduct research is not collusion and certainly not a crime.

The Uranium One deal, to which right-wing propagandists have latched as an effort to vilify a now private citizen — the only way to boost Trump’s image — is perhaps the most ridiculous “scandal” ever presented by Clinton haters.  No facts support their claims, but falsely alleging corruption shits focus away from Trump’s improprieties.

Trump’s accusation of a “Comey fix” makes no sense, unless Trump doesn’t understand the law and ignored Comey’s press conference wherein he correctly stated that “no reasonable prosecutor” would recommend charges be brought against her.  It also seems strange to allege some “fix” when James Comey’s letter to one of the most unscrupulous member of Congress tilted the election to Trump.

Donald J. Trump led the racist birther crusade that wrongly claimed Obama was born in Kenya, not America (because all blacks are born in Africa, specifically Kenya, right?).  This endeavor lasted years and only months before Election Day did Trump disavow his crusade that caused millions to doubt Obama’s legitimacy and which mobilized, for the first time in generations, the angry nationalists who later became Trump’s core base.

He also accused Ted Cruz of having multiple affairs and claimed Cruz’s father participated in the John F. Kennedy assassination.  He’s claimed that vaccines cause autism (they don’t) and called climate change a “Chinese hoax” (it’s not).

Looking into collusion with a foreign enemy to win an election is not a “Witch Hunt.”  It shouldn’t even be a partisan issue.

There are no facts pouring out.  Trump lies about alleged Democrat and Clinton guilt because he needs a foil.  Importantly, though, he’s casting the political opposition — dissidents — as guilty of corruption and as an illegitimate political force.  How would conservatives react if Obama unilaterally condemned the GOP as guilty and urged Democrats in Congress to investigate the opposition party?

How would we react if a far-right party somehow assumed leadership in Germany and then called for the Bundestag to investigate the Christian Democrat Union or other centrist parties?  Questioning the legitimacy of political opposition is a purely authoritarian move.

Trump’s desperation leads to illiberal calls on Twitter for an authoritarian investigation into political opposition.  No dedicated democrat — small “d,” meaning those who support free and fair elections and political competition — should tolerate Trump’s rhetoric.  Scared as he may be, he’s normalizing creeping authoritarianism and, as in most democratic backslides, too few stand in his way.

trump fake news

Trump’s Cries of “Fake News” Have Serious Consequences

Donald Trump loves to deride all news unfavorable to him as “fake“.  It’s his go to insult whenever confronted by the media.  To no great surprise, outlets that ingratiate themselves to Trump — Fox News and its many anchors, One America News Network, and Breitbart — escape such labels despite peddling conspiracy theories and giving white supremacists a platform to wallow in hate.  Trump’s derision comes baselessly, but has real effects: Almost half of all Americans think the media makes up stories about Trump, meaning that our nation begins to operate with different facts as it loses faith in democratic institutions.  An alternative reality emerges for those who choose to accept universal administration claims of “fake news.”  Foreign leaders are taking note of this phenomena.

Seeing how Trump’s simple dismissals of criticism and negative coverage can goad millions into thinking the same, foreign leaders responsible for atrocious crimes and conditions follow a similar authoritarian playbook, falsely stating that media lies in its stories of horrors.

Rodrigo Duterte

Since 1988, Rodrigo Duterte, now president of the Philippines, has encouraged and endorsed the extrajudicial murders of suspected drug dealers and alleged addicts as part of his literal war on drugs.  It began with the Davao Death Squad, which emerged when Duterte was mayor of the city, and accelerated upon his election as president.  Some 7,000 have been killed since June of 2016, all without trial or anything other than whatever evidence the police decide warrants killing (often times, the police fabricate evidence).  Duterte himself has bragged about murdering suspects, including throwing one from a helicopter.

These well-documented illegal killings — crimes against humanity — shock the world and our sense of justice, but many in the Philippines continue to support Duterte (so, apparently, does Donald Trump, who praised Duterte’s handling of the drug problem).  Filippinos may support Duterte’s lethal efforts because they simply don’t believe the depths of its violence.

“I have been demonized. And well, of course, I will assure you upon my oath as a lawyer and before God that some are true, some are not. And the extrajudicial tag that has been placed on me is simply not true,” Duterte said during a gathering of ASEAN Law Association Governing Council in Malacañang.  In other words, Duterte’s claiming to be a victim of “fake news” (Duterte’s campaign spent around $250,000 to trolls who flooded the internet with actual fake news that supported the candidate.  Another organization, the Duterte Diehard Supporters — DDS, borrowing the acronym from the Davos Death Squadroutinely posts fake news and in return has its regulars promoted to government positions).

Duterte, like Trump, latches onto the idea that media is fake — or, at least, that he can make people believe the press is fake.  This give shim cover for his illegal and atrocious actions by undermining the sources of independent information, the information that doesn’t align with administration talking points or desires.

Aung San Suu Kyi

In Myanmar, more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighboring Bangladesh after Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts in late August, prompting a massive military crackdown.  This crackdown has resulted in the slaughter of babies, the cutting off boys’ heads, the gang-rape of girls, and arson achieved by throwing grenades into houses.  Soliders have summarily executed unarmed male villagers.

Between 1,000 and 5,000 have been killed — we don’t know the exact numbers because Myanmar won’t let the United Nations into the affected areas — in what the UN calls “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.  Bodies wash up in the tide in coastal Bangladesh.  The military has razed 288 villages and organized massacres in what human rights organizations call a systematic effort to erase Rohingyan communities.  It’s the largest human dispersion since the Rwandan genocide.

Myanmar’s de fact leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, somehow a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, told Turkish President Recep Erdogan, himself an aspiring autocrat, that “fake news [helps] terrorists” in the Rohingyan communities.  She further said that the crisis in Rakhine state is being distorted by a “huge iceberg of misinformation”.  And this defense is working.  Millions of Buddhists in the country stand by Aung San Suu Kyi and simply deny reports on the crisis as “a lot of fake news.”  The government’s defense of a crisis under control but made worse by fake news, rumor, and innuendo spread by the media has resonated with a population predisposed to disliking the Rohingyan Muslims.  In other words, claiming “fake news” plays into religious/racial bias and helps citizens ignore ethnic cleansing in country’s northern region.

The Trump Effect

As Samantha Power, author of a powerful book about the Rwandan genocide, states, this is “the Trump effect in action.”  Foreign leaders see the benefit of crying “fake news” at everything critical; they realize loyal partisans and supporters will believe them, especially when the victimized group is already detested.  But they take the fake news defense a step further by using it to excuse inaction in crimes against humanity or ethnic cleansing.

That’s the real danger of the leader of the free world leading the fake news defense charge: It can be appropriated by borderline evil leaders trying to coverup atrocities while retaining popularity.

Undermining the press has serious consequences.  Donald Trump needs to learn that.  He’s an example to the world, unfortunately, and others learn from what he does and apply it to suit their needs.  Be wary, Donald.

clinton russia collusion

No, the Clinton Campaign Did Not Collude with Russia

Upon the Washington Post’s report that the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee helped pay for the Steele dossier, right-wing media went into a frenzy declaring that the Clinton campaign, and not Donald Trump, colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.  Such claims are complete hogwash.  The Clinton campaign did not in any way, shape, or form collude or have connections with Russia, a fact so stunningly obvious that any claims to the contrary shows the extent to which the right-wing apparatus has engaged in Orwellian DoubleSpeak simply to defend a president all know to be dangerously unit for the job.

These orgies of accusations, whose participants include Donald J. Trump, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Fox News, Sean Hannity, the National Review, the Federalist, Jeb Bush, and the Wall Street Journal editorial board, ignore that the Washington Free Beacon — a conservative publication — partnered with Republican megadonor Paul Singer to fund the dossier during the primaries.

They also ignore reports last year that Democrats took over the dossier project after Trump won the Republican nomination.  No new information, just confirmation of previous reports and a pretty evident event: Many in Washington knew of some opposition research into Trump that included Russian improprieties — why would the Clinton campaign not pay a firm to probe for information?

Opposition Research is not Collusion

I should emphasize “pay a firm to probe for information.”  The Clinton campaign hired Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research on Trump.  Fusion GPS then hired former British spy Chris Steele for the investigation.  Steele collected raw intelligence; that obviously included speaking with Russians.  Undoubtedly, many of these Russians, speakingly disconcertingly freely, likely had lines fed to them by the Kremlin, whose efforts to influence our election and voters (of both parties) has been well documented.

But that’s not collusion (except, perhaps, in the delusional world of those who truly believe everything 1,200 time liar Donald Trump says).  Collusion involves a secret agreement or cooperation for some deceitful purpose — say, agreeing to meet with Russian agents after they promise dirt on your political opponent, which Donald Trump Jr did.  Hiring a firm for opposition research and then that firm hiring a spy and then that spy conducting routine raw intelligence collection is not by any means collusion.

Did the Clinton campaign coordinate responses with Russia?  Did it directly go to Russian operatives in hope of collecting dirt on Trump?  Did an agent of the Clinton campaign beg a de facto Russian outlet for hacked Trump emails (Cambridge Analytica, a Steve Bannon production with funding from alt-right Robert Mercer, solicited Clinton’s emails from Russian puppet Julian Assange).  The answer to all of these questions is a resounding no.

A Lack of Logic

Let’s also walk through the wholly foolish logic of those claiming Clinton/Russia collusion:

  1. Fund the bombshell dossier
  2. Say nothing about
  3. Let Russia hack your emails
  4. Lose election in large part because of leaked emails hacked by Russia
  5. Profit!

It’s utterly bizarre and entirely nonsensical that people think the Clinton campaign would break all sorts of laws and arguably commit treason to coordinate with Russian and then not use the document during the campaign to win the election.  How does that make sense?  Like all of the right-wing attacks, it doesn’t.

Paying for opposition research is not collusion.  By not stretch of the imagination is it collusion.  These new attacks, conveniently emerging in the same week as special counsel Robert Mueller’s first indictment, are only misinformation driven by stakeholders of the Trump administration who will go to any lengths to defend their Great White Hope — he who will take healthcare from millions and cut taxes on the wealthy all while enabling the GOP’s most racist and deplorable faction.

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A Race-Baiter’s Party Now

Former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie barely defeated Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart to win the GOP nomination for Virginia’s gubernatorial election.  No one expected the race to be close: Gillespie, a former adviser to President George W. Bush and candidate Mitt Romney, led all polls by at least 15 points and Stewart never impressed with his transplant knowledge of the state.

No one expected Corey Stewart to earn 42.5% of the primary vote because no one understood the true depths of irrational nativist anger that now defines a substantial faction — perhaps the most important faction — within the Republican Party.  The GOP is no longer the party of conservatism.  It’s the party of race-baiters.

Stewart ran a despicable campaign centered around issues of proclaimed heritage, by which he meant protecting the glorification of those who waged war against the Union in an effort to continue an engrained system of crimes against humanity.  In other words, Stewart’s campaign drew on support for traitors.

His rallies became cesspools of Confederate-loving individuals wrapping their obvious bigotry in the high-handed guise of “preserving history” — the history of the Confederate flag, which so many displayed as they cheered a vicious know-nothing.  Speeches descended to diatribes against proclaimed “political correctness,” a catch-all phrase used to decry those who think that states and localities maybe shouldn’t proudly display emblems of secession.


We shouldn’t really be surprised by Stewart’s campaign antics.  After hearing the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about sexually harassing and assaulting women — a tape which preceded two dozen accusations of such behavior, which Trump dismissed because some of the women were “too ugly” to harass — Stewart organized a rally outside of the RNC headquarters to protest the organizations lack of support for their predator candidate.

Even the Trump campaign, the same campaign that lead calls to lock up a political opponent (a highlight in banana republic campaigns) and which ran against the Constitution and the soul of our nation, tired of Stewart’s antics and fired him from his unpaid position.

But Trump’s ultimate victory — a victory made possible by voters overlooking bigotry, predation, and disturbing ignorance — emboldened Republican primary voters to free themselves of the Enlightenment’ shackles; hatred empowered, they no longer saw a need to keep up their facade of constitutionalism.  So 42% of them voted for Stewart and far-right populism.  Only the DC explants residing on Northern Virginia (briefly) saved the state from Stewart’s bombastic nativism (but he’ll be back, running for Senate against Tim Kaine in 2018).

With Stewart defeated by the slightest margin, Gillespie had two choices: Continue a campaign of decency wherein he would combat the most insidious factions of the Republican Party and try to shed conservatism of its fetish for demagogues or continue the campaign Stewart won.  To his shame and that of the GOP writ large, Gillespie chose the latter.

Gillespie decided to further kowtow to race-baiters because today’s GOP is so rotten that any ambitious politician now has to adopt racially biased principles to escape a primary and consolidate support for a general election.  That’s why actual conservatives such as Jeff Flake opt not to run for reelection.  Values would have to be surrendered to the scourge of far-right populists yearning for a nationalism that legitimizes naked hatred of Mexicans and Muslims.

The Republican’s campaign has devolved into running clear race-baiting ads that feature heavily tattooed Latinos and the threats of menacing gangs, such as MS-13.  “MS-13’s motto is Kill. Rape. Control,” screams one. “Ralph Northam’s policy? Northam cast the deciding vote in favor of sanctuary cities that let illegal immigrants who commit crimes back on the street, increasing the threat of MS-13.”


Sanctuary cities play a central part in Gillespie’s rallies.  “Do we need to have sanctuary cities here in Virginia?” Gillespie asks rally-goers. “No!” they yell in response, not understanding that sanctuary cities don’t help criminals, do not led to increases in crime, but do help victims of domestic abuse and violence contact police without fear of deportation.

But there aren’t any sanctuary cities in Virginia.

What end, then, could these ads that link Democrat Ralph Northam with muscular, tattooed, Latino gang members serve?  Race-baiting.  Nothing else.

This is the Republican Party now.  Candidates have to invoke racial fears, prejudices, and grievances to rally Lost Cause troops behind their campaign.  The state that witnessed a Nazi drive through a crowd of protesters, killing one, now sees a gubernatorial candidate embrace the exact same principles — saving statues.

Between Gillespie and Roy Moore, racist extraordinaire, we’re seeing how the GOP and its base will act in the years to come.

Emboldened by Trump, they doubled-down on nativism, hatred, and ignorance.


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