Thursday, August 15, 2019

The chief eunuch in 'The Boy Fortune Hunters in China' (1909)

The Boy Fortune Hunters is a series by L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, writing under the pseudonym Floyd Akers. The fourth volume, The Boy Fortune Hunters in China, was published in 1909 by the Reilly and Britton Co.

In this story, set in 1908, three American boys — Sam Steele of Chelsea, Mass., age 18, the narrator; Archie Ackley, "about my age"; and Joseph Herring, "a little younger" and "rich" — sail across the Pacific to China and conspire to steal a royal treasure from the palace of a dead prince, out from under the nose of the ever-loyal chief eunuch. They travel with two South Sea Islanders, Nux and Bryonia, who had been rescued at sea by Sam's uncle. The uncle then renamed them after the medicines he used to save their lives. They were subsequently "devoted" to this man, and they learned English from him. "Indeed, I had come to regard both Nux and Bry," Sam says, "as my own personal followers, and well had they proven their claim to this title. They were nearly as dark as Africans, but very intelligent and faithful in every emergency." Nux and Bry follow Sam, Archie, and Joe everywhere, but they do not direct the action and they do not seem to be considered full members of the adventure club.

Skipping the first thirteen chapters, I will focus on the action involving the Chief Eunuch Wi-to.

Chapter XIV introduces the Chief Eunuch. After traveling for weeks in northwestern China, emerging from "a dark and gloomy teak forest" on the backs of elephants and arriving in Kwang-Kai-Nong, the adventurers receive a dinner invitation from "the noble governor [Mai Lo] and the great Wi-to." Wi-to is the "Chief Eunuch and the Supreme Ruler of the palace of Price Kai," second in power only to the governor. He speaks serviceable English and is friendly to the adventurers. When they first meet, he "gave us a whimsical look and raised a pair of bright, intelligent eyes to meet our own."

Sam says: "My notion of eunuchs had been that they were fierce creatures of powerful build, usually Ethiopians, and greatly to e feared. I had heard tales of their absolute power in the palaces of the nobles, and that even the mighty Empress Tsi An had failed to curb the influence of her palace eunuchs. So it pleased me to find Wi-to more agreeable in manner and speech than the imperturbable governor..." Sam informs the eunuch that their party intends "to escort the remains of your master [the late Prince Kai, who had taught the eunuch English] and our beloved friend to his old home."

"I did not know whether it was proper to address the Chief Eunuch as 'your Highness' or not; but perhaps the compliment pleased him, for he smiled, then screwed up his face into a semblance of grief, then smiled again."

'We are deeply grieved and inconsolable,' said he, cheerfully.

It turns out that "the shrewd eunuch" was eager to learn that one of the adventurers, Sam, had been acquainted with Prince Kai.

Wi-to oddly claims that English, which for him is a second language, "is an excellent language to converse in, and easier than our own...for it is much more simple."

In Chapter XV, there is a funeral procession to the capital, Kai-Nong. Wi-to's elephant brings up the rear behind the adventurers' elephants. They arrive at the palace walls and enter the gardens.

"Sixty gorgeously appareled men, armed with scimitars and broad axes, formed a circle around the elephant that bore the casket and prepared to guard it. They were stalwart, erect fellows, of proud bearing but evil and ferocious countenances, and each wore a yellow turban coiled upon his head, with a golden clasp, in effigy of the Sacred Ape, fastening the folds just above the forehead.

These were the eunuchs, the palace guards, or servants and attendants of the harem.

* * *

We all dismounted here, and the mahouts led away the elephants. Some of the eunuchs bore the casket of the Prince up the broad steps of the terrace, while Wi-to bowed low, first to the Governor and then to us, and welcomed us to the Royal House of Kai."

In Chapter XVI, "The Governor Shows His Teeth," left alone with Mai Lo and Wi-to, Sam says, "we seemed quite alone with these two natives, one of whom we knew distrusted and hated us." Wi-to "looked at us shrewdly and with an expression more grave and reserved than he had yet shown us," and leaves. "We were much annoyed at this discourteous treatment" at mid-afternoon, as they felt that Wi-to owed them lunch.

The palace entrance is flanked by two bronze statues "of the Sacred Ape, its grinning jaws filled with ivory teeth and its eyes set with immense rubies." One of the adventure boys, Archie, says: "Looks as if they had allowed us to come this far so that they might murder us." Sam replies: "We've got to win the good will of the eunuch or we're done for." Mai Lo returns and tells them he is not bound to honor the late Prince Kai's hospitality toward them; they must immediately leave for Shanghai or they will be killed. The boys object. Mai Lo blows a whistle, and Sam"motioned to Nux and Bry. Instantly my blacks had pounced upon the governor and drawn him behind us, holding him secure, while from a dozen nooks about the hall sprang eunuchs with drawn scimitars, who ran swiftly toward us."

Sam stops this onslaught by yelling "Stop!" even though the assailants "knew no English" and, moreover, do not answer to him. His comrade Archie, armed with a revolver, addresses the governor Mai Lo as "you yellow monkey" and demands that he call off his army "or I'll put a bullet through your head!" Sam shows Prince Kai's ring to the eunuchs "and said sternly: 'Wi-to!'" which for some reason causes them to bow low and summon Wi-to, who also kneels at the sight of Prince Kai's ring.

In Chapter XVII, "Wi-to Proves Faithful," the boy adventurers show Wi-to a letter written by Prince Kai, documenting that Prince Kai had given his ring to the boys and not to the governor Mai Lo. Sam presents his theory that Mai Lo is an opportunist who has returned to the city only to steal Prince Kai's treasure, and not to commit suicide according to what he says would be Shinto tradition. Wi-to, surprised and agitated, says: "You must be right." But, he asks, "you think I will side with you against the powerful governor?...I can destroy you foreigners with a word, and sweep you from my path. Then I can make an alliance with Mai Lo and together we could rob the ancestral halls and escape to some other country to enjoy the wealth." He adds that he is "of lowly birth, and as a child my parents sold me to the House of Kai to become a eunuch. My consent was not asked. Why should I be faithful to my masters?" Joe, one of the boy adventurers, says: "It's your nature," and adds, "A eunuch is of no use in the world outside of his own province. Here you have power. In Europe you would be despised and insulted." Wi-to agrees that they are right — he has been loyal for these reasons in the past. He adds that, if he stays, he is likely to remain in his current position and "be the real master here," so he doesn't need to steal anything from the palace.

Wi-to says he'll protect the boys from Mai Lo as long as they remain in the palace. "With that he clapped his hands together and two eunuchs stepped forward from behind a screen, so silently that their appearance startled me." One of the eunuchs, called Tun, will be their personal servant. Unlike the majority of the palace eunuchs, he speaks a little English. Wi-to says "he is a Manchu and will be faithful."

In Chapter XVIII, the boys became aware of an increasing number of palace eunuchs who are "invariably respectful and even humble, but they were an ill-looking crew, and we were never at ease in their presence." Wi-to then shows them the Sacred Apes who are actual beasts in a cage, one of whom is considered King Ape because he ate an imperial ancestor and thus is considered to contain the man's spirit.

In Chapter XIX, Wi-to explains that there is a harem and that the Prince's sister will soon be presented to the Emperor. Sam says that this sounds "almost as horrible as the story of the King Ape." Wi-to supposes that American women belong to American men and the men must not care about their property very much given that they allow the women so much freedom.

In Chapter XX, Sam continues to remind Wi-to that Mai Lo might try to steal the treasure. In private, Sam explains to Joe: "I want him to get suspicious of Mai Lo, and watch that old fox so carefully that he won't get a chance to steal anything until we get through. Besides, it will relieve us of any suspicions...he's crafty enough to believe that we wouldn't talk about robbing the Ancestral Halls if we had any idea of doing it ourselves."

In Chapter XXI, the boys risk their lives to have a casual conversation with three pretty girls. Sam, in his narrative voice, insists (though no one asked him) that when he falls in love someday, "it will be with an American girl, and it won't matter much whether she is beautiful or not, so long as I love her." He only chatted with the Chinese girls insofar as "every well regulated young fellow is fond of chatting with nice girls," and the Chinese girls offered "a pleasant change" from their dangerous adventures.

In Chapter XXII, they trespass into a vault and discover the jewels. One of the boys takes a handful of pearls.

In Chapter XXIII, Sam says, "Often we passed the magnificently attired household eunuchs, singly or in groups; but we had now become familiar sights to these creatures, and they merely touched their yellow turbans respectfully and passed on." The boys become aware that Mai Lo has discovered their trespass.

In Chapter XXIV, Wi-to is drunken and uncharacteristically babbling. "His face was haggard and worn, his eyes puffy and bloodshot and his person untidy." The boys find a cabinet with jewel-encrusted weapons but are not prepared to steal anything yet.

In Chapter XXV, a newly sober Wi-to personally slays a eunuch who shirked his work while Wi-to had been drunk: "it taught us how little human life was valued in this strange land." Mai Lo surprises the boys while they are chatting illicitly with the girls. Archie offers to shoot Mai Lo, but Sam tells him to stand down. Meanwhile, Sam wonders why Bry, who had been standing guard outside the pavilion, "was still silent. What could have become of our faithful black?" It then occurs to Sam that Mai Lo had simply approached from another direction. Mai Lo orders the boys to leave immediately for Shanghai or die. They refuse, so he whistles and a dozen eunuchs armed with scimitars run out. "Three revolvers cracked and three of the eunuchs fell," and the boys take their opportunity to run away, whereupon they are joined by "a rescue party, consisting of Nux and Bry at the head of a band of eunuchs led by Wi-to himself." Wi-to says, however, that he cannot protect the boys any longer now that they have violated the harem.

In Chapter XXVI, Sam begins by bemoaning that Wi-to's "oriental education and surroundings had saturated his otherwise liberal mind with the conventions and prejudices of his people; and he had a supreme contempt for women and could not tolerate such an unwarranted act as we had committed; in other words, making the acquaintance of three pretty and interesting girls who were inmates of harems." The eunuch apparently feels torn, "in one breath condemning us to horrible tortures and in the next trying to figure out a way to save us." The boys "could not bring ourselves to realize that we had merited punishment." The boys realize it's their last opportunity to steal treasure before they are kicked out of the palace.

In Chapter XXVII, they realize they must find a way to escape with their lives and their treasure.

In Chapter XXVIII, Mai Lo meets his death at the hands of the Sacred Ape.

In Chapter XXIX, they take possession of Mai Lo's severed head and debate how they will convince everyone else of their story that Mai Lo committed suicide by confronting the escaped ape.

In Chapter XXX, Wi-to agrees to endorse the boys' story about Mai Lo's death, as he is mainly glad that his enemy is dead. The boys escape with their treasure. "The eunuchs carried down our heavy cases and loaded them upon the elephants, and while the bearers must have thought them tremendously heavy they dared not complain, and the Chief Eunuch's suspicions were in no way aroused. Wi-to seemed really grieved to lose his guests, and we thanked him cordially..." Sam muses, "I have often wondered if...the treasure we abstracted...[was] ever missed."

Saturday, August 3, 2019

It is not journalists' job to vet political nominees, but...?

The position of U.S. national intelligence director is open, following the resignation of Daniel Coats. John Ratcliffe withdrew his name from consideration on August 2, 2019, only five days after Trump nominated him. An article in The Guardian about why Trump picked Ratcliffe:

Ratcliffe is a frequent Trump defender who fiercely questioned the former special counsel Robert Mueller during his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee hearing last week.

Even as Mueller laid bare concerns that Russia was working to interfere with US elections again, Ratcliffe remained focused on the possibility that US intelligence agencies had overly relied on unverified opposition research in investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

Unfortunately for Ratcliffe, he had embellished his credentials. According to Vox: He had "frequently boasted about overseeing the arrest of 300 illegal immigrants in one day at a poultry plant in 2008," but the operation was much smaller and his role was negligible, as the Washington Post revealed. He claimed that "he personally convicted terrorists accused of funneling money to Hamas," but he did not prosecute that case, as the New York Times revealed. He also claimed that President George W. Bush had appointed him as “chief of anti-terrorism and national security in the Eastern District of Texas,” despite that position being nonexistent.

Furthermore, as the Daily Beast reported, "a company that forced the shutdown of a critical government cybersecurity office" is "Ratcliffe’s third-largest campaign donor in the 2019-2020 cycle." That company had retaliated against a whistleblower; Ratcliffe sided with the company.

Announcing his withdrawal, Ratcliffe suggested in a tweet that the concerns with his nomination were "purely political and partisan." (Although it seems not.)

On August 2, CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta tweeted: "A full vet was not done on Ratcliffe, source familiar with the DNI selection process says. The source compared Ratcliffe to selection of Dr. Ronny Jackson for VA Secretary: both men were selected by Trump after performing to his liking on TV. But they weren’t properly vetted."

Trump, interviewed August 2 about the matter, made contradictory comments to reporters. First, he said that he had recommended to Ratcliffe that he withdraw his name to avoid unfair media scrutiny, and that the reporting on Ratcliffe was "fake."

“I could see that the press was treating him — I thought — very unfairly. He’s an outstanding man. And I asked him, I said: ‘Do you want to go through this for two or three months, or would you want me to, maybe, do something else?’ And he thought about it. I said, ‘It’s going to be rough.’ I could see exactly where the press is going. (Fake news!) He’s a fine man, he’s a fine man...I think he was just treated very badly, very harshly by the press. And he really had a decision to make. ‘Do you want to go through this for — it could be months.’ And I said, ‘I think I see exactly what they’re trying to do.’ Nobody understands the press. But I think I understand them as well as anybody. And I didn’t think it was fair." (see video)

Then, in the same interview, Trump informed the press that it is in fact their job to "vet" his political picks. (In the clip below, he says this seven times.)

“You vet for me. I like when you vet. No, no, you vet. I think the White House has a great vetting process. Uh, you vet for me. When I give a name, I give it out to the press, and you vet for me. A lot of times you do a very good job. Not always. I think — if you look at it, if you take a look at it — the vetting process for the White House is very good. But you’re part of the vetting process, you know? I give out a name to the press, and you vet for me. We save a lot of money that way. But in the case of John, I really believe that he was being treated very harshly and very unfairly.” (see video)

This is obviously not true; for all kinds of reasons, an administration's vetting of its own a political pick should occur internally before a nomination is made public for the press to examine. There are several thousand political appointees in the United States, about 1,200 of which require Senate confirmation. Journalists may not have security clearances or insider access to the information they need to vet each person rapidly. Even if they have the needed access, they are paid by private media companies whose goal is to sell newspapers and ad space, and their bosses may not want them to write those stories. And, even if they are able to research a nominee and are given the green-light by their employer to spend time on it, it damages their neutrality to do work that may be seen as helping a political party. That is to say, the journalist is not employed by the political party, and if the political party does not have its act together, it's the journalist's mission simply to report that news, not to help the party clean up. This should be obvious. A journalist can break a story about a stunningly good or bad pick that is "newsworthy," but they are not empowered to do the elementary vetting, should not have to do it, and probably should not do it, full stop.

And what happens when a journalist does find information on a nominee? How are they supposed to communicate that to the President? By publishing the story and waiting for the President to happen to see it on TV? In other words, by hoping that enough of a circus will be made that someone will eventually be forced to do something about it?

Since the Trump administration's lack of process causes internal chaos as well as an external media circus, it probably doesn't "save a lot of money" for taxpayers. First of all, the most elementary type of vetting begins at the top and is free: The leader picks a candidate by a method that reliably produces good candidates. So, for example, that would mean not choosing sycophants who have passed a couple years' worth of loyalty tests. Instead it could involve one of the following: going by usual procedures for promoting people within the bureaus in which they've had their careers, which ensures that they have the relevant qualifications (which, in this case, might be Susan Gordon who, with thirty years' experience, would normally be considered the successor); asking an expert within the field to recommend another qualified person; or drawing from whatever relevant knowledge the President him/herself has on the subject to choose someone they know to be wise and ethical (assuming that they have filled any part of their social network with wise and ethical people). If the President's appointee is at least likely to be good, that's a first step that is totally free of charge. Second, if all appointees were expected to be reasonably qualified to begin with, then the Senate could more easily do its job when it came time to confirm them. Government employees and elected leaders should not have to pay attention to a media circus every time there is a bad appointee or have to rely on a series of newspaper articles to determine whether each appointee is remotely qualified. Third, not vetting only saves money if you aren't paying the people who normally do the vetting. Is he saying that previous administrations paid internal researchers and fact-checkers and that his administration doesn't even have those positions? If he's so interested in saving a million dollars on fact-checkers, why is the national debt increasing by trillions of dollars?

Trump's comment is further confusing (surely, deliberately so) insofar as he says that sometimes the press does a poor job vetting his candidates and that Ratcliffe's vetting was an instance of a poor job because the man was treated "harshly" and "unfairly," but he does not reveal any criteria by which he or anyone else can assess whether the press is going a good job. Who, indeed, would "watch the watchers"? Who evaluates the journalists, other than more journalists? If it is his prerogative to make that determination, isn't he implying that he is the final arbiter or truth? And on a more pragmatic note, isn't it likely that when the press critiques a nominee, Trump will withdraw his nominee reluctantly (claiming that the press opinion is wrong and that he withdraws the nominee only to avoid more circus)? In other words, the press may correctly identify problems, but there is no reason for Trump ever to admit he made a mistake, thus blaming the press as being "negative" and therefore "fake" when they are actually telling the truth? He is confessing the dynamic he has set up: he expects others to root out his errors, knowing that he will never have to directly admit to error, but can remain in an endless spiral of maligning those who accuse him of error while at the same time actually relying on those people to protect the integrity of government functioning by making an effort that he should have enabled his team to make in the first place.

Furthermore, if he really believes that the press often does a poor job at vetting his candidates (which, again, it bears repeating, is not actually their job), and if he believes that journalists are often untruthful, cruel, unfair, why doesn't he select better candidates to begin with and then submit the candidate for vetting internally before announcing his choice (as most other presidents have done) so that the process occurs in a way that he thinks is truthful and good? Given his incessant promotion of the idea that the press is "the enemy of the people," it's strange for him to say he relies on the press to determine the difference between good and bad. He undermines his own authoritarian motto there.

Brian Klaas reminds us of the importance of the position for which Ratcliffe had been nominated (U.S. national intelligence director):

Andrew Simpson writing in the DC Tribune:

"Trump nominated Ratcliffe because the Representative from Texas’ 4th District sits on both the House Judiciary and the House Intelligence Committees, and Trump watched him ask Robert Mueller questions all day the other day, in both hearings — the kind of questions Trump liked. Trump couldn’t have picked John Ratcliffe out of a lineup of brown-haired middle-aged guys if you promised him a lap dance from an illegal Swedish immigrant.

But the video [of Trump's interview about Ratcliffe's withdrawal] shows how Trump doesn’t take any of it seriously in any way whatsoever, telling reporters he gives a name of a nominee to the press “and you vet for me” — meaning he finds out at the same time as everyone in the general public whether the person he’s just nominated is a liar or a criminal or a wife-beater or a tax cheat. Trump doesn’t do homework, he just lets others figure things out and then decides how hard he wants to defend his choices."

It seems to be up to "the press" how to respond to this dynamic, which is difficult both because "the press" is not a monolith but is made of thousands of individual journalists and private companies and also because it's not in their typical job description to be in a dysfunctional relationship with someone who tells them what their job description is despite not having that authority and also being wrong. Despite those difficulties, it does fall upon the journalists to respond to the situation. Ideally, it would be up to a properly functioning government not to create this problem in the first place or to resolve it, but we do not have a properly functioning government.

Update

On August 8, Trump tweeted that Sue Gordon is out (she will resign her position entirely in one week) and Joseph Maguire, current leader of the National Counterterrorism Center, will replace Dan Coats as acting director of intelligence. The next day, it was revealed that Dan Coats had interrupted a meeting to urge Gordon to resign.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Three weeks, no shower, and 'Kafka By Way of Orwell'

The Dallas News tells the following story.

An 18-year-old U.S. citizen was recently detained by U.S. Border Patrol. He was born in Dallas and lives in Texas. He has dual citizenship with Mexico, and he has a U.S. visitors visa that he used dozens of times to travel back and forth. When Border Patrol stopped him, the man was "carrying a Texas ID, wallet-sized birth certificate and Social Security card." The government wrote up a "Notice to Appear" dated June 29, 2019 that says:

The Department of Homeland Security alleges that you:
1. You are not a citizen or national of the United States;
2. You are a native of MEXICO and a citizen of MEXICO;
* * *
6. [After being stopped at the Falfurrias, Texas Border Control Checkpoint on or about June 27, 2019] you falsely represented yourself to be a citizen of the United States..."

Notice to Appear dated June 29, 2019. The Department of Homeland Security alleges that you are not a citizen of the US and that you falsely represented yourself to be a citizen of the US.

He is a U.S. citizen. Nonetheless, Border Patrol detained him and his younger brother. After two days, his younger brother chose to be deported "so that he could tell his mother what was happening with his situation and that of his brother." The 18-year-old man was held for 23 days, during which time he was not allowed to shower and lost 26 pounds.

The Dallas Morning News reported his story on July 22, and the man was released from custody the next day.

On July 25, Brian Hastings, Chief of Law Enforcement at the U.S. Border Patrol, testified about the matter before the House Judiciary Committee. Hastings claimed that the man was detained because he had "claimed to be a Mexican National who was born in Reynosa, Mexico....with no immigration documents to be in or remain in the U.S....At no time in Border Patrol custody did he say that he was a U.S. citizen.”

In response to this, the man's attorney produced the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security's "Notice to Appear" with its statement that "you falsely represented yourself to be a citizen of the United States." This written statement, signed by Sherman Kemp, Acting Patrol Agent in Charge, contradicts Hastings' testimony. Furthermore, two weeks into the 18-year-old's detainment, his lawyer presented his birth certificate to ICE, and yet he wasn't released for another week.

Now free, the man says that Hastings' testimony is "a lie. I showed them my documents and I told them right away that I was a U.S. citizen.” The conditions he endured in Border Patrol custody, according to the Dallas News, almost coerced him to choose deportation.

(It's not the first time a U.S. citizen has been detained. In March 2019, a 9-year-old girl was apprehended on her way to school and held for two days. Authorities blamed the girl for giving "inconsistent information." Again, she is 9.)

And in September 2018, Jennifer Wright wrote for Harper's Bazaar:

Hispanic U.S. citizens, some of whom were in the U.S. military, are not being allowed to renew their passports. This is reportedly happening to “hundreds, even thousands” of Latinos, according to a report in the Washington Post. They’re getting letters from the State Department saying it does not believe they are citizens. The government claims their citizenships are fraudulent. “I’ve had probably 20 people who have been sent to the detention center—U.S. citizens,” Jaime Diez, an attorney in Brownsville, told The Washington Post.

The Washington Post also reports on ICE officials coming to citizens' homes and taking their passports away. This is an escalation from a few months ago, when Americans were detained by ICE officials just for speaking Spanish to one another."

In response

A a Twitter thread by @AlexandraErin referred to the officer's testimony as "Kafka By Way of Orwell logic" and excellently describes the situation.

"To the fascist mindset, there's no contradiction here. ... All of this could have been averted, they want us to know, if he had been honest from the start and simply told them he was a citizen. But instead he lied. He was deceitful. They know he lied because he had the cheek to falsely claim he's a citizen. Falsely claiming he's a citizen is something any lying immigrant might do. It's a distinct and separate act, they are sure, from a citizen simply stating the truth. Very much this. They make up their mind about your motives, which colors whatever you say, even if it's the exact right thing and the literal truth, and they will never grant that this is the same as telling them the truth. No contradiction, to them. When things got hot with media scrutiny and politicians getting involved in the teenager's detention, the people he'd pleaded his case to, I guarantee, did not think "Why didn't we listen?" but "Why couldn't he have just told us, the right way, so we'd know he meant it?" "Falsely claiming to be a citizen" is a distinct enough act in their mind that a ~*certain type*~ of person can manage it, even if they happen to be an actual citizen. Which just makes it cheekier, of course. The nerve of making them look foolish by falsely claiming the truth! ... What is truth to a fascist? The truth is what they say, and only when they say it, only when it is useful. ... And so the shock and dismay and outrage of the right when they realize their opponents and targets were telling the truth is genuine, is honest, maybe the most honest thing about them. They feel cheated. They feel... lied to. "What do you mean by telling me the truth, just because it's true? That's a dirty trick. I've never seen anything more underhanded, more unscrupulous..."

She continues by pointing out that, had he chosen to allow the Dept. of Homeland Security to deport him, it may have been difficult for him to re-enter the US, the country where he lives and of which he is a citizen by birth. "The creation of a stateless other is part of the model." Thus, he was not truly "free to leave at any time" (as one Internet commenter tried to argue with her).

His only power to end the torture was to agree that he was An Illegal, agreed he had no right to due process and no right to remain here, and agreed to do what they wanted. It wasn't true, but it was the only answer the torturers would have accepted. Which is the purpose of torture. Not to get at the truth, but to establish something already believed by the torturer as true. ...you can't gain information through torture. It's confirmation bias through pain. The torture ends when the torturer hears the truth. "The truth" therefore must be something the torturer already knows, otherwise how can they know it's true?

Sunday, June 23, 2019

What YOU can do to END concentration camps in the United States

Enough talk! Let's do something!


UNDERSTAND THE BROADER SIGNIFICANCE OF WHAT'S HAPPENING

Frame it. We've heard the talk. Let's make this quick. You already understand, and that's why you're here. At a glance:

Gregory Stanton, the president of Genocide Watch, wrote The Ten Stages of Genocide in 2016 to help people understand the danger.

Laurence Britt, an amateur historian, suggested these "early warning signs of fascism" in an article in Free Inquiry magazine in 2003.

Masha Gessen published these "rules for survival" just after the election in 2016.


KNOW THE RIGHTS OF IMMIGRANTS IN THE UNITED STATES

Information from the ACLU: English | Spanish


KNOW WHERE THE DETENTION CENTERS ARE

Freedom for Immigrants: Map

Wikipedia: List of detention sites in the United States


ATTEND A PROTEST OR VIGIL

Upcoming events may be listed under the current campaigns on Detention Watch Network

If you can encourage a lot of people to travel, charter a bus. (Use the word "charter" in your search; it means renting a bus with a driver.) This can be a great activity for an existing organization.

Can't fill a whole bus? Sign up with Rally to create trips or find rides.

Don't need a bus, because you live near a rally site? Can you offer a bed for a fellow protester to crash overnight?

Past events

Tuesday, July 2, 2019 - MoveOn "Close the Camps"

Friday, July 12, 2019 - Lights for Liberty held vigils near El Paso, TX; Miami, FL; San Diego, CA; New York, NY; Washington, DC; and many other places.


SPEAK UP WITHIN YOUR RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY

Tell your spiritual leader what you believe. Will they give a sermon against concentration camps?

If your worship or study is self-directed, direct it. Bring the readings. Make the phone calls. You know what to do.


SPEAK UP AT SCHOOL

If you're a teacher or professor, incorporate appropriate materials into your lesson.

If you're a student, make your next paper or presentation on this topic.

If you participate in "adult ed," tell your community center that this topic matters to you and that you'd like to see a course on it. This gets people talking behind the scenes on an institutional level.


LEGISLATE CONCENTRATION CAMPS OUT OF EXISTENCE

Shut Down Child Prison Camps Act (H.R. 1069) GovTrack

Families Not Facilities Act (S. 388) GovTrack

If you're an American Jew, sign this e-petition by T'ruah (rabbis for human rights)

Contact your leaders in Congress and tell them about these bills. You can use GovTrack to find out what bills your leaders have sponsored.

Tell other advocacy organizations that you'd like them to endorse and educate about these bills.

BE VISIBLE ABOUT YOUR POSITION

When a Trump rally came to town, this restaurant didn't just pocket the windfall profit. They put a sign in the window saying they'd donate their profits for the day to an organization that defends immigrants. This strategy not only actually raises money for a good cause; it also informs and discourages people who come to town for racist rallies.


DONATE FOR A CHILD TO HAVE A LAWYER

Over 13,000 kids in detention need lawyers. TogetherRising.org/give

VOLUNTEER AS A CHILD ADVOCATE


VOLUNTEER TO VISIT SOMEONE IN DETENTION, SPEAK ON A HOTLINE, HOST ASYLUM SEEKERS, OR OFFER TRANSPORTATION

Freedom for Immigrants: Join Us

SUPPORT ORGANIZATIONS

Sanctuary Not Deportation
New Sanctuary Coalition
Immigrant Defense Project
CHIRLA
RAICES
Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project
Al Otro Lado
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Texas Civil Rights Project
United We Dream: DACA Renewal Fund
UnidosUS
UndocuBlack Network
Kids in Need of Defense has a Target gift registry.
Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley has an Amazon wish list.
For more, see the grassroots members of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM).

Think, too, about "unlikely allies." What organizations do you know that typically work on issues aside from immigration yet might have something to contribute to this cause right now?

A Twitter thread about Mississippi in particular:


MODERATE YOUR ORGANIZATIONS

If you run an organization (online or offline), develop and enforce policies for acceptable speech within the community. For example, on 23 June 2019, the knitting website Ravelry banned its members from supporting the current U.S. presidential administration whether through MAGA knitting patterns or other forms of speech.


REPORT ABUSE

A New York Times editorial on June 24, 2019 said:
"Report and document raids and arrests. The National Immigration Law Center has suggested reporting raids to local hotlines, such as United We Dream’s MigraWatch. Raices has urged that people verify any social media posts saying ICE has been spotted before sharing or retweeting them because false alarms could spread fear in immigrant communities."

KNOW WHAT COMPANIES PROFIT

Who's profiting off family separation and detention?

Southwest Key Programs
MVM
Comprehensive Health Services
Dynamic Service Solutions
Exodyne
- from a list by CBS News in June 2018

In June 2018, Green America recommended divesting from (i.e. not investing in) Geo Corp, CoreCivic (CXW: NYSE), Wells Fargo (WFC: NYSE), Bank of America (BAC: NYSE), JPMorgan Chase (JPM: NYSE), BNP Paribas (BNP: NYSE), SunTrust (STI: NYSE), and US Bancorp (USB: NYSE), Accenture, and General Dynamics. They also recommended complaining to Accenture, Comprehensive Health Services Inc., Dynamic Service Solutions, LLC, Dynamic Education Systems, a subsidiary of Exodyne, General Dynamics, MVM, Inc., Southwest Key Programs, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, and Delta Airlines.

They recommended thanking American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and United Airlines.

If you work for a company that's involved?

"Wayfair employees plan walkout to oppose furniture sales to migrant detention facilities," Boston Globe


USE DIRECT LANGUAGE

"Why don’t you use the lexicon of reality to describe what is happening before your eyes?" Umair Haque asks. "Did you really learn nothing from Orwell? Why did Orwell teach us that reality was so important, anyways?"

"We fight fascism with moral power, social power, the power of our humanity. Or else the fascists defeat us, with our very own denial and willful ignorance. Truth, therefore, is the idea fascism fears most."


VIEW ONLINE ARTICLES

If you're uncomfortable with the term "concentration camp," these articles may persuade you. If they don't succeed in persuading you, I am not mad. I have an opinion, but that's not a hill I choose to die on. People are literally dying inside these "facilities," whatever we choose to call them. The language matters, but the language is mostly instrumental to the goal. What ultimately matters is that each of us takes some action to end these camps and what's happening inside them.

(Notice that I didn't even mention the controversy over terminology until the middle of this article, because the more important point that good people agree on is that we end these policies and these facilities whatever they are called.)

Word choice aside, Adam Serwer writes, the real question is "whether the Trump administration's treatment of migrants amounts to a historic crime, whether future generations will wonder how those involved could possibly have gone along with it, whether there will one day be memorials erected to commemorate it, whether historians write solemn books about it, whether those looking back will vow never to repeat it."

"An Expert on Concentration Camps Says That's Exactly What the U.S. Is Running at the Border," Jack Holmes, Esquire, 13 June 2019
"Appropriate ways of describing what is happening at the border," Alexandra Petri, Washington Post, 19 June 2019
"‘Never again’ means nothing if Holocaust analogies are always off limits," Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, Washington Post, 19 June 2019
"With Trump’s Migrant Camps, the History We Should Fear Repeating Is Our Own," Eric Levitz, NY Mag Intelligencer, 20 June 2019
"George Takei was sent to US internment camps during WWII. He says we're operating 'concentration camps' again," Michelle Lou, CNN, 20 June 2019
"I’m A Latina Jew. My People Are In Concentration Camps Today — Just Like They Were During The Holocaust," Tae Phoenix, The Forward, 20 June 2019
"AOC’s Generation Doesn’t Presume America’s Innocence," Peter Beinart, The Atlantic, 21 June 2019
"A Jewish Mother’s Warning," Jennifer Rosen Heinz, Use Your Outside Voice, 23 June 2019
"American 'Concentration Camps,'" Karen Jensen and Matthew Abrahams, Tricycle, 21 June 2019

"A Crime by Any Name," Adam Serwer, The Atlantic, July 3, 2019.

Media companies track their online page views. They get payments from advertisers, so this matters to them. Read the article on the original website if you can.


BUY BOOKS

Authors and publishers should be compensated for their work. It allows them to keep writing so they can keep getting the word out. (I, too, get a small commission off these affiliate links. If someone makes fifty cents, it compensates them for the effort they've put in to create, host, and promote something online, like this blog post.) The aggregate number of book sales also tells bookstores which titles they should restock. Popular books may earn a place in the window of brick-and-mortar stores, a form of advertising that is free to the writer and publisher and a way of informing a community about the values held by its residents. Really popular books gain places on the New York Times Best Seller list, a mark of prestige that helps recognize and define what's culturally important to the nation. The publishing industry pays attention.

Paperback from BookPeople, an independent bookstore

Kindle eBook from Amazon


BORROW BOOKS

Libraries, too, respond to demand. If this subject matter is popular, they may be able to allocate their budget for more copies. Use your library card so the library knows what you're reading.


REVIEW BOOKS

Amazon and Goodreads are two of the most popular sites on which you can leave a comment about the book you've read. This can trigger social media notifications and gain the book free online promotion, so your review helps other people to find the book.

If you've bought a book through Amazon, your Amazon review will have a "verified purchase" badge that makes it count more highly in Amazon's algorithm.


SUBSCRIBE TO A NEWSPAPER AND WRITE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

For example, to the Washington Post. Subscribe yourself. You already get the paper? Buy a gift subscription for someone else. Your subscription funds the news, in part from your subscription fee and in part because advertisers pay the newspaper based on their number of subscribers.

If a story feels important, then, whether your reaction is positive or negative, write a letter to the editor. Most newspapers prefer letters of about 150 words (about one paragraph). It's a chance to show the editor that you're engaging thoughtfully with the article. If the newspaper receives a large number of letters on a single topic, they're likely to publish one of the letters, so be part of the avalanche of correspondence that causes someone's letter to be published.


'SUBSCRIBE' TO, AND REVIEW, PODCASTS

It's free for you. Pressing the "subscribe" button means you'll get the newest episodes of the podcast automatically delivered to you. Remember to leave a positive review for the podcast. This helps other listeners find the podcast, and it can also eventually help the podcaster get corporate advertising dollars so that they can continue to produce episodes. Your free "subscription" and your positive review is helping the podcaster get paid for their work.

Positive feedback also buoys spirits.

Recommended podcasts could include "Mueller She Wrote," a Webby award-winning podcast about the Mueller investigation, as it is co-sponsoring the Lights for Liberty national protests of the concentration camps.


MAKE ART

Artists, poets: How about creating something on this political topic? Here's a list of literary journals to which you can submit.

Musicians: Write a song? Perform a song? Play it in the street? Upload a video?


CALL OUT FAKE NEWS

Learn to recognize real news sources. This 2017 Forbes article names credible sources: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BBC, Economist, New Yorker, wire services (Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg News), Foreign Affairs, Atlantic, Politico, National Public Radio (NPR), TIME magazine, Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC. Business reporting includes Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Fortune, Financial Times. Right-wing: National Review, Weekly Standard. Left-wing: New Republic, The Nation.

Learn to recognize fake news sources. Wikipedia has a list of such sources, including the frequently shared, intentionally "satirical" World News Daily Report.

Avoid sharing information that may be incorrect...or unsubstantiated...or even simply unactionable. Some stories only spread panic and do more harm than good.

If you think someone is sharing incorrect information, use Snopes (which fact-checks all kinds of things) or the Washington Post Fact Checker (devoted to POTUS #45) to see if it's already been debunked.


DONATE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS

Committee to Protect Journalists


SUPPORT IMMIGRANTS

Support immigrants (and people who are marginalized for other reasons). Just by existing in a society that tries to crush them, they may be performing "emotional labor" and they may implicitly or indirectly raise awareness in others. Just by existing, each of us contributes something to the world. It is everyone's job to respect everyone else's humanity. So please actively support immigrants in their lives; support them as friends, neighbors, coworkers, artists and authors. Listen, accept, and help if you can when they request it of you, in the specific ways that they want you to help (and not in the ways that they don't).

In this Elle article from 2017, "15 writers with immigrant backgrounds have selected a book by an immigrant that holds importance for them."

Remember that people have multiple identities. An immigrant may be Black, disabled, gay. A person needs to be able to live as all the things they are. We need to make that possible for each other. When everyone in a society survives and thrives, the society is stronger, and it strengthens the perceived importance of diversity and equality.


ACCEPT OTHERS' PREFERRED FORMS OF ACTIVISM

Since we're in this for the long haul, remember that we need people to organize for next week, next year, next decade. We need loud people and quiet people. We need every voice and a multitude of tactics.

And keep the pressure on and the intensity up. Do it in a way that's sustainable for you, but don't forget. This issue will cycle in and out of the headlines. Remember that this is important, and it's possible to care about multiple issues at the same time.


REMIND EVERYONE TO REGISTER TO VOTE

I'm sure you're a voter. (Though, if you've recently moved, have you updated your address? Updating your address with the U.S. Postal Service isn't enough; you have to update your voter registration separately.)

Who else do you know who needs to register to vote? Someone who moved recently? Someone who may never have registered at all? Remind them. Why not now?

And stay informed about candidates' positions.


ENCOURAGE PEOPLE WHO DON'T TYPICALLY SUPPORT 'LIBERAL' OR 'LEFT-WING' CAUSES

Many people who have historically voted Republican are appalled by Trumpism, racism, and concentration camps. No one should be complicit in the Trump administration. Ethically, everyone does need to withdraw their support from the Trump administration. At the same time, however, no one has to share all the Democrats' beliefs and policies.

How can conservatives resist Trump? Let people think creatively here. For example, did you know that Trump has a challenger in the Republican primary? Bill Weld is running. That may be a protest vote that you can tolerate (whether cast by you or someone else). It is up to each individual to find a political path they can walk. The election is still 500 days away. Let people find entry points to their political evolution and involvement. As long as someone hits the basic moral notes — e.g. no concentration camps — you may be able to accept, and maybe even provide some encouragement for, their words and actions that differ from your approach.


MORE IDEAS

Quoted from a 2 July 2019 email from the Catalyst Project:

Call your reps and tell them to close the camps: 202-224-3121
Use Hand-in-Hand’s toolkit to plan a Playdate Protest
Support Asylum Seekers
Use our Immigrant Justice Curriculum to support non-immigrants to take strategic, effective and accountable collective action in solidarity with immigrant communities toward the end of deportations, detentions, and discrimination.
Organizing tools from Detention Watch Network
Help pay bail by giving to community bail funds
More ways you can offer support

DON'T PICK ON PEOPLE WHO ARE ON YOUR SIDE

Twenty-five Democrats are running for president in 2020. When they're not talking about immigration and human rights, they should be talking about climate change, clean air and water, mass shootings, Neo-Nazis, police violence, reproductive rights, LGBT rights, foreign policy, science denialism, college loan debt, access to healthcare, separation of church and state, disenfranchisement and gerrymandering. There are a lot of big issues. There's a time and a place to spend a lot of time talking about each of them.

Don't spend an excessive amount of time highlighting minor issues that ultimately don't matter, like a candidate's exact choice of words or a tiny donation they accepted from someone you don't like. Don't get sucked into whatever petty barbs may be thrown by them or at them, such as the color of someone's suit. That drags down the quality and effectiveness of the conversation. Keep yourself and others on point.

This holds true for all your allies, too — I mean, the ones who aren't politicians. Hold each other accountable to talk about important matters. Don't waste time, and don't snipe over the small stuff.


DON'T FEED THE TROLLS

The nastiest comments on social media are by trolls (human or bot). If a comment clearly violates the platform's community standards (e.g. a direct slur against a marginalized group), report it, and it's likely to be removed. If you can't report it, block the human/bot user so you don't have to be distracted by their comments anymore. If you don't want to bother blocking them, then, at the very least, ignore them and move on. Don't engage. They are just looking for attention.


DON'T BOTHER SENDING 'DONATIONS' OF TOOTHBRUSHES AND SOAP TO THE US BORDER PATROL

Vice President Mike Pence claims in a June 23 TV interview that it's difficult to bring toothbrushes and soap into facilities because that has to go through a Congressional budget "appropriations process." This is a transparently weak excuse. The government can bring toothbrushes and soap today if they want. They don't want to and they choose not to.

If you send hygiene or comfort products to concentration camps, realize that you're staging a protest to continue exposing the government's agenda. The government already gleefully exposes its own agenda; you can continue helping it do so if that's important to you. Your protest may have some impact if you do it publicly, but the goods will never, ever arrive to actually help any immigrant, so don't expect them to.

For example: Rep. Terry Canales (Democrat, TX-40) reports that Border Patrol will not accept these donations.

Again, this is not about a need to wait to approve hygiene products through Congressional budget appropriations. This is about government not allowing hygiene products. If you show up and say, "Here are hygiene products," they will not accept them.


CONTRIBUTE MORE IDEAS

Write comments below!


SHARE THIS ARTICLE

US backing off Iran strike (June 2019)

The US unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA (the "Iran nuclear deal") in 2018.

A year later, Iran announced that it would partially withdraw from the international agreement. Whereas, under the previous deal, Iran had agreed to sell its excess enriched uranium and heavy water to other countries, now it will keep those materials.

Then, bizarrely:

In June, Iran shot down a $200 million U.S. military drone. The U.S. President tweeted:

Once upon a time, war had to be authorized by Congress, but now everyone knows it's just the president's decision. Will America go to war? Americans will find out!

Ships and planes were in motion, and then:

Supposedly, it was a White House lawyer — not a military official — who provided the "150" casualty figure to Trump. The number represented a "worst case scenario."

First of all, ordering a disproportionate strike and then backing off upon realizing it's disproportionate isn't a great moral achievement.

Secondly, it isn't plausible that Trump would back off for moral concerns, given what we know about his character.

Thirdly, this story is not plausible given how the military functions. The military is always aware of potential casualties. They don't bring them up as a "by the way" ten minutes before they open fire.

"Something's wrong there," Shep Smith said during a Fox News segment on June 21. Chris Wallace said, "I talked to a former top national security official in an earlier Republican administration who says this just doesn't add up...The timeline for when he learned information and when he decided to act doesn't make a lot of sense....Maybe that's the biggest problem. You could argue: if you don't want to strike, don't strike. If you want to strike, do strike — but don't send mixed messages that confuse not only your enemies, but even your allies and people here in this country."

So how did he decide?

The New York Times reports that Trump sought out the advice of Fox personality Tucker Carlson. Later that night, Carlson said on-air that a strike would have been catastrophic.

Zachary B. Wolf wrote for CNN on June 23, 2019:

Recall that early in Trump's presidency he surrounded himself with former generals — James Mattis at the Pentagon, Michael Flynn and then H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser, and John Kelly first as DHS Secretary and then as White House chief of staff.

All of them are gone now.

Flynn was dismissed for lying about Russia contacts. Kelly had his authority undermined and was then pushed out. McMaster quietly exited after not gelling with the President. Mattis resigned without a public word but in spectacular fashion, sending a letter describing his differences with the President.

In the place of generals, and despite his pledges to drain the swamp, Trump has sought out former defense contractors. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, before running for Congress, ran an aerospace company. Outgoing acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan spent a career at Boeing. New Defense nominee and current Secretary of the Army Mark Esper worked at Raytheon.

Only one week previously, the New York Times reported that the Pentagon is reluctant to share information with this president because they expect him to betray the country by leaking the information to foreign adversaries.

[See also MSN]

Friday, June 21, 2019

Why do conservative American Christians feel discriminated against? A 2019 debate

Last month, Sohrab Ahmari, a Catholic and the op-ed editor of the New York Post, published an alarming and revealing opinion, "Against David French-ism" (First Things, May 29, 2019).

Ahmari describes "what I call David French-ism, after the National Review writer and Never-Trump stalwart" as an expectation that Christian beliefs can be upheld politely and voluntarily on a cultural level rather than through legislative force. On this model, people would use their autonomy to live guided by Christian values rather than by some other kind of values. Ahmari derides it as "an idle wish that all men become moral." French-ism, he says, "is more a persuasion or a sensibility than a movement with clear tenets" that, beyond any individual, "pervade[s] a wider sphere of conservative Christian thinking and activism." It happens that French is Protestant.

When confronted with "the cultural civil war," Ahmari insists, "the only way is through," meaning that one must have "the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils [my emphasis] in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good." The only other option is ceding the public square to "the libertine ways and paganized ideology of the other side." Social institutions aren't "neutral zones" that "accommodate" everyone. They are zero-sum: there is a winner and a loser.

Ahmari complains that the "libertines" wish to require Christians to "positively affirm our sexual choices, our transgression, our power to disfigure our natural bodies and redefine what it means to be human, lest your [Christian] disapprobation make us feel less than fully autonomous." Ahmari agrees that "Individual experiments in living—say, taking your kids to a drag reading hour at the public library—cannot be sustained without some level of moral approval by the community." The 2016 presidential election reflected an increasing Christian desire to once again begin privileging "order, continuity, and social cohesion" above mere individual "autonomy" which in practice empowering the government ("and not just the church, family, and individual") to "help protect the citizen from transnational forces beyond his control." (He attributes this belief to Trump. I disbelieve that Trump himself has any political philosophy, but of course I understand that many of his followers have political philosophies and perhaps they project them onto Trump.)

He concluded:

"Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty."

Ramona V. Tausz responded in "About Drag Queen Story Hour" (First Things, June 4, 2019)

She raised concerns that "videos of past story hours reveal pornographic adult entertainment: provocative outfits, sexual dancing, and twerking," while two of the drag queens "were later exposed as convicted sex offenders and pedophiles." Beyond such reasonable objections to the performers and content at specific events, however, Tausz also objects more generally to drag, quoting Anna Bohach as calling such performances "a sexist minstrel show.” Bohach opposes, as Tausz explains, "the inherent misogyny of drag queen culture, which reduces femininity to crude stereotypes."

Calling drag queens "demonic," she says, is "certainly not all that is needed — but it is a good start. The effort to ban Drag Queen Story Hour starts when we have the courage to clarify the moral stakes."


A note: These two articles in First Things make a couple assertions that lean toward non-fact territory. Ahmari says, without providing a source, that the accusation of Trump's collusion with Russia is "discredited," which it most certainly is not. Tausz quotes a sentence from the American College of Pediatricians, a group founded 17 years ago as an anti-LGBT advocacy group that has only a few hundred members, not to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics founded 89 years ago as a real professional organization that today has tens of thousands of members. The value of a statement from the former group is dubious and question-begging, because if they had pro-LGBT facts, they'd hide them, and if they had pro-LGBT beliefs, they'd dissolve. Tausz also mentions a recent paper by Lisa Littman that "suggest that gender dysphoria in adolescents spreads through social contagion." In that August 2018 paper, Littman defines the term "social contagion" as "the spread of affect or behaviors through a population" especially to refer to the influence of peers and she emphasizes that she does not intend "in any way to characterize the developmental process, outcome, or behavior as a disease or disease-like state, or to convey any value judgement." Littman only interviewed parents of transgender children, not the children themselves, about their perceptions about how their children's gender identity was forming and expressing; following controversy, the journal issued a correction in March 2019 so that the paper would meet the journal's publication criteria.

The June 20, 2019 episode of The New York Times' "The Argument" podcast responded to Ahmari's article. The episode is called, “Are we headed for war with Iran? And have conservatives given up on liberal democracy?” The first question is dealt with in the first half of the episode, while the second segment, beginning at 20:25, deals with the second question about the debate between conservatism and liberal democracy as exemplified in Ahmari's article.

David Leonhardt led a discussion between Michelle Goldberg and Ross Douthat. “To me," Goldberg began, "the fight seems to be about whether or not conservatives can continue to tolerate a society in which they don’t rule." She continued by saying that "there really are situations...in which there is a conflict between liberal notions of equality and religious exercise. But this [drag queen story hour] isn't one of them. This is just a community event that Ahmari is angry that he can't ban, and to me it kind of reveals that what they're demanding, once again, is primacy in public life that they feel like they deserve and have been denied, and, having been denied it, they're sort of ready to give up on the whole 'experiment' of American liberal democracy."

Whereas, Douthat's opening: "I think fundamentally what's going on are two things. One, you have a bunch of religious conservatives who made a lot of compromises in supporting Donald Trump or who didn't make those compromises and are now trying to decide whether to support him for reelection...and so they're thinking through justifications for essentially supporting a very unpleasant figure, and one of those justifications is this sense that political liberalism has become so hostile to conservative Christianity that you have to make deals with Donald Trump...that's a big part of the Ahmari vs. David French fight...so Trump looms over this." The second issue Douthat describes is "almost a power play" between libertarian "political conservatives" and Christian "social conservatives," in which Christians chafe at the observation that they are delivering votes to the Republican Party yet aren't seeing their social values reflected in the party's primarily fiscal agenda and successes.

Goldberg sought clarification about the suggestion that conservatives are not in charge. What haven't they gotten? What do they still want? Douthat responded: "Marco Rubio and Mike Lee and a few other people wanted the tax bill to be more pro-family and the rest of the Republican coalition wanted it to be more pro-business, and for the most part the pro-business side won." Goldberg challenged him by pointing out that Ahmari wasn't talking about anti-trust laws or taxes, but about a "culture war." Douthat suggested that Ahmari's language was just "chest-thumping" and that Ahmari would likely back off when questioned. He believes that Ahmari is "reacting to the sense that, in the new liberal culture, you get drag queen story hours, and if you're an evangelical florist who doesn't want to do flowers for a same-sex wedding, you get fined and driven out of business." Liberals, too, are unbending in their pursuit of the highest good; they "a corporate-sponsored Pride Week as the liturgy of our society."

Many Christians are still persuaded by the ideal of pluralism in which some people can live as openly gay and others can live out their own religious values. But, Douthat said, other Christians are alarmed at what they see as creeping restrictions on Catholic hospitals and adoption agencies that would compel these institutions to perform abortions or place children with same-sex couples. "A neutral public square," he said, "is a hard thing to sustain." That civic effort goes beyond "you don't have to marry a guy if you don't like gay marriage."

Goldberg reminded Douthat that her impression is that Christians are upset because they have less power than they used to have, and that Douthat seems to be providing alternative "reasons that they feel disenfranchised and victimized." But isn't that the same, she pushed him, as saying that they are upset "because they no longer rule?" She asked Douthat: "Is Catholicism or is orthodox Christianity oppressed if they are not allowed to discriminate?" Yes, Douthat said. Political pressure, even if "gentle," affects internal Christian tradition (as with the phase-out of Mormon polygamy). Goldberg challenged this, saying that she doesn't know any liberals who want to use the political sphere to influence what happens internally in churches. What happens in adoption agencies and whether they can discriminate against gays, Jews, and Muslims, is different. For some reason, Christians interpret those anti-discrimination efforts as discrimination against them.

Speaking from the Catholic perspective, Douthat said:

"The promise of American life in the 20th century was that, if Catholics made their peace with exactly this liberal pluralism that we're talking about and abandoned some of the 19th-century Catholic critiques of liberal democracy, then America would make a place for them and Catholicism would continue to thrive in the US...I think, since then, the turn that liberalism has taken, secular liberalism, around a whole range of issues starting with abortion and sort of moving through the debates around the sexual revolution, have essentially rewritten the bargain that Catholics made to become full Americans."

While this is not grounds for "tearing up the deal," it is unsurprising that "it provokes anxiety, uncertainty, and a lot of weird debates and experiments."


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Dispatches from the US/Mexico border (June 2019)

In early June 2019, it was announced that the federal government would add three thousand new beds for migrant children. About half this number would be housed at a new facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas in a building that was previously used to house oil field workers. The rest would likely be housed at Army and Air Force bases in Georgia, Montana and Oklahoma. Per an Associated Press article:

"All the new facilities will be considered temporary emergency shelters, so they won’t be subject to state child welfare licensing requirements, [Office of Refugee Resettlement spokesman Mark] Weber said. In January, the government shut down an unlicensed detention camp in the Texas desert under political pressure, and another unlicensed facility called Homestead remains in operation in the Miami suburbs."

Elizabeth C. McLaughlin reported on Twitter that people who are detained at the border are first sent to a place called the "Dog Pound," where people are kept in outdoor cages with "no running water, no covers, no tarp, no care, no safety from the elements. It is freezing at night, and deathly hot during the day." They do not receive adequate nutrition, especially for small children. Then they are sent to "The Freezer," which is maintained at 55 degrees F (13 C) and has no beds, where they are kept for weeks. The government is supposed to send them to residential facilities, but those residential facilities are empty and ICE plans to close them. Instead, they are being sent to concentration camps run by the military, including the former Japanese-American internment camp Fort Sill, where lawyers, journalists, and human rights monitors will not be permitted. "The Trump administration will be able to conduct itself in whatever way it wants to without anyone knowing what's going on inside. Think about what that means. Think about why they would want that. This is happening RIGHT NOW," McLaughlin wrote.

Similarly, Bradford Pearson:

Pearson points us to the organization Densho, which has more information about Fort Sill.

Jonathan M. Katz's article "Call immigrant detention centers what they really are: concentration camps" in the LA Times (9 June 2019) made these points:

"Certainly it helps that the news media covers these horrors intermittently rather than as snowballing proof of a racist, lawless administration.

* * *

A year ago, Americans accidentally became aware that the Trump administration had adopted (and lied about) a policy of ripping families apart at the border. The flurry of attention was thanks to the viral conflation of two separate but related stories: the family-separation order and bureaucrats’ admission that they’d been unable to locate thousands of migrant children who’d been placed with sponsors after crossing the border alone.

* * *

It is important to note that Trump’s aides have built this system of racist terror on something that has existed for a long time. Several camps opened under Obama, and as president he deported millions of people.

But Trump’s game is different. It certainly isn’t about negotiating immigration reform with Congress. Trump has made it clear that he wants to stifle all non-white immigration, period. His mass arrests, iceboxes and dog cages are part of an explicitly nationalist project to put the country under the control of the right kind of white people.

After an emergency Caesarean section in Mexico, a 17-year-old Guatemalan girl crossed the border into the US on June 4, 2019 with her premature baby. Immigration legal advocates found her a week later at the McAllen facility, in pain and in a wheelchair, with the baby—its head smaller than an adult's fist—in poor health condition with only the onesie it was wearing. After attention on social media, it was announced that mother and daughter were to be transferred to a more appropriate facility for minors.

Others have died. However:

(And the list would anyway not have included deaths that occurred shortly after an injured or sick person was released from custody.)

Rabbi Ruttenberg wrote in the Washington Post:

But it is important to note that Nazi concentration camps — which, in Germany, began in 1933 — and the Holocaust’s death (or “extermination”) camps, which began in 1941, are not the same thing, though they’re often conflated in American discourse. And what we now know of the CBP camps does not include many of the hallmarks often associated with Nazi camps — forced labor, for example, or the detention of U.S. citizens. But it’s also true that the earliest camps — known as “wild camps” — were makeshift centers that did not have the infrastructure of later state camps. Concentration camps have a history beyond just the Nazis, too. Pitzer’s definition also puts CBP centers in the context of other such camps in France, South Africa, Cuba, the Soviet Union and, of course, here in the United States during World War II, targeting Japanese Americans. (Those who quibble that “internment camps” are not “concentration camps” might note that both President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harold Ickes, his secretary of the interior, referred to U.S. camps as the latter.)

A photo taken illegally in federal court shows 37 immigrants in orange prison jumpsuits being processed simultaneously. Such processes have been in place for a decade but are more frequent under Trump.

It's happening for reasons including this:

Since the resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen in April 2019, there has only been an acting Secretary of Homeland Security, not a permanent one. Might that not reduce stability and accountability?

Some have contact information for relatives and no one is bothering to make the phone calls.

Not that it should matter, but human rights abuses are expensive.

Some companies are turning a profit.

Some people are determined not to care. "Quit trying to make us feel teary-eyed for the children. Yes, I love children a great deal, but to me, it's up to the parents to do things rightfully and legally," a Trump supporter says at a diner in Mesa, Arizona.

In early July, the Trump administration denied reports of inadequate hygiene.

A look inside a detention center (8 June 2019, New York Times and El Paso Times)

Never Again Action, a Jewish activist group, is protesting at ICE centers. (13 July 2019, Times of Israel)

On August 13, acting USCIS director Ken Cuccinelli said on television that the poem on the Statue of Liberty should read: "Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet, and who will not become a public charge." (In other words, that immigrants are welcome as long as they are able to work and will not require assistance from the government.) Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright — herself once a refugee from the Nazis and an immigrant to the United States, now 82 years old — said that Cuccinelli's comment was "one of the most un-American things I have ever heard." On August 14, BuzzFeed News immigration reporter Hamed Aleaziz complained that Cuccinelli, who assumed his position only two months previously, has since "pushed asylum officers to stop allowing some people seeking refuge in the country passage at an initial screening at the border...sped up initial screenings of immigrants seeking asylum, a move that advocates say will give immigrants less time to prepare for their interviews or recover from dangerous journeys...ended a policy that allows Filipino veterans of World War II to bring family members to the United States before their green cards are available...asked USCIS staffers to volunteer for ICE jobs...[and] rolled out the public charge rule." Cucinelli responded on Twitter: “Thx Hamed. The best is yet to come!” In response to which, Eli Valley: “Whoever’s compiling shit in The Hague, save this one.”