Notes and Comment Blog

The gradual growth of our own wickedness

Oct 30th, 2018 12:23 pm | By

Garrett Epps in the Atlantic in July:

I have been writing about the citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and its meaning for the children of the undocumented, for more than a decade. In a 2006 book, Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America, I traced the drafting of the Amendment and the process by which the Senate added citizenship language in May 1866. In a subsequent scholarly article, “The Citizenship Clause: A ‘Legislative History,’” I reviewed in exhaustive (you’ve been warned) detail the debates over this precise clause. I have written about the birthright citizenship issue for The Atlanticherehere, and here.

Tyrants and would-be autocrats throughout history have itched to get their hands on the law of citizenship. When Hitler took power in Germany, he engineered the passage of the Nuremberg Laws, which stripped citizenship from Germans not of “German blood.” Jews and others were subsequently “state subjects,” without the rights of “real” Germans. That inequality by law was a key part of the chain of events leading to the Holocaust. The Soviet Union, in a law promulgated in 1931, gave the power to annul the citizenship of any citizen to the Presidium of the Soviet Central Committee. Over the years, thousands of dissidents—including Stalin’s political rival Leon Trotsky, the poet Joseph Brodsky, the Jewish activists Avital and Natan Sharansky, and the Nobel Prize–winning author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn—were stripped of citizenship, driven into exile, and (in Trotsky’s case) murdered.

Nice company Trump keeps.

A democratic country belongs to its people, not the other way around. The Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment knew this well. They’d had decades of experience with racist state laws denying citizenship to slaves, free black Americans, and immigrants. The citizenship clause placed American citizenship—national, equal, unitary, irrevocable—at the center of the democratic polity that they hoped to build from the ashes of the house divided. No one has offered convincing evidence that they secretly intended citizenship to be a gift of the state; no one but Anton has dared to suggest that a president could void the citizenship clause by executive order.

The idea, in fact, seems outlandish today; but until recently, so too did the idea of an overnight Muslim ban, or of forcibly seizing, caging, and drugging innocent children. “We are easily shocked by crimes which appear at once in their full magnitude,” Samuel Johnson once wrote, “but the gradual growth of our own wickedness, endeared by interest, and palliated by all the artifices of self-deceit, gives us time to form distinctions in our own favor, and reason by degrees submits to absurdity, as the eye is in time accommodated to darkness.”

The administration is accustoming the public to crimes of great magnitude. What was unimaginable in November 2016 is already happening in 2018, and it will keep happening until Americans stop it.

They do know how to ratchet.

Fanning the flames of anti-immigrant hatred

Oct 30th, 2018 11:40 am | By

Eager to test it

Oct 30th, 2018 11:32 am | By

The Times on Trump’s attack on the 14th Amendment:

Doing away with birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants was an idea Mr. Trump pitched as a presidential candidate, but there is no clear indication that he would be able to do so unilaterally, and attempting to would be certain to prompt legal challenges. The consensus among legal scholars is that he cannot, but Mr. Trump and his allies are eager to test it in the Supreme Court.

Naturally. They lost the popular vote by over 3 million in a heavily gerrymandered election, so why wouldn’t they be eager to destroy the amendment that covers equal rights for all citizens?

“We all cherish the language of the 14th Amendment, but the Supreme Court of the United States has never ruled on whether the language of the 14th Amendment — ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ — applies specifically to people who are in the country illegally,” Vice President Mike Pence told Politico in an interview on Tuesday, several hours after Mr. Trump’s comments were reported.

Well now there’s a big fat lie. Pence doesn’t “cherish the language of the 14th Amendment” – if he did he never would have gone near Trump and his administration.

Mr. Trump told Axios that while he initially believed he needed a constitutional amendment or action by Congress to make the change, the White House Counsel’s Office has advised him otherwise.

“Now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order,” Mr. Trump said. The White House did not immediately respond to requests for clarification of the legal grounds the president’s lawyers have given him for validating such a move.

His discussion of the idea comes after the administration announced it was streaming more than 5,000 active-duty troops to the southern border, part of an election-season rash of executive action Mr. Trump has undertaken as he works to energize his anti-immigrant base.

That is, as he works to inflame his rabidly racist “base.” That’s all this is: naked shameless racism.

Big plans

Oct 30th, 2018 5:09 am | By

Trump adds another item on the white supremacist agenda: getting rid of citizenship by birth aka the Fourteenth Amendment.

President Trump is planning to sign an executive order that would seek to end the right to U.S. citizenship for children of noncitizens born on U.S. soil, he said in a television interview taped on Monday.

A president can’t ditch a constitutional amendment just by signing an order.

The move would be certain to spark a constitutional debate about the meaning of the 14th Amendment. It reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

In other words, the people formerly known as slaves and non-citizens are citizens and have the rights of citizens. John Wagner at the The Atlantic gives some background:

To the members of the 39th Congress who framed the Fourteenth Amendment, the cause of the Civil War was clear. It was something called “the Slave Power”—a term which referred to the concessions made by the Philadelphia Framers to the slave states in 1787. Those were (1) the “three-fifths” clause, allowing extra seats in Congress to states with large slave populations; (2) the “electoral college,” which gave slave states undeserved power over the selection of the president; and (3) the principle of equal representation in the Senate, which had come over time to allow the South a veto over the more populous and dynamic North. As a result of this rigged system, the South had since 1790 dominated the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court. And in the years after the 1857 Dred Scott decision, “the slavocracy” had begun making a legal argument that even “free states” must now be required to permit and protect slavery within their borders. The pro-Southern Supreme Court seemed quite likely to back such a radical new rule. “We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their state free,” Abraham Lincoln warned in 1858, “and we shall awake to the reality, instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave state.”

We have a history. The Fourteenth Amendment is a corrective to some of that history (far from all of it).

It has come to their attention

Oct 29th, 2018 5:15 pm | By

More orthodoxy-sniffing:

AART – Artists Against Rampant Transphobia

It has come to our attention that Liverpool based artist Nina Edge is transphobic and has been spreading her vile bigotry on twitter via the Welsh Streets twitter account. We ask that anyone in the Liverpool art scene takes a stand against this by limiting her involvement in your projects and spreading awareness. Thank you once again for the incredible amount of public support and solidarity we have witnessed since this was discovered. Protect trans women and include them in feminist spaces!

Of course, she hasn’t been doing any such thing. But hey, let’s organize to destroy her anyway!

These 11 wonderful people

Oct 29th, 2018 4:54 pm | By

She thinks it’s outrageous

Oct 29th, 2018 4:02 pm | By

Look. If you incite hatred, then hatred has been incited. If you have a huge public megaphone – such as for instance the personal Twitter account of a president or prime minister – and you use it to call Xs “Enemy of the People” then you are doing just that. If you rant and rave over and over and OVER again that particular journalists represent “Fake News” then that is what you are doing. Trump may think he does it only to inspire his fans, or get it off his chest, or motivate CNN to do better, or set the record straight…but he can’t know that that’s how all of his audience will receive it.

Sarah Sanders probably knows that. But: deny deny deny.

Please stay away

Oct 29th, 2018 2:39 pm | By

A number of people in Pittsburgh have asked Trump to stay away. Of course he is going there anyway.

More than 35,000 people have signed an open letter to President Trump from the leaders of a Pittsburgh-based Jewish group who say the president will not be welcome in the city unless he denounces white nationalism and stops “targeting” minorities after a mass shooting Saturday at a local synagogue left 11 dead.

Nevertheless, the White House announced Trump would travel to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, ignoring the letter as well as a plea from Pittsburgh’s mayor that the president at least refrain from visiting “while we are burying the dead.” The first of the funerals for the 11 shooting victims is expected to take place Tuesday.

This will go well. He’ll shout about the caravan, he’ll tell them to vote Republican, he’ll flap his hands stiffly in and out, he’ll make jokes about his hair, he’ll rant about Fake News.

The open letter, which was published and shared on Sunday, was written by 11 members of the Pittsburgh affiliate of Bend the Arc, a national organization for progressive Jews focused on social justice…

Ah well no wonder he’s ignoring it. Social justice is THE ENEMY.

“For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement,” the Jewish leaders wrote. “You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence.”

The letter continued: “Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted. You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country.”

Women. Also women. He has also deliberately undermined the safety of women. Remember women? Half of humanity?

Bend the Arc was founded in 2012 as an advocacy organization. Three years later, with the help of Alexander Soros, son of liberal philanthropist George Soros, the group launched the first Jewish political action committee focused on dealing solely with domestic issues, the Forward reported. According to its website, the group supports “everyone threatened by the Trump agenda,” and Alexander Soros is the chair of its board of directors. The Pittsburgh chapter was created shortly after the 2016 election, Friedman said.

Trump will talk about the Soros-occupied State Department. Count on it.

Remember these faces

Oct 29th, 2018 11:29 am | By

There were three terrorist incidents in the US last week, not two. The third was a white man who shot and killed two black people in a Kroger grocery store in Louisville, Kentucky.

Zak Cheney-Rice:

Maurice Stallard, 69, was at a Kroger supermarket when Gregory Bush, a 51-year-old white man, walked in and shot him multiple times. Bush then exited the store and shot Vickie Lee Jones, 67, in the parking lot before an armed bystander reportedly fired back, prompting him to flee. Police were unable to confirm accounts that Bush encountered a second armed man, who engaged him in a brief standoff where no shots were fired, according to the New York Times. “Don’t shoot me and I won’t shoot you,” the man’s son, Steve Zinninger, claimed Bush told his father. “Whites don’t kill whites.” Police apprehended Bush minutes later.

Bush had no known connection to either of his victims. Any doubt of a racial motive seemed quelled when surveillance footage showed the shooter forcibly tried to enter a black church minutes before moving on to the supermarket. The Times reports that a member of the 185-year-old First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown grew alarmed when she saw Bush yanking “aggressively” at its locked front doors. Up to ten people were inside the chapel following a midweek service. “I’m just thankful that all of our doors and security was in place,” church administrator Billy Williams said.

Trump hasn’t said a word about it. He did however find time to call Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor of Florida and a black man, “a thief” on Twitter.

Stealing from the poor

Oct 29th, 2018 10:42 am | By

But hey, it’s all ok because Trump is the champion of The Little Guy (not The Little Gal so much), the scourge of the elites, the populist, the friend of miners and factory workers.

Except, wait a second. He’s being sued for bullshitting people with no money into scam get-rich schemes.

A new lawsuit accuses President Trump, his company and three of his children of using the Trump name to entice vulnerable people to invest in sham business opportunities.

The 160-page complaint alleges that Mr. Trump and his family received secret payments from three business entities in exchange for promoting them as legitimate opportunities, when in reality they were get-rich-quick schemes that harmed investors, many of whom were unsophisticated and struggling financially.

Those business entities were ACN, a telecommunications marketing company that paid Mr. Trump millions of dollars to endorse its products; the Trump Network, a vitamin marketing enterprise; and the Trump Institute, which the suit said offered “extravagantly priced multiday training seminars” on Mr. Trump’s real estate “secrets.”

The four plaintiffs, who were identified only with pseudonyms like Jane Doe, depict the Trump Organization as a racketeering enterprise that defrauded thousands of people for years as the president turned from construction to licensing his name for profit. The suit also names Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump as defendants.

It just doesn’t get much more squalid than that, does it. There’s pimping and trafficking, but other than that…this is bottom-feeding shit. Bernie Madoff for broke people.

The lawyers said they were asking the court to allow the plaintiffs to proceed using pseudonyms because of “serious and legitimate security concerns given the heated political environment.” The lawyers also declined to make their clients available for interviews.

The four plaintiffs each invested in ACN after watching promotional videos featuring Mr. Trump.

According to the lawsuit, ACN required investors to pay $499 to sign up to sell its products, like a videophone and other services, with the promise of additional profits if they recruited others to join.

Mr. Trump described the phone in an ACN news release as “amazing” but failed to disclose he was being “paid lavishly for his endorsement,” the suit says.

One plaintiff, a hospice worker from California identified as “Jane Doe,” decided to join ACN in 2014 after attending a recruitment meeting at a Los Angeles hotel where she listened to speakers and watched Mr. Trump on video extol the investment opportunity.

For her, the video was the “turning point,” the lawsuit said.

“Doe believed that Trump had her best interests at heart,” the suit said.

Jane Doe then signed up for a larger ACN meeting in Palm Springs, Calif., which cost almost $1,500, and she later spent thousands more traveling to conventions in Cleveland and Detroit, according to the suit.

In the end, she earned $38 — the only income she would ever receive from the company, the suit said.

That is the president of the United States.

There’s an annoying aspect to the article which I haven’t quoted: it undercuts itself in the second paragraph and later interjections by noting how near the election is and wondering if maybe this is all political blah blah blah. The co-author is Maggie Haberman. Adam Davidson, of the New Yorker and formerly NPR, wrote a righteous thread on both-sidesism on Twitter this morning, and Haberman replied to it with praise plus a jab, and he jabbed back. I suspect the ludicrous undercutting of this article by its own authors (or by Haberman alone, more likely) is what inspired his thread. I find it pretty infuriating. The plaintiffs’ lawyers responded in the article by saying they filed now because they were ready now.

Incitement of violence

Oct 29th, 2018 9:54 am | By

Worse again.

We saw this one yesterday, 17 hours ago.

The next are 5 hours ago, 7:30 a.m DC time.

A set of three over a period of 12 hours, deliberately consciously in defiance of all pleas and remonstrances, working to incite violence against journalists. Three times in 12 hours – Fake News, Fake & Dishonest reporting,  inaccurate and even fraudulent, Fake News Media, true Enemy of the People, Fake News.

Make him stop

Oct 28th, 2018 5:45 pm | By

Can no one make this criminal fascist monster STOP INCITING HATRED even now???

More like a dash to the far-right

Oct 28th, 2018 5:34 pm | By

And now Brazil.

Brazil on Sunday became the latest country to drift toward the far right, electing a strident populist as president in the nation’s most radical political change since democracy was restored more than 30 years ago.

The new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has exalted the country’s military dictatorship, advocated torture and threatened to destroy, jail or drive into exile his political opponents.

The word “populist” is too cuddly for all that. Far-right authoritarian is a better fit.

Mr. Bolsonaro, who will take the helm of Latin America’s biggest nation, is farther to the right than any president in the region, where voters have recently embraced more conservative leaders in Argentina, Chile, Peru, Paraguay and Colombia. He joins a number of far-right politicians who have risen to power around world, including Italy’s deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary.

And Trump, and Duterte, and Erdoğan.

Many Brazilians see authoritarian tendencies in Mr. Bolsonaro, who plans to appoint military leaders to top posts and said he would not accept the result if he were to lose. He has threatened to stack the Supreme Court by increasing the number of judges to 21 from 11 and to deal with political foes by giving them the choice of extermination or exile.

He’s also like Trump in being frankly an asshole.

He accomplished little in his long legislative career, but his roster of offensive remarks — he said that he’d rather his son die than be gay and that women don’t deserve the same pay as men — was interpreted by many as bracing honesty and evidence of his willingness to shatter the status quo.

Yes, it’s so refreshing to hear men say women don’t deserve equal pay.

A year ago, Mr. Bolsonaro’s bid was widely regarded by political veterans in Brasília as fanciful in a nation renowned for the cordiality and warmth of its people. Some of the candidate’s remarks were so offensive the country’s attorney general earlier this year charged him with inciting hatred toward black, gay and indigenous people. In a country where most of the population is not white, this alone might have seemed to disqualify him.

Is Trumpism catching? Globally?

After the first round of voting, in which Mr. Bolsonaro received just shy of the 50 percent required to win outright, some political analysts expected he would moderate his rhetoric in order to appeal to centrist or undecided voters.

They were wrong.

Last Sunday, he issued a threat to members of the Workers’ Party that critics called downright fascist.

“Those red good-for-nothings will be banished from the homeland,” he said during an address, delivered via a video link up, to thousands of supporters gathered in São Paulo. “It will be a cleanup the likes of which has never been seen in Brazilian history.”

Any bets on how long it will take Trump to match him?

Is there a plan to shoot at them?

Oct 28th, 2018 4:21 pm | By

Fox News created a panic about a “caravan” of refugees, and Trump latched onto it, and that’s why 11 people were murdered in that synagogue yesterday.

On Tuesday, October 16, President Trump started tweeting.

“The United States has strongly informed the President of Honduras that if the large Caravan of people heading to the U.S. is not stopped and brought back to Honduras, no more money or aid will be given to Honduras, effective immediately!”

And more of the same, and Mike Pence joining in.

The apparent impetus for this outrage was a segment on Fox News that morning, which detailed a migrant caravan thousands of miles away in Honduras. That caravan began sometime in mid-October, made up of refugees fleeing violence in their home country. Over the next few weeks, Trump would do his best to turn the caravan into a national emergency. Trump falsely told his supporters that there were “criminals and unknown middle easterners” in the caravan, a claim that had no basis in fact, which was meant to imply that terrorists were hiding in the caravan—one falsehood placed upon another. Defense Secretary James Mattis ordered more troops to the border. A Fox News host took it upon herself to ask Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen whether there was “any scenario under which if people force their way across the border they could be shot at,” to which Nielsen responded, “we do not have any intention right now to shoot at people.”


A Fox News host took it upon herself to ask Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen whether there was “any scenario under which if people force their way across the border they could be shot at,” to which Nielsen responded, “we do not have any intention right now to shoot at people.”

Why is Fox News running the country?

In the right-wing fever swamps, where the president’s every word is worshipped, commenters began amplifying Trump’s exhortations with new details. Representative Matt Gaetz wondered if George Soros—the wealthy Jewish philanthropist whom Trump and several members of the U.S. Senate blamed for the protests against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and who was recently targeted with a bomb—was behind the migrant caravan. NRATV, the propaganda organ of the National Rifle Association, linked two Republican obsessions, voter fraud and immigration. Chuck Holton told NRATV’s viewers that Soros was sending the caravan to the United States so the migrants could vote: “It’s telling that a bevy of left-wing groups are partnering with a Hungarian-born billionaire and the Venezuelan government to try to influence the 2018 midterms by sending Honduran migrants north in the thousands.” On CNN, the conservative commentator Matt Schlapp asked pointedly, “Who’s paying for the caravan? Alisyn, who’s paying for the caravan?,” before later answering his own question: “Because of the liberal judges and other people that intercede, including George Soros, we have too much chaos at our southern border.” On Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show, a guest said “these individuals are not immigrants. These are people that are invading our country,” as another guest asserted they were seeking “the destruction of American society and culture.”

If you can imagine it, it’s true!

Trump is reportedly aware that his claims about the caravan are false. An administration official told the Daily Beast simply, “it doesn’t matter if it’s 100 percent accurate … this is the play.” The “play” was to demonize vulnerable people with falsehoods in order to frighten Trump’s base to the polls.

And if a few Jews get murdered along the way, well, it’s worth it, right? Small price to pay?

Prior to committing the Tree of Life massacre, the shooter, who blamed Jews for the caravan of “invaders” and who raged about it on social media, made it clear that he was furious at HIAS, founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish group that helps resettle refugees in the United States. He shared posts on Gab, a social-media site popular with the alt-right, expressing alarm at the sight of “massive human caravans of young men from Honduras and El Salvador invading America thru our unsecured southern border.” And then he wrote, “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

Fox News has blood on its paws along with Trump.

The apparent spark for the worst anti-Semitic massacre in American history was a racist hoax inflamed by a U.S. president seeking to help his party win a midterm election. There is no political gesture, no public statement, and no alteration in rhetoric or behavior that will change this fact. The shooter might have found a different reason to act on a different day. But he chose to act on Saturday, and he apparently chose to act in response to a political fiction that the president himself chose to spread, and that his followers chose to amplify.

Horst Wessel anyone?

We must unite to talk about baseball

Oct 28th, 2018 10:30 am | By
We must unite to talk about baseball

The president.


Six hours apart. Six whole hours. Mourning, mass murder, pray, hearts go out, assault on humanity, unite against hate, blah blah blah. Hey the Dodgers and the Red Sox!!!

The eleven

Oct 28th, 2018 10:14 am | By

Have paper towels ready.

Setting the tone

Oct 28th, 2018 9:10 am | By

Julia Ioffe asks how much responsibility Trump has for the synagogue massacre.

The summary: he doesn’t have to do the shooting himself to be part of the cause of the shooting.

Culpability is a tricky thing, and politicians, especially of the demagogic variety, know this very well. Unless they go as far as organized, documented, state-implemented slaughter, they don’t give specific directions. They don’t have to. They simply set the tone. In the end, someone else does the dirty work, and they never have to lift a finger — let alone stain it with blood. I saw it while reporting on Russia, where, after unexpected pro-democracy protests and the annexation of Crimea, Putin created an environment so vicious, so toxic (he called his critics “national traitors” and “a fifth column”) that, when assassins killed opposition leader Boris Nemtsov at the foot of the Kremlin walls in 2015, it was easy for people to blame the divisive political rhetoric as if it were a spontaneous weather pattern, rather than Putin himself for creating it. And everyone understood immediately the message it sent: Dissent is a deadly business. Putin may not have ordered Nemtsov’s assassination, but Russia’s elite could clearly see he wasn’t too upset about the outcome.

Trump yesterday? Joking about his bad hair day a couple of hours after the slaughter.

When President Trump blamed “both sides” for Charlottesville, his supporters heard him loud and clear: “I knew Trump was eventually going to be like, meh, whatever,” Anglin said. “Trump only disavowed us at the point of a Jewish weapon. So I’m not disavowing him.” Many others in the alt-right praised Trump’s statement as moral equivocation on Charlottesville. To them, this, rather than the forced, obligatory condemnation, was the important signal. (According to the Anti-Defamation League, the incidence of anti-Semitic hate crimes jumped nearly 60 percent in 2017, the biggest increase since it started keeping track in 1979. What made 2017 so different? It was Trump’s first year in office.)

When Trump called himself a nationalist in Houston last week, the alt-right knew exactly what he meant. One alt-right commenter was elated because nationalism “is inherently connected to race.” Another wrote that he was “literally shaking” with glee. Still another wrote “THE FIRE RISES.”

The president did not tell a deranged man to send pipe bombs to the people he regularly lambastes on Twitter and lampoons in his rallies, so he’s not at fault. Trump didn’t cause another deranged man to tweet that the caravan of refugees moving toward America’s southern border (the one Trump has complained about endlessly) is paid for by the Jews before he shot up a synagogue. Trump certainly never told him, “Go kill some Jews on a rainy Shabbat morning.”

But this definition of culpability is too narrow, too legalistic — and ultimately too dishonest. The pipe-bomb makers and synagogue shooters and racists who mowed a woman down in Charlottesville were never even looking for Trump’s explicit blessing, because they knew the president had allowed bigots like them to go about their business, secure in the knowledge that, like Nemtsov’s killers, they don’t really bother the president, at least not too much. His role is just to set the tone. Their role is to do the rest.

There’s no such thing as “just locker-room talk.”

Straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion

Oct 27th, 2018 6:03 pm | By

In a dark place

Oct 27th, 2018 3:40 pm | By

Got another one

Oct 27th, 2018 3:01 pm | By

Meanwhile the dedicated campaign to get women’s jobs taken away if they don’t agree that men can be women continues.

“Students spoke up” apparently after and because these two inquisitors spat out a bunch of tweets accusing Nina Edge of the usual bullshit, complete with tagging a bunch of people like the nasty wannabe cops they are. And took a bragging selfie to say so.