Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 27th, 2017

Mexico City: Doomed

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Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2017 at 8:16 pm

When Your Greatest Romance Is a Friendship

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Victor Lodato has a wonderful essay in the NY Times:

“Is this your grandson?” people sometimes ask Austin when she’s out with me.

I love watching her vanity prick up, the way she serenely tilts her small white head and refurbishes her Southern accent to correct them. “No, honey. He’s my friend.”

At this point, folks usually smile tightly and turn away, perhaps worried there is more than friendship going on between the old lady and the younger man seated at the bar or strolling through the supermarket, giggling like teenagers.

Why we’re giggling, I couldn’t tell you. Often our mirth seems fueled by some deep-celled delight at being together. Friendship, like its flashier cousin, love, can be wildly chemical and, like love, can happen in an instant.

When I met Austin, I was in my early 40s and not looking for a friend. I had come alone to this small Oregon town to finish a book. So when a bony, blue-eyed stranger knocked on my door, introducing herself as the lady from across the way and wondering if I might like to come over and see her garden — maybe have a gin and tonic — I politely declined.

Watching her walk away, though, in her velvet slip-ons and wrinkled blouse, I felt a strange pang, a slow pin of sadness that I suppose could best be described as loneliness. Suddenly I was dashing into the dirt road to say that I was sorry, that she had caught me in the middle of work, but that, yes, I would enjoy seeing her garden.

“Not the gin and tonic?” she said.

“Sure, that too,” I answered, blushing. And before I could suggest a visit the next week, she said: “So I’ll see you in a few hours, then. Shall we say 4:30?”

I had to admire her sense of time. Next week is for someone who can afford to put things off. Austin, in her 80s, surely felt no such luxury.

“I liked your face,” she admitted later, telling me she had spotted me at the mailbox.

As she poured the gin, I told her I had seen her at the mailbox, as well, and liked her face, too.

“I wish I had better eyebrows,” she said. “They used to be fabulous.”

Her garden was astounding, like something dreamed rather than planted, a mad-hatter gothic in which a lawless grace prevailed.

At dusk, the deer arrived, nibbling the crab apple blossoms. We had been talking for hours, slightly tipsy, and then we were in the kitchen cooking dinner. A retired psychologist, Austin had traveled extensively, spoke terrible Spanish and worse French, and was a painter now. She had had two husbands, the second of whom died in this house, in a small bed in the living room.

“That’s what I’ll do,” Austin told me. “This room gets the best light.”

We turned to the windows, but the light was already gone. That we could be quiet together so soon, and without strain, felt auspicious.

“So you’ve run away from home?” she said at one point.

From the beginning, there was something about our interaction that reminded me of friendships from childhood, in which no question was off limits. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2017 at 7:21 pm

Posted in Daily life

Leaked DHS Report Contradicts White House Claims on Travel Ban

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It is becoming increasingly clear that we simply cannot trust the White House. This is a major problem, to say the least. (One recent example: “White House planted fake story to smear Politico reporter who wrote about leaks.”) So we now know that we cannot trust the White House: Trump’s problems with telling the truth has infected the whole administration.

Nora Ellingsen gives another example in Lawfare:

Last week, CNN reported that the Trump Administration, in the wake of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling on the administration’s immigration order, asked the Department of Homeland Security for assistance in justifying the travel ban before the courts on security grounds. More specifically, the White House asked the Department to draft an intelligence assessment that, as reported in the press, was supposed to unequivocally show that immigrants from the seven countries affected by the ban—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—posed a terrorism threat to the United States. Not surprisingly, the request immediately raised concerns over the politicization of intelligence by an administration that seems more focused on drafting an intelligence report to fit its preferred policies, rather than devising policies responsive to the intelligence of the day.

However, when the Department produced its draft report, later leaked to the Associated Press, the White House wasn’t pleased with the results—and for good reason. The assessment does not support the administration’s position that individuals from the affected countries disproportionately threaten the United States. The Wall Street Journal quotes at least one White House official as expressing dissatisfaction: “The president asked for an intelligence assessment. This is not the intelligence assessment the president asked for.”

Relying on unclassified and publicly available information, the three-page assessment concluded that citizens of the seven affected countries are rarely implicated in U.S.-based terrorism plots. Indeed, the conclusions are similar to ones I drew earlier this month when I wrote about the conclusions we can draw from FBI international terrorism arrests. Like the DHS analysts, I also relied on the publically available Justice Department press releases, and this data only support one broad conclusion: foreign-born individuals from the affected countries are not a particular terrorism threat to the United States.

But in the next two pages, the DHS assessment takes the analysis several steps further than I went. First, the report found that country of citizenship, more generally, is not a reliable indicator of terrorist activity. By DHS’s count, foreign-born terrorism subjects in the United States originated from 26 different countries, and no country accounted for more than 13.5 percent of foreign-born suspects. In other words—and these are my words, not those of DHS—the travel ban will not be effective not, or not only, because Trump chose the wrong countries, but because trying to single out any country or countries for a travel ban is inherently a misfire. It is trying to fight terrorism by singling out a factor that doesn’t, in fact, offer a significant correlation with terrorist attacks—and that makes very little sense.

In addition, the assessment challenges the administration’s claim that the affected countries have a history of “exporting terrorism” to the United States. In fact, these countries aren’t actually exporting very many people at all. As CNN reported, the seven countries in question were originally removed from the visa waiver program under the Obama administration, making immigrating to the United States a less accessible option for their citizens. As the DHS assessment lays out, individuals from these countries don’t move to the United States in large numbers; each of the seven countries accounts for a small percentage of the US visas granted in their region (the Middle East, North Africa, or Sub-Saharan Africa). Each country accounts for less than three percent of its region’s total U.S. visas granted, with the exception of Iran, which clocks in at seven percent. Notably, the assessment reviewed only publically available data on how many U.S. visas were actually granted to residents of the affected countries prior to the ban, perhaps highlighting the need to actually utilize State Department databases before drafting the next Executive Order.

Finally, the assessment draws an important distinction between the countries on the list that face a significant terrorism threat that is reasonably contained within their borders and those who struggle with terrorist groups that also target the United States. Of those seven countries, the assessment indicates that most aren’t harboring terrorist groups actively targeting the United States. According to the 2016 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, and the Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2015, groups in Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan are regionally focused; only organizations based in Iraq, Syria and Yemen currently pose a threat of attacks in the United States.

The report could actually have gone a step further and pointed out that, according to the Justice Department’s press releases, . . .

Continue reading.

Just as the Trump administration gave government economists the results Trump wanted the analysis produce, ordering the economists to make their analysis arrive at those figures, so too they want intelligence reports fixed to deliver pre-determined findings.

This sort of dishonesty is destructive and grounds (IMO) for removal from office: Trump is a domestic threat.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2017 at 7:06 pm

For those who have read Robert Caro’s great book “The Power Broker”

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The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York is a big book, but absolutely enthralling to some (e.g., me, The Eldest). It’s worth getting in a hardbound edition because of its size, but I came up blank on Abebooks.com, my usual source, but I found it on Alibris.com.

Kevin Drum noted, “I have finally figured out who Donald Trump reminds me of. He’s a dumb version of Robert Moses.”

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2017 at 5:21 pm

The human side of Trump’s enthusiasm for deportation

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When an illegal immigrant has built a life in the United States, including a prosperous business and the admiration and support of his community, which he in turn has supported, and he has an American wife and children, what earthly benefit does it do to the country, his town, and his family to send him back to a country he left long ago? Wouldn’t it be better to help him work toward citizenship, since he is clearly the kind of citizen that is good for the US? And wasn’t Trump supposed to be focused on deporting violent criminals? Carlos Hernandez is an upstanding family man and business owner who contributes to the US, pays taxes, and employs people. Isn’t that what we want?

Monica Davey reports in the NY Times:

Ask residents of this coal-mining crossroads about President Trump’s decision to crack down on undocumented immigrants and most offer no protest. Mr. Trump, who easily won this mostly white southern Illinois county, is doing what he promised, they say. As Terry Chambers, a barber on Main Street, put it, the president simply wants “to get rid of the bad eggs.”

But then they took Carlos.

Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco — just Carlos to the people of West Frankfort — has been the manager of La Fiesta, a Mexican restaurant in this city of 8,000, for a decade. Yes, he always greeted people warmly at the cheerfully decorated restaurant, known for its beef and chicken fajitas. And, yes, he knew their children by name. But people here tick off more things they know Carlos for.

How one night last fall, when the Fire Department was battling a two-alarm blaze, Mr. Hernandez suddenly appeared with meals for the firefighters. How he hosted a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at the restaurant last summer as police officers were facing criticism around the country. How he took part in just about every community committee or charity effort — the Rotary Club, cancer fund-raisers, cleanup days, even scholarships for the Redbirds, the high school sports teams, which are the pride of this city.

“I think people need to do things the right way, follow the rules and obey the laws, and I firmly believe in that,” said Lori Barron, the owner of Lori’s Hair A’Fairs, a beauty salon. “But in the case of Carlos, I think he may have done more for the people here than this place has ever given him. I think it’s absolutely terrible that he could be taken away.”

On Feb. 9, Mr. Hernandez, 38, was arrested by federal immigration agents near his home, not far from La Fiesta, and taken to a detention facility in Missouri. The federal authorities confirmed that he remained in custody, but would not comment on the precise reason for or timing of his arrest.

Immigration officials noted that Mr. Hernandez had two drunken-driving convictions from 2007, a circumstance that could make him a higher priority for deportation. Friends of his say he crossed into the United States from Mexico in the late 1990s and had started but never completed efforts to legalize his status.

As Victor Arana, a lawyer for Mr. Hernandez, began pressing in court to seek release for Mr. Hernandez on bond until his case can be heard, the community has rallied around him, writing pleas for leniency to the officials who will decide his fate.

Tom Jordan, the mayor of West Frankfort, wrote that Mr. Hernandez was a “great asset” to the city who “doesn’t ask for anything in return.” The fire chief described him as “a man of great character.”

The letters have piled up — from the county prosecutor, the former postmaster, the car dealer, the Rotary Club president. In his note, Richard Glodich, the athletic director at Frankfort Community High School, wrote, “As a grandson of immigrants, I am all for immigration reform, but this time you have arrested a GOOD MAN that should be used as a role model for other immigrants.”

This is an uncomfortable stance for a place like West Frankfort. This county, Franklin, backed Mr. Trump with 70 percent of the vote, largely on hopes, people here say, that he could jump-start the coal industry, which has receded painfully here over decades. Illegal immigration was by no means the most pressing issue for this overwhelmingly white area, residents say.

Still, many say they concur in principle with Mr. Trump’s wish to be more aggressive in blocking those who seek to sneak across the border. Things grew more tangled when principle met West Frankfort’s particular reality, in the form of Carlos.

Many people said they had no idea Mr. Hernandez lacked legal status until word of his arrest began spreading.

“I knew he was Mexican, but he’s been here so long, he’s just one of us,” said Debra Johnson, a resident. She said she saw a distinction between “people who come over and use the system and people who actually come and help.” . . .

Continue reading.

Trump supporters are learning an old lesson: Be careful what you wish for.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2017 at 3:59 pm

Under Jeff Sessions, the Dept of Justice turns it back on voting rights

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The Justice Department is now taking a pro-discrimination stand. Jessica Huseman reports in ProPublica:

After arguing for nearly six years that Texas’ voter ID law intentionally discriminated against minorities, the U.S. Department of Justice has informed the other plaintiffs in the case it has abandoned that position. The decision comes one day before the DOJ and the other plaintiffs were scheduled to make their latest arguments against the ID law.

“I think it is clearly a retreat from voting rights,” said Danielle Lang, deputy director of voting rights for The Campaign Legal Center, which represents plaintiffs in the case. She said her organization has been “raising alarm bells” about new Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ willingness to protect voting rights since he was nominated. Still, today’s decision disturbed her.

“The DOJ reviewed the evidence and found that Texas [passed this law] on purpose to harm minority voters,” she said. “To turn their back on that is something I’m going to reserve my ability to be outraged about.”

The DOJ declined comment. There is no indication that the DOJ plans to withdraw its argument that the Texas law was discriminatory in its effects.

Texas’ voter ID law was passed in 2011, but put on hold after the Justice Department intervened. When the Supreme Court limited the scope of the Voting Rights Act in a 2013 decision, Texas put the law into immediate effect. Texans were required to show one of seven forms of government-issued photo ID at the polls in local, statewide and federal elections.

But the law, known as SB 14, was rolled back for the November 2016 election, largely because of the DOJ’s success in arguing the law was discriminatory in intent and effect.

In a scathing 147-page ruling in October 2014, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi wrote, “The Court holds that SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.” Her ruling was stayed, pending appeal.

In July 2016, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans — widely considered the most conservative appeals court in the country — upheld Ramos’ ruling that the law had a discriminatory impact on minorities. Minorities and the poor, the appeals court said, were less likely to possess the type of ID required by the law, and the state’s “lackluster” education campaign did little to prepare voters for the changes.

But the Fifth Circuit declined to rule on whether the law had been intentionally written to discriminate against minorities, asking Ramos to reconsider this issue. This is at issue in tomorrow’s hearing. The Fifth Circuit also asked Ramos to create a temporary solution to the law’s discriminatory effect, to be in place by the November election.

Shortly before the November election, Texas and the plaintiffs reached an agreement to allow voters to fill out a waiver if they did not possess one of the seven forms of government-issued photo IDs required by the law. More than 164,000 Texans signed this affidavit during the November election, though an analysis by the Associated Press found that at least 500 Texans voted through an affidavit even though they possessed one of the necessary forms of ID.

This compromise will stay in place until a permanent solution is reached, which the Texas legislature hopes will be during this legislative session. It is now considering a billthat would essentially lock the compromise in place, and impose high criminal penalties of between two and 10 years in prison for lying on the affidavit. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has made the legislation a “priority,” which allows it a faster track. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2017 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Government, Law

Just how incompetent is the Trump administration? They were unable to find countries where the US has a trade surplus.

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Maybe they are simply stone ignorant and don’t now how to use research tools? They don’t know which departments to ask for the information? They didn’t think to call the Washington Post, in which Jeff Guo offers a helpful chart? This is the chart:

imrs2

I don’t know: the Trump administration’s performance so far gives me a better idea of why Trump had so many bankruptcies and couldn’t even make an Atlantic City casino profitable.

Jeff Guo writes:

At a meeting Thursday with the country’s top manufacturing executives, President Trump made a puzzling statement about trade. “We don’t have any good deals. In fact, I am trying to find a country where we actually have a surplus — surplus of trade. Everything is a deficit,” he said. “I actually said to my people: Find a country where we actually do well. So far, we haven’t found that country.”

Data from his own federal agencies tell a much different story. This chart shows the top 15 countries with which we run a trade surplus in goods. At the head of the list are Hong Kong, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, Belgium and Australia.

These are not obscure places. Just last week, the Trump Organization opened a golf club in the United Arab Emirates. In the early 1990s, Trump visited Hong Kong to ask a group of Chinese billionaires to help rescue him from bankruptcy. And on the campaign trail last year, Trump once called Belgium a “beautiful city.” (It’s a country.)

Since the president has widely complained about trade deals hurting the manufacturing sector, it’s also worth focusing there. This chart show the top 15 countries where the United States is running a trade surplus specifically in manufactured goods — stuff like cars and machinery and plastics, but not agricultural goods or minerals like wheat or oil.

imrs3

Our neighbor to the north tops this list, with a trade surplus of $42 billion.  In 2016, the United States sold about $210 billion worth of manufactured goods to Canada, while importing only $167 billion.

Canada doesn’t show up on the other list because we import a lot of oil and gas from up north. Thanks to that, we run a slight trade deficit in goods — about $11 billion in 2016. But remember, that difference is just a small fraction of the overall volume of trade between the United States and Canada. In 2016, we sent $267 billion worth of stuff across the border and imported about $278 billion.

So far, we’ve only looked at trade in goods because that’s what most people think of when they talk about trade — stuff zipping around the world on trucks and boats and planes. But more and more these days, trade also involves services.

Think of American banks and insurance agencies doing business with foreign clients; American consulting firms helping foreign companies; and Hollywood selling movies abroad. When foreign visitors spend money in the United States, that tourism cash also counts as an export.

Services are a big export sector for the United States: In 2016, the nation ran a $750 billion trade deficit in goods but a $250 billion trade surplus in services. . .

Continue reading. More at the link, including a chart and a video.

Trump’s massive ignorance seems to have infected his administration. This is not looking good.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2017 at 2:05 pm

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