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Archive for the ‘GOP’ Category

Trump Promotes Activist Who Called for “Final Solution” for Muslims

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Read this piece by Tim Murphy. I despair that the US is not showing any serious signs of regaining its path, given that Republicans continue to support Trump and simply will not raise their voices against him. OTOH, it does confirm everything I’ve thought about Republicans.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 July 2019 at 12:59 pm

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story

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Jason Zengerie reports in the NY Times:

On the last day of March, Kirstjen Nielsen set off for what was supposed to be a weeklong trip to Europe with a packed itinerary. In London, she would meet with British officials on counterterrorism matters, then travel on to Stockholm to discuss election security with her Swedish counterparts and finally head to Paris, where she would represent the United States at a meeting of Group of 7 interior ministers. These are some of the far-flung obligations of the secretary of homeland security, who bears responsibility for not only thwarting terrorist attacks and preventing foreign interference in American elections but also cleaning up after hurricanes and ensuring that the United States doesn’t cede control of the Arctic to Russia and China.

But the Department of Homeland Security’s mission had increasingly been telescoped into a single, all-encompassing concern. “Under Trump,” says Juliette Kayyem, a professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government who served as an assistant secretary at the department under President Barack Obama, “it’s a department that looks at homeland security only through a lens of border enforcement.” A few days before Nielsen left for London, she learned that, in March, the number of undocumented immigrants Customs and Border Protection stopped as they were crossing the country’s Southwest border would top 100,000 — the first time the monthly statistic had hit six figures in 12 years. In response, President Trump threatened to halt all cross-border traffic, people and goods between the United States and Mexico — a move that would wreak havoc not only on the Mexican economy but on the American one as well.

Nielsen went ahead with the trip to Europe and spent her flight to London ordering “emergency surge operations” on the border. At least 750 Customs and Border Protection officers assigned to process cars and trucks at ports of entry were redeployed to the border to hunt for people who crossed the border illegally. But after 24 hours in Britain, following a series of calls with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, Nielsen cut her European trip short. She rushed back to the United States to conduct a series of emergency border visits, if only to demonstrate to the president — her “audience of one,” as a Nielsen adviser described him — that she was working to fix the problem. Stockholm and Paris were scrapped in favor of El Paso; Yuma, Ariz.; and Calexico, Calif., where, on the first Friday in April, she met Trump at the Calexico Border Patrol Station.

In the squat, sand-colored building in the Sonoran Desert, Nielsen looked on as Trump held a press event with C.B.P. officers. He praised their work capturing migrants trying to cross the border and praised Mexico for its recent efforts to prevent migrants from reaching it. “I’m totally willing to close the border, but Mexico, over the last four days, has done more than they’ve ever done,” Trump said. “They’re apprehending people now by the thousands and bringing them back to their countries, bringing them back to where they came from.” During those four days, Nielsen had been in regular contact with Mexican officials, assuring them that Trump “was as serious as a heart attack about sealing the border,” a former administration official told me. When Mexico responded, the official says, “it felt like the president had been walked back from the brink.”

Then Trump charged toward a different precipice. Still speaking to the C.B.P. officers but now directing his comments to potential immigrants, he made a proclamation. “This is our new statement,” Trump said. “The system is full. Can’t take you anymore. Whether it’s asylum, whether it’s anything you want, it’s illegal immigration. We can’t take you anymore. We can’t take you. Our country is full.” Trump went on: “So turn around. That’s the way it is.”

This position had long been a bone of contention between Trump and Nielsen. A year earlier, during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general at the time, told Trump that to solve the immigration crisis, his homeland security secretary, Nielsen, simply needed to stop letting people into the country, according to two former administration officials. (Sessions could not be reached for comment.) Nielsen tried to explain that this wasn’t something she believed that she — or the United States, for that matter — could do. Under federal law and international treaties, people fleeing persecution in their home country may seek to live in safety in the United States. If someone arriving at the border requested asylum, she said, the United States could not legally turn that person away without processing the claim, and there was no legal mechanism by which the United States could hang a “no vacancy” sign at its borders.

But Trump brushed her argument aside, dressing her down for several minutes, in front of her cabinet colleagues, for being weak and naïve. The tongue-lashing was so intense that after the meeting, Nielsen discussed with Pence whether she should resign. (Pence told her she shouldn’t.)

After the C.B.P. press event, Nielsen, sporting aviator sunglasses and a navy blue quilted vest, escorted Trump across a dusty field to inspect a new section of border wall. Briefly pulling him aside from the Kevlar-clad C.B.P. officers and gun-toting local law-enforcement officials who were accompanying them, Nielsen, according to two people familiar with the conversation, reviewed with the president the options available to him short of refusing to let people in. Trump wasn’t pleased. Kevin McAleenan, then the commissioner of C.B.P., one of the agencies under the D.H.S. umbrella, was also on the wall-inspecting trip. According to two people familiar with the encounter, Trump urged him to block asylum seekers from entering the United States. If McAleenan went to prison for doing so, Trump said, he would pardon him. (The White House has denied that Trump said this.)

Flying back to Washington that evening, Nielsen arranged for a meeting with the president in the White House residence on Sunday afternoon. According to the former administration official, she intended to ask the president to create a “border czar” position, headquartered in the White House, to oversee the administration’s border and immigration policy in her place. It was an extraordinary request — a cabinet member voluntarily proposing to cede a share of her power. Before she could fully discuss it, though, Trump told her that he thought it was time for a change. Nielsen offered to step down, left the White House and wrote her resignation letter.

On Sunday night, she was preparing to leave her post, when, according to two former senior administration officials, she and her advisers received urgent calls from White House officials, asking her to stay in the job a few extra days. Trump intended to name McAleenan as acting secretary, but in order for him to do so, the White House would need to fire Nielsen’s acting deputy secretary, Claire Grady — who by law would become acting secretary once Nielsen stepped down. Nielsen would also need to rewrite the department’s orders of succession so that in the absence of a secretary and a deputy secretary, the head of C.B.P. became acting secretary.

In a subsequent conversation, Nielsen told Mulvaney, according to a person familiar with the exchange, that she thought it was a bad idea and that Trump should just nominate McAleenan to be secretary. But Mulvaney explained that Trump preferred the “flexibility” of having his homeland security secretary be an acting one. (Mulvaney currently serves as Trump’s acting chief of staff.) Nielsen acceded to Trump’s wishes. “I share the president’s goal of securing the border,” Nielsen told a gaggle of reporters outside her rowhouse in Alexandria, Va., the next morning as she headed to D.H.S. headquarters. “I will continue to support all efforts to address the humanitarian and security crisis on the border. And other than that, I’m on my way to keep doing what I can for the next few days.”

From the first day of his 2016 presidential campaign, when he used his kickoff speech in Trump Tower to rail against Mexican immigrants who were “rapists” and who were “bringing drugs” and “bringing crime” to the United States, immigration has been Trump’s lodestar. In his first week in the White House, Trump issued his “travel ban” executive order blocking citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. Last December, he shut down the federal government for five weeks — the longest government shutdown in American history — over congressional Democrats’ refusal to allocate $5 billion for the construction of a border wall. Today, Trump’s extreme focus on combating illegal immigration is manifested in the overcrowded detention facilities packed with sick, unwashed and hungry adults and children along the Southwest border.

Supporting Trump in all this are a group of immigration restrictionists — officials and advisers who have single-mindedly pursued a policy of not just cracking down on illegal border-crossing, in the manner of conventional immigration hawks, but also limiting all immigration to the best of their ability. Chief among them is Trump’s senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller. Since arriving in Washington a decade ago, Miller, who is 33, has been even more focused than Trump on reducing both illegal and legal immigration to the United States. In 2014, as an aide to Sessions — who was an Alabama senator at the time and who holds similar views — Miller worked with media allies at Breitbart and The Daily Caller to gin up conservative outrage that was instrumental in scuttling bipartisan immigration-reform legislation. In 2016, as a staff member on Trump’s presidential campaign, he not only wrote the candidate’s hard-line anti-immigration speeches but also often served as the warm-up act at his rallies. “They say, ‘Oh, well, we’re going to secure the border,’ ” Miller told a crowd in Las Vegas in June 2016. “Do they ever get it secure, folks?” The crowd roared: “Nooooooo!”

Miller is the architect of the Trump administration’s immigration policy — but staffing an entire federal government with Stephen Millers is an unrealistic proposition. Expertise and experience must be drawn on, however reluctantly; career agency employees can’t just be fired and replaced en masse. A defining conflict of the Trump administration, accordingly, has been the one between the small group of ideologues like Miller and the much bigger cadres of conventional Republican appointees who have gone to work for Trump.

For that group, Trump’s presidency has offered a Faustian bargain. Because many of the senior, thoroughly qualified Republicans who would have filled out, say, a Jeb Bush administration refused — or were refused — jobs under Trump, his presidency has provided a remarkable opportunity for more junior, or less distinguished, bureaucracy climbers to ascend to heights of government that they might not otherwise have reached anytime soon, if ever. But doing so has required them to acquiesce to, and often execute, policies that both Democratic and Republican administrations previously considered beyond the pale — all while reassuring themselves that if they were not there, the administration’s policies would be even more extreme.

Perhaps nowhere has the bargain been rendered in starker terms than in the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees most of the country’s immigration system. This article is based on interviews with more than 20 current and former department and government officials. Most of them requested anonymity so that they could speak candidly and because they feared retribution. The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a list of detailed queries regarding this article. In response to an inquiry, Hogan Gidley, the principal deputy White House press secretary, said in a statement: “These are just more baseless, phony fabrications from angry Beltway bureaucrats who oppose the president’s strong determination to create a lawful, sane immigration system that serves the American people.”

The story the current and former officials tell is one of a cabinet department buffeted by “irrational” demands and “silly ideas,” as it has struggled with its role as the tip of the spear of the president’s top policy priority. Indeed, for the past two and a half years — whether it was the travel ban or family separation or now the humanitarian crisis at the border — D.H.S. has found itself at the center of some of the Trump administration’s greatest political controversies and moral dilemmas. . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more. It’s comprehensive report.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2019 at 5:52 pm

Trump claims he tried to stop the “Send her back” chant by “speaking quickly” — check the video

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2019 at 5:23 pm

Trump hits new low, again: A summary of his descent

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From Kevin Drum’s post:

2015

July 20: Attacks John McCain for being a POW.

November 13: Compares Ben Carson to child molester.

November 21: Proposes Muslim registry.

November 23: Retweets claim that 81 percent of white people are killed by blacks.

November 26: Mocks a reporter’s disability.

December 8: Calls for ban on Muslim entry.

2016

March 8: Defends his penis size in nationally televised debate.

March 23: Attacks Ted Cruz’s wife.

March 30: Says that women who get abortions should be punished.

May 3: Suggests that Ted Cruz’s father killed JFK.

June 3: Attacks federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel.

July 27: Asks Russia to please find and release Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 emails.

August 1: After Khizr Khan accuses Trump of never sacrificing anything for his country, Trump attacks Khan and says that he has too made a lot of sacrifices, such as “building great structures.”

August 10: Suggests his supporters might want to shoot Hillary Clinton.

October 8: “Grab ’em by the pussy” tape.

October 12: More women accuse Trump of sexual assault.

October 19: Invites President Obama’s estranged half-brother to final debate.

2017

February 22: Attacks transgender children.

March 4: Accuses Obama of tapping his wires.

June 29: Accuses Mika Brzezinski of “bleeding badly from a face-lift” during a New Year’s party.

July 2: Retweets video of CNN being attacked.

August 15: Suggests that there were “very fine people on both sides” at Charlottesville.

September 30: Attacks mayor of San Juan after Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico.

October 13: Ends Obamacare cost-sharing program.

November 29: Retweets three anti-Muslim videos from the leader of an extremist British group.

2018

January 12: Shithole countries.

June 8: Begins separating children from their parents at the border.

July 5: Insists on meeting with Vladimir Putin with no one else present.

September 13: Says the 3,000 dead from Hurricane Maria is “fake news” invented by Democrats.

October 18: After murder of Jamal Khashoggi, reminds everyone that Saudi Arabia is a good customer.

And the Republican Party remains silent, an accessory after the fact and equally at fault.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2019 at 2:22 pm

E.P.A. Won’t Ban Chlorpyrifos, Pesticide Tied to Children’s Health Problems

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The attitude seems to be “Who cares about kids? They don’t vote and they don’t have much money.” Lisa Friedman reports in the NY Times:

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced it would not ban a widely used pesticide associated with developmental disabilities and other health problems in children.

The decision not to prohibit the use of the pesticide, chlorpyrifos, comes after years of legal wrangling. It represents a victory for the chemical industry and farmers who have lobbied to continue using the substance, arguing it is necessary to protect crops.

In making its ruling, the E.P.A. rejected claims that the amount of pesticide residue allowed to remain in or on treated foods was unsafe, and said that the science was unsettled.

“E.P.A. has determined that their objections must be denied because the data available are not sufficiently valid, complete or reliable to meet petitioners’ burden to present evidence demonstrating that the tolerances are not safe,” the agency said in a statement.

The agency added that it would continue to review the safety of chlorpyrifos through 2022.

The product, sold under the commercial name Lorsban, has already been banned for household use but remains in widespread use by farmers for more than 50 fruit, nut, cereal and vegetable crops.

The Obama administration decided to ban chlorpyrifos in 2015 after scientific studies produced by the E.P.A. showed the pesticide had the potential to damage brain development in children. But in 2017 Scott Pruitt, then the administrator of the E.P.A., reversed that prohibition, setting off a new round of legal challenges.

Patti Goldman, an attorney for Earthjustice, an environmental group that brought a legal challenge against the E.P.A.’s 2017 decision on behalf of farmworker organizations and others, criticized the decision.

“By allowing chlorpyrifos to stay in our fruits and vegetables, Trump’s E.P.A. is breaking the law and neglecting the overwhelming scientific evidence that this pesticide harms children’s brains,” Ms. Goldman said in a statement. . .

Continue reading.

The Trump administration is an on-going disaster.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2019 at 2:19 pm

These thoughts from Herodotus seem timely these days

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Read this post from a decade ago (31 December 2009). A propos, wouldn’t you say?

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2019 at 12:02 pm

Trump administration has gutted programs aimed at detecting weapons of mass destruction

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Donald Trump is a clear and immediate threat to national security. David Willman reports in the LA Times:

The Trump administration has quietly dismantled or cut back multiple programs that were created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to help detect and prevent terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction, a Times investigation has found.

The retreat has taken place over the last two years at the Department of Homeland Security, which has primary domestic responsibility for helping authorities identify and block potential chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

The changes, not previously reported, were made without rigorous review of potential security vulnerabilities, The Times found, undermining government-wide efforts aimed at countering terrorist attacks involving unconventional weapons, known as WMD.

More than 30 current and former Homeland Security employees and contractors voiced concern that the changes — including the cancellation of dozens of training exercises and the departure of scores of scientists and policy experts — have put Americans at greater risk.

“What we had done in the past was analytically based: Where are the threats? Where can we get the most return on the taxpayers’ investment for security?” said Paul Ryan, who until mid-2017 helped lead Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, which was merged with another office last year.

“We’re not as secure as we were 18 months ago,” said Ryan, a retired Navy rear admiral.

The cutbacks and shifts have been directed by James F. McDonnell, who has been appointed by President Trump to successive posts at Homeland Security, a long-troubled department that has seen waves of leadership changes and policy upheaval since 2017.

McDonnell declined through a Homeland Security spokeswoman to be interviewed for this report, and the department did not answer written questions submitted on June 27.

On July 15, the spokeswoman, Ruth Clemens, emailed a three-sentence statement, saying that the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, which McDonnell heads, “is focused on preventing WMD terrorism by working with federal, state, and local partners across the nation.”

It also said, “some programs were realigned or restructured to better address threats, remove bureaucratic redundancy, and fully align with [Trump’s] National Security Strategy.”

Trump pledged in that 2017 document to “augment measures to secure, eliminate, and prevent the spread of WMD and related materials … to reduce the chance that they might fall into the hands of hostile actors.”

Among the programs gutted since 2017, however, was an elite Homeland Security “red team,” whose specialists conducted dozens of drills and assessments around the country each year to help federal, state and local officials detect such potential threats as an improvised nuclear device concealed in a suitcase, or a cargo ship carrying a radiation-spewing “dirty bomb.”

Another Homeland Security unit, the Operations Support Directorate, had helped lead up to 20 WMD-related training exercises each year with state and local authorities. The directorate participated in less than 10 such exercises last year and even fewer so far this year, according to internal Homeland Security documents.

Experts at Homeland Security’s National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center had worked with counterparts throughout the federal government to strengthen detection and tracing capabilities that might deter a hostile foreign state from slipping radiological or nuclear material to terrorists.

The center has been reduced to a shell: Its leadership is out and its staff has shrunk to three positions from about 14.

A separate Homeland Security component, the International Cooperation Division, which worked closely with foreign counterparts and the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency to track and stop the smuggling of dangerous nuclear materials overseas, has been disbanded.

Also cut back was the use of specialized, mobile detection units to help protect large public events from nuclear and radiological threats. The deployments have helped train local and state responders for a potential emergency.

For the first time in years, Homeland Security did not send a unit to protect the NCAA Final Four college basketball championship in April in Minneapolis or to an annual hot air balloon festival last fall in Albuquerque.

Homeland Security also has halted work to update a formal “strategic, integrated” assessment of chemical, biological and nuclear-related risks.

The assessment had previously analyzed millions of potential WMD threat scenariosUnder a directive President George W. Bush signed in 2007, the assessment is supposed to be updated at least every other year to provide objective guidance for the government’s purchases of detection-related technologies and medications for use following an attack.

“These risk assessments are how we stay ahead of the game,” said a former Homeland Security official, one of many who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing a security clearance or other retaliation. “If we don’t keep updating those assessments, then we essentially lose the little bit of focus that we have on the problem and we really risk a strategic surprise.”

The risk assessments provide “an understanding of where to make investments that are targeted to reduce the risk of terrorism,” a current Homeland Security official added. If effective detection technologies are not put in place and if the right medications are not procured for the nation’s emergency stockpile, “that’s putting people at risk,” the official said.

Overall, more than 100 scientists and policy experts specializing in radiological and nuclear threats have been reassigned or left to take jobs unrelated to their expertise, The Times found, undermining the department’s ability to protect the nation from devastating attacks.

Similar turmoil has unfolded among those who had specialized in countering such biological threats as airborne spores of anthrax.

In the worst biological attack in U.S. history, letters laced with powdered anthrax spores were sent through the U.S. mail soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Five Americans were killed and 17 others were infected. In July 2008, an Army scientist, Bruce E. Ivins, killed himself after he learned he was about to be indicted for the anthrax deaths.

Current and and former Homeland Security officials warned in interviews that cutting back training around the country could erode readiness among those who would first confront a WMD terrorism attack.

“You keep the country safe by empowering state and local first responders who are out and about 24/7, 365 [days a year],” said one former Homeland Security official.

“The real thing could happen tomorrow with no warning,” another former official said. “And the only practice our defenders are going to have is through these ‘red team’ studies and actual exercises. That activity is necessary to ensure even basic competence.”

The changes have undermined the U.S. government’s multi-agency commitment since 2006 to build and maintain a “global nuclear detection architecture,” according to the present and former officials.

The goal, specified in legislation, was a layered network — from locations overseas to inside U.S. cities — to detect and assist the seizure of radiological or nuclear materials that could be wielded by terrorists.

McDonnell has become a formidable figure at the Department of Homeland Security since Trump named him director of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office in early 2017. In May 2018, the president promoted him to be an assistant secretary of Homeland Security, heading the new Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office.

Trump signed the legislation that formally merged the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, which was responsible for reducing the risk of radiological and nuclear terrorism, with the Office of Health Affairs, which had run BioWatch, the nation’s system for detecting potential airborne biological terrorism threats. . .

Continue reading.

This strikes me as extremely serious—and, I would guess, something Russia might want.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2019 at 7:57 am

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