george w bush administration

7

Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, made his name voting against birth control mandates in the Hobby Lobby case

The nominee has had family connections to the GOP establishment. Before he assumed the bench as a federal judge, he also served in the Justice Department during the administration of George W. Bush, and his mother had a dubious tenure at the EPA under Reagan. Gorsuch’s views on abortion have never been made clear, but there are some major warning signs.

Gifs: MSNBC

washingtonpost.com
THIS IS NOT A TEST: Federal agents conduct immigration enforcement raids in at least six states
The raids mark the first largescale immigration action since President Trump’s Jan. 26 order to crack down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living here illegally.
By https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sandhya-Somashekhar/424900341023463

U.S. immigration authorities arrested hundreds of undocumented immigrants in at least a half-dozen states this week in a series of raids that marked the first large-scale enforcement of President Trump’s Jan. 26 order to crack down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living here illegally.

The raids, which officials said targeted known criminals, also netted some immigrants who did not have criminal records, an apparent departure from similar enforcement waves during the Obama administration that aimed to just corral and deport those who had committed crimes.

Trump has pledged to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal records. Last month he also made a change to the Obama administration’s policy of prioritizing deportation for convicted criminals, substantially broadening the scope of who the Department of Homeland Security can target to include those with minor offenses or no convictions at all.

Immigration officials confirmed that agents this week raided homes and workplaces in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, the Los Angeles area, North Carolina and South Carolina, netting hundreds of people. But Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said they were part of “routine” immigration enforcement actions. ICE dislikes the term “raids,” and prefers to say authorities are conducting “targeted enforcement actions.”

Immigration activists said the crackdown went beyond the six states DHS identified, and said they had also documented ICE raids of unusual intensity during the past two days in Florida, Kansas, Texas and Northern Virginia.

That undocumented immigrants with no criminal records were arrested and could potentially be deported sent a shock through immigrant communities nationwide amid concerns that the U.S. government could start going after law-abiding people.

“This is clearly the first wave of attacks under the Trump administration, and we know this isn’t going to be the only one,” Cristina Jimenez, executive director of United We Dream, an immigrant youth organization, said Friday during a conference call with immigration advocates.

ICE agents in the Los Angeles area Thursday swept a number of individuals into custody over the course of an hour, seizing them from their homes and on their way to work in daytime operations, activists said.

David Marin, ICE’s field director in the Los Angeles area, said in a conference call with reporters Friday that 75 percent of the approximately 160 people detained in the operation this week had felony convictions; the rest had misdemeanors or were in the United States illegally. Officials said Friday night that 37 of those detained in Los Angeles has been deported to Mexico.

“Dangerous criminals who should be deported are being released into our communities,” Marin said.

A video that circulated on social media Friday appeared to show ICE agents detaining people in an Austin shopping center parking lot. Immigration advocates also reported roadway checkpoints, where ICE appeared to be targeting immigrants for random ID checks, in North Carolina and in Austin. ICE officials denied that authorities used checkpoints during the operations.

[The ‘sanctuary city’ on the front line of the fight over Trump’s immigration policy]

“I’m getting lots of reports from my constituents about seeing ICE on the streets. Teachers in my district have contacted me — certain students didn’t come to school today because they’re afraid,” said Greg Casar, an Austin city council member. “I talked to a constituent, a single mother, who had her door knocked on this morning by ICE.”

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) said he confirmed with ICE’s San Antonio office that the agency “has launched a targeted operation in South and Central Texas as part of Operation Cross Check.”

“I am asking ICE to clarify whether these individuals are in fact dangerous, violent threats to our communities, and not people who are here peacefully raising families and contributing to our state,” Castro said in a statement Friday night.

Hiba Ghalib, an immigration lawyer in Atlanta, said the ICE detentions were causing “mass confusion” in the immigrant community. She said she had heard reports of ICE agents going door-to-door in one largely Hispanic neighborhood, asking people to present their papers.

“People are panicking,” Ghalib said. “People are really, really scared.”

Immigration officials acknowledged that authorities had cast a wider net than they would have last year, as the result of Trump’s executive order.

The Trump administration is facing a series of legal challenges to that order, and on Thursday lost a court battle over a separate executive order to temporarily ban entry into the United States by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries, as well as by refugees. The administration said Friday that it is considering raising the case to the Supreme Court.

Some activists in Austin and Los Angeles suggested that the raids might be retaliation for those cities’ “sanctuary city” policies. A government aide familiar with the raids said it is possible that the predominantly daytime operations — a departure from the Obama administration’s night raids — meant to “send a message to the community that the Trump deportation force is in effect.”

Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigrant advocacy group, said that the wave of detentions harks back to the George W. Bush administration, when workplace raids to sweep up all undocumented workers were common.

The Obama administration conducted a spate of raids and also pursued a more aggressive deportation policy than any previous president, sending more than 400,000 people back to their birth countries at the height of his deportations in 2012. The public outcry over the lengthy detentions and deportations of women, children and people with minor offenses led Obama in his second term to prioritize convicted criminals for deportation.

A DHS official confirmed that while immigration agents were targeting criminals, given the broader range defined by Trump’s executive order they also were sweeping up non-criminals in the vicinity who were found to be lacking documentation. It was unclear how many of the people detained would have been excluded under Obama’s policy.

Federal immigration officials, as well as activists, said that the majority of those detained were adult men, and that no children were taken into custody.

“Big cities tend to have a lot of illegal immigrants,” said one immigration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly due to the sensitive nature of the operation. “They’re going to a target-rich environment.”

Immigrant rights groups said that they were planning protests in response to the raids, including one Friday evening in Federal Plaza in New York City and a vigil in Los Angeles.

“We cannot understate the level of panic and terror that is running through many immigrant communities,” said Walter Barrientos of Make the Road New York in New York City, who spoke on a conference call with immigration advocates.

“We’re trying to make sure that families who have been impacted are getting legal services as quickly as possible. We’re trying to do some legal triage,” said Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership, which provides assistance and advocacy work to immigrants in Austin. “It’s chaotic,” he said. The organization’s hotline, he said, had been overwhelmed with calls.

Jeanette Vizguerra, 35, a Mexican house cleaner whose permit to stay in the country expired this week, said Friday during the conference call that she was newly apprehensive about her scheduled meeting with ICE next week.

Fearing deportation, Vizguerra, a Denver mother of four — including three who are U.S. citizens — said through an interpreter that she had called on activists and supporters to accompany her to the meeting.

“I know I need to mobilize my community, but I know my freedom is at risk here,” Vizguerra said.

Culture Shock: Everything You Need To Know About ‘Battlestar Galactica’

In 2004, Sci-Fi’s reboot of ‘Battlestar Galactica’ became a cult hit by combining action-packed sci-fi with insightful social commentary. Whether you’re a fan of the show or you’ve never seen an episode, here’s what you need to know about the groundbreaking television series.

The robotic Cylons want to exterminate humanity because they hate George W. Bush: Battlestar Galactica aired during the Bush administration’s war on terror, and included clever political allegories like having the Cylons really dislike George W. Bush. Throughout the series, Cylon centurions scream anti-Bush messages like “Bush lost the popular vote!” and “Buck fush!” whenever they attack human colonists.

Galactica is trying to find Earth so they can see a giraffe: At the start of the series, most of the Galactica’s crew doesn’t even believe that giraffes exist. The ancient legends of a very tall animal that is fun to look at are dismissed as mere myth. Before beginning the quest for giraffes, Commander Adama has to rally humanity with his inspirational “A Cow Is Not The Tallest Creature There Is” speech.

Humans can have sex with robots, but your junk is going to get a little pinched: The Cylons created humanoid robots to infiltrate mankind, and these replicas are so convincing that the only way to tell them apart from real humans is that robot genitals nip a bit. Sex with robots still feels pretty good, but you’re going to end up with a welt or two down there by the time you orgasm.

Kara “Starbuck” Thrace is an ace fighter pilot but is terrified she’s going to have to pay for all the gas she’s using: Starbuck became a fan-favorite character with her badass attitude and elite fighting skills, but displayed a softer side with her fears that someone was going to send her a bill for all the spaceship fuel. Before entering dogfights, Starbuck would always radio Galactica and ask, “Is the gas still free?” just to double check. Being afraid of getting a whopping jet-fuel bill was a trait that brought real depth and complexity to Starbuck’s character.

The show took a religious turn by having Jesus join the main cast in the final season: In the season-four episode “Fortunate Son,” Galactica encounters Jesus flying through space and invites him aboard for dinner. Commander Adama and Jesus get along so well that Christ asks to join the ship’s crew, and he puts his miraculous powers of healing to good use as chief medical officer. Fans are still divided whether it was a smart decision to explicitly show that Christ is real and has magic powers in an otherwise grounded show, but there’s no denying that Jesus is one of the most memorable sci-fi characters of all time.

America has always had guns. It has not always had mass shootings. And I find it mighty interesting that all the liberals screaming that conservatives and legal gunowners are somehow responsible for the rise in gun crime fail to mention that some of the deadliest mass shootings in our nation’s history have occurred under the current liberal administration. You would think that evil Republican George W. Bush would’ve seen several massacres under his administration if that were really the case.

Tim McIlrath on Rise Against and the new album "Wolves".

The darkest moments in history—those when fear and hate trump all else—are the times that define us. As politicians use bigoted rhetoric to gain power at home and abroad, and fringe groups creep from the shadows, it’s tempting to succumb to despair and defeatism. But Rise Against is challenging fans to create a bold new identity together: one that is stronger than these setbacks, and bigger than any election. WOLVES, their 8th studio release, is about recognizing the power within all of us; it’s a primal call for the prey to become the hunters.

“If you are in the wilderness and you hear wolves howling, what you’re hearing might be an animal lost or mourning,” says Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath. “But it doesn’t make you any less afraid. You know they’re there. And you know what this powerful pack of animals is capable of.”

For 18 years, Rise Against has kept its moral compass steady, using their international punk platform to speak out for social justice.

The band cut its teeth during the George W. Bush administration and has released records across three presidencies, but today’s political climate forced the band to step back and rethink how they define themselves.

The record was originally titled “Mourning in America,” but after the U.S. presidential election that rang hollow. It felt somber and hopeless. Members of the band felt those emotions, too, but decided they needed to create an album that focused more on our potential than our failings. They knew it needed teeth and claws. The result is WOLVES, a soundtrack for the hunt.

“In many ways, a Rise Against show is a safe space for our fans,” McIlrath says. “But I realized that I don’t only want to create safe spaces, I want to create dangerous spaces where misogyny can’t exist, where xenophobia can’t exist. I want to create spaces where those sentiments don’t have any air, and they suffocate: where those ideas die. WOLVES isn’t about creating a safe space, it’s about creating a space that’s dangerous for injustice.”

The influence of the U.S. presidential election can clearly be heard in songs like “Walls” (“the monsters lost in history are now making their return”) and “Welcome to the Breakdown” (“ignoring the facts, intoxicated by the throne”). WOLVES is of course shaped by the new presidency, but it’s not limited to it. There is a spirt of resistance and optimism here that transcends our current crisis, and will outlast any politician.

Like all Rise Against records, the band tackles political struggles alongside personal ones, creating songs as complex as their fans. On tracks like “House on Fire” and “Politics of Love,” one can hear echoes of the iconic punk/folk songwriter Billy Bragg in McIlrath’s words; the personal is political, the political is personal, and it’s all rooted in a revolutionary, uncompromising love.

This evolution in Rise Against’s identity came against the backdrop of other changes for the band. For 11 years, they had worked closely with producer Bill Stevenson, of the Descendents and Black Flag fame. With Descendents on tour and Stevenson tied up, Rise Against stepped out of their comfort zone and began working with Nick Raskulinecz, the Grammy-winning producer who has partnered with Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, and Deftones.

Recording with Raskulinecz meant moving to Nashville, Tennessee—far from the band’s familiar worlds of Chicago and Los Angeles, and a firmly red state where Rise Against has rarely played. Political yard signs and conversations around town were constant reminders to the band that they were in new territory. And even though Nashville is a music town, it’s country—not punk or hardcore. During the band’s five months in the area, these outsider feelings shaped the identity of WOLVES.

Living in the South transformed the record in some unexpected ways. “As people on the news are arguing about immigration and class warfare, we are driving down the highway and seeing Civil War battlefields and monuments,” McIlrath says. “When you tour these battlefields, you hear about what kind of muskets they used. But shouldn’t we be talking about what got us to that point as a country?”

As further evidence of the geographic influence on the record, it’s comprised not just of anthems of resistance, but also reconciliation. Living in Nashville drove home that we can’t just focus on our differences, McIlrath says. If we can stop and talk to each other, face to face, we might realize our common ground. We are all wolves in the same pack, circling at the gates.

“They say we’re divided, we are conquered,” McIlrath sings. “But our enemies have never been each other.”

anonymous asked:

Could you clearly explain what the term neoliberalism actually means? Because it is used so often to describe such a variety of things but always in a vague manner

Neoliberalism, as I and others talk about it, is a broad ideology that really started becoming popular in political, economic, and governmental circles in the 1970’s and reached its peak in global popularity in the 1980’s. It describes the political paradigm we are in right now, the political conditions of modern society. As the name suggests, it calls for a revitalization of the classical liberal view of economic policy. Concretely, this means free trade, low taxes, deregulation, privatization, and balanced budgets.

This post is going to shortly explain the neoliberal story as it took place in America. I only mention the experiences in other nations at the end for brevity, relevance to my followers and I, and because I don’t understand them as well as I understand America’s.


Neoliberalism emerged as a reaction to the Keynesian welfare state politics that had become popular in the West. In the 1970’s, the American economy was experiencing a phenomenon called “stagflation”- simultaneous stagnation and inflation- that the old-school Keynesians who had been the dominant group in American economics had believed to be impossible for any extended period of time. In the intellectual gap their failure left, economists like Milton Friedman made the case not only for a different approach to monetary policy in order to solve stagflation, but also for the idea that many forms of governmental involvement in the economy being harmful. Others, like James Buchanan, made the case to the economics profession that government bureaucrats acted in selfish self-interest, not the public interest, and thus that policy prescriptions should be much more cautious in calling for governmental solutions to economic issues.

At the same time, businesses began to be more aggressive in asserting their interests in politics. This development was prompted in part by soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. writing a memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1971 arguing that “the American economic system is under attack” from progressive critics of big business, and that the business community should fight back. A number of conservative and libertarian think tanks and advocacy organizations were created and expanded in order to make the intellectual case for “freer” capitalism, including the Heritage Foundation (1973), the Cato Institute (1974), and the American Enterprise Institute (founded in 1938 but became influential during the 1970′s).

Take all of these trends, throw in increased public skepticism of government after Vietnam and Watergate, and you have a recipe for fundamental political change.

Between the economic disarray, the public distrust, and both intellectual and financial support for an alternative to post-war welfare statism, a new ideology became dominant in the political sphere. This ideology was encapsulated by Ronald Reagan, who summed it up perfectly with his famous quote: “in this current crisis, government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem.”

That’s is standard conservative fare today, but we forget how radical both that message and Reagan himself were at the time. I’ve noted before that, even at the time of his election, Reagan was seen by some as too far right to win. The last (elected) Republican president before him, Nixon, created the EPA, OSHA, and a number of other progressive programs. He also called for healthcare reform even stronger than Obamacare, and an expansion of welfare, the latter of which was the inspiration for the Earned Income Tax Credit, passed shortly after he left office. Parts of Nixon’s economic agenda (but not many other parts of his agenda, I should note) were noticeably left-wing, so much so that one journalist at the time noted that he left the Democrats having to resort to “metooism.”

But Nixon was simply responding to political pressures from the left, the same pressures that had forced LBJ’s hand with civil rights legislation and the war on poverty. In the late 1970’s, those pressures began to be outweighed by increasing pressure from businesses in the direction of neoliberalism. This started under Jimmy Carter, who oversaw the cautious deregulation of airlines and the trucking industry. However, it was Reagan who truly delivered the neoliberal agenda in America and institutionalized it into government.

The Reagan era also saw the start of the growth in importance of campaign donations. Republicans had not only a strong base of think tanks to provide them with a network of intellectual support, they also had far more donations from the corporate interests they were serving. Congressional Republicans beat their Democratic counterparts in campaign expenditures in every election year from 1976-1992.

Traditionally, Democrats had relied on unions as a critical source of both campaign donations and organizational support. With union strength declining (thanks, in part, to attacks by the Reagan administration), the Democrats were being totally outgunned. Recognizing that the game has changed, a number of Democrats (including one Bill Clinton) joined together in the Democratic Leadership Council with the stated goal of dragging the Democratic Party to the right and boosting campaign contributions. They succeeded. When Clinton eventually won the presidency, he cemented neoliberalism as the law of the land by making it clear that the Democrats would not challenge the fundamental new doctrine of limited government involvement in many parts of the economy, and as a result made the Democrats competitive again. (Read Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson’s “Winner-Take-All Politics” and Thomas Ferguson and Joel Roger’s “Right Turn” for more on this issue).

Instead of challenging the entirety of Reagan’s assertion of government as problem, Clinton espoused a “third way” ideology: in his second inauguration, Clinton said that “Government is not the problem, and Government is not the solution. We—the American people—we are the solution.” Though he made concessions to left-liberal voters with things like mild tax hikes on the wealthy, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Family Medical Leave Act, he continued the neoliberal march of rolling back progressive achievements through the deregulation of Wall Street, conservative reform of welfare, NAFTA, and gutting public housing.

Clinton himself was aware of the way that American politics was moving to the right, and he was sometimes frustrated with it. Allegedly, he once entered a meeting in the Oval Office complaining:

Where are all the Democrats? I hope you’re all aware we’re all Eisenhower Republicans. We’re Eisenhower Republicans here, and we are fighting the Reagan Republicans. We stand for lower deficits and free trade and the bond market. Isn’t that great?

But he didn’t really do anything to slow the process. Most of the Democratic Party accepts their role doing nothing more than, to borrow a phrase from Roberto Unger, “to put a softer face on the agenda of their conservative opponents.” They’re there to make things a bit better for the little guy here and there, but never to fundamentally shake up the political-economic system in any way. This is why people will refer to many Democrats as neoliberals even when they don’t literally advocate for a “free market.”

As a result, the Republicans continued to push further right under the leadership of Newt Gingrich. The Democrats started to dig their heels in and push back a little for the first time during the later part of the George W. Bush administration as his (and the wars’) approval ratings sank, and they now seem to have stabilized more or less. An increasingly loud progressive wing of the party continues to push for the type of reforms that would have been center-left in the 1960’s, but the party establishment is now fine just holding on to ideological territory to the right of where it was several decades ago.

With the establishment of both parties accepting neoliberal ideology, it achieved status as what Antonio Gramsci called “cultural hegemony”: because the most powerful class of America accepted it as fact, it was instilled into the American consciousness as “common sense” that can’t be seriously challenged. Ex.) “You want to raise taxes to pay for universal healthcare? That’s ridiculous, everyone knows taxes need to be cut, even the Democrats want tax cuts for the middle class!,” “Everyone agrees there’s too much regulation today,” etc.

But things are changing. What we’re seeing now in this election is the collapse of neoliberalism’s hegemony. Republican elites took neoliberalism being their root organizing principle for granted while running campaigns utilizing dog whistle racism (that’s a whole post in itself), never realizing that they were attracting a base of voters who hated immigrants a lot more than regulation. The Republicans have drifted so far to the right that unabashed nationalists like Trump can now take the lead of the party, even though he’s running on racist xenophobia and protectionism that are in conflict with neoliberal ideals. The Tea Party was the first hiccup, and Trump is the new one. The GOP’s electoral strategy is coming back to haunt them.

Even during their neoliberalization, the Democrats always had a left-wing occupied by social democrats who wanted to continue the progress that was abandoned in the late 70’s. They were empowered by both opposition to the Iraq War late in the Bush era and the subsequent economic crash that occurred as a result of neoliberal deregulation of the finance sector. Obama ran as a semi-progressive but governed as a standard Democrat who wanted no fundamental changes (Obamacare instead of single-payer, Dodd-Frank instead of reshaping the finance system, etc.), leaving progressive disappointment and frustration to rise to the surface again once a primary was held to determine who would be the Democratic candidate after Obama. Thus, the Bernie phenomenon.

I think that the collapse of neoliberalism is embedded in the formula of neoliberalism itself, very similar to Marxist views about how capitalism creates its own life-threatening crises (which, I should clarify, I don’t believe). Neoliberal globalization results in devastating deindustrialization in blue collar parts of America, leaving a class of people unemployed and feeling totally forgotten by their government, especially since government aid to the poor is often seen as shameful in a hyperindividualist neoliberal environment. This prompts an inevitable political reaction. The center-left (ex. Clinton) and center-right (ex. Jeb Bush) sing the praises of neoliberal globalization, the left (ex. Sanders) vigorously attacks the “neoliberal” part, and the far-right vigorously attacks the “globalization” part (ex. Trump). If you can’t tell, my position on the left leaves me disliking neoliberalism and believing that the far-right’s disdain for all forms of globalization is a distraction and misidentification of the root issue, using foreigners and people of color as scapegoats.

A number of other industrialized countries have underwent neoliberalization on roughly the same time frame and are now experiencing similar backlashes: The U.K., neoliberalized under Thatcher, now has UKIP, Jeremy Corbyn, and social democratic Scottish nationalists. France has the National Front. Germany has the AfD and Pegida. New Zealand has New Zealand First. Sweden has the Sweden Democrats. Spain has Podemos. Neoliberalism was pushed on much of Latin America through the “Washington Consensus” doctrine of the U.S. government and international finance organizations like the IMF, leading to a revitalization of Latin American left-populism in many countries.

There are exceptions of course: Australia, weirdly enough, doesn’t have as much far-right or far-left activity as the other nations, as far as I’m aware. Mexican politics don’t have very strong far-right and far-left forces either right now, though the Zapatista movement was undoubtably the type of response I’m talking about. Russian politics are odd enough that it’s kinda hard to determine whether what’s going on there is the result of their neoliberal shock therapy after the fall of the USSR or not.

Regardless, the only countries where neoliberalism has had serious economic success are nations with authoritarian political systems that can suppress dissent: neoliberalism was forced upon the people of Chile under the brutal rule of Pinochet, and China underwent large scale economic liberalization under the brutal rule of Deng. For all of the other problems that may have occurred, both resulted in astonishing economic growth. Regardless, these experiences seem to directly conflict with the classical liberal argument of a strong correlation between a laissez-faire economy and political democracy, at least at all points on the curve.

This post is already way too long, and I’ve probably tried to cover too much, but the concept of neoliberalism is so important to understanding our modern world that I feel like all of this is important to cover.

White House forgoes traditional dinner commemorating Ramadan

Washington, June 26 (IANS) The White House did not host a traditional Iftar dinner to commemorate Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, for the first time in nearly two decades, a media report said on Monday.


Despite events held by previous administrations, this year’s Ramadan passed nearly unobserved by the White House. It was marked only by a statement published late Saturday coinciding with the end of the holy month, reports the Guardian.

The first White House Iftar dinner was hosted by President Thomas Jefferson in 1805.

Hillary Clinton resurrected the event when she was First Lady in February 1996, hosting about 150 people for a reception for Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month.

The sunset dinner, attended by legislators, diplomats and leaders within the US Muslim community, went on to become an annual tradition from 1999, observed by the past three administrations.

George W. Bush held an Iftar dinner every year of his two terms, including just after the September 2001 terror attacks.

President Barack Obama hosted his first Ramadan dinner in 2009 and subsequently every year of his Presidency.

The Washington Post reported that Saturday’s White House statement was signed by Donald and Melania Trump and was not posted to the President’s social media presences.

It read: “Muslims in the US joined those around the world during the holy month of Ramadan to focus on acts of faith and charity.

"Now, as they commemorate Eid with family and friends, they carry on the tradition of helping neighbours and breaking bread with people from all walks of life. During this holiday, we are reminded of the importance of mercy, compassion and goodwill. With Muslims around the world, the US renews our commitment to honour these values. Eid Mubarak.”

Last year, then Presidential candidate Trump told an ABC News interview that he would be open to continuing the tradition of hosting the dinner if he were in the White House.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also broke with tradition by not hosting an Iftar dinner at the State Department.

–IANS

ksk/mr

From Episode 8, "Death Star's Transit"
Brian Daley, National Public Radio
From Episode 8, "Death Star's Transit"

The Empire tortured people, just because it could.

“The law no longer applies to you.” — Lord Vader

Brian Daley, writer of the NPR radio dramas and perhaps the patron saint of this Tumblr blog, was very careful to contextualize the events of the Original Trilogy as a “revolution.” He was so focused on this that each episode of the radio dramatization begins with “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a revolution…” He recognized that to explore the motivations of characters like Luke and Leia, he needed a relatable form of wickedness for the Empire to engage in. He decided on torture. And as heard in the chilling clip above, I’d say he hit his target a little too close to the mark.

Keep reading

2

Why are conservatives afraid of Neil deGrasse Tyson?

I really liked some of the points made in this article save for the Bill Maher’s comment, didn’t really need it. But the general point made about a scientifically literate public bringing a political fallout was spot on.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has been the recipient of a seemingly bizarre political backlash — after the conservative magazine National Review penned a takedown cover story on the “Cosmos” host last week depicting him as a smug, intellectual bully.

The story struck many as odd given Tyson’s gentle, geeky presentation style. Comedian Bill Maher had Tyson on his HBO show over the weekend, trying to make sense of the backlash.

“You’re a scientist, and a black one, who’s smarter than [conservatives] are,” Maher quipped.

The line got laughs, but it’s worth remembering that Tyson served the George W. Bush administration as a member of the Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond in 2004. Conservatives have no problem harnessing Tyson’s intellect.

No, the danger Tyson brings to the political structure, as he gains an increasingly large foothold in the popular culture, is the threat of an informed populace.

“When you’re scientifically literate, the world looks different to you,” Tyson wrote in 2011. “It’s a particular way of questioning what you see and hear. When empowered by this state of mind, objective realities matter. These are the truths of the world that exist outside of whatever your belief system tells you.”

That may not sound radical, but the promise of a large, nerdy, young voting block that subscribes to Tyson’s sentiment is a threat to the political status quo — certainly Republicans, but Democrats as well.

Imagine if millions of young Tyson fans stopped searching for facts to confirm their personal biases, or ceased prioritizing using their education to leverage personal wealth, and instead sought the most sound solutions to identifiable problems for the betterment of the species. If the rising generation of young voters actually starts demanding rational, evidence-guided leadership, few in our current crop of elected officials would survive the political fallout.

Consider this: In 1995, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment — a nonpartisan panel of scientists and researchers assembled to offer objective technical guidance to Congress on scientifically complex issues — was stripped of all funding, effectively shutting it down. (Officially, it still exists on paper.) It has remained unfunded ever since. (Thanks, Newt Gingrich.) An attempt in May to provide a paltry $2.5 million to the office was stymied by House Republicans.

In a world where advanced technology has infiltrated nearly every corner of our lives — raising a litany of technical, ethical and legal challenges — our government is willfully scientifically illiterate.

The reason this status quo has been allowed to persist is that the general population isn’t much better. Conservatives continue to fight any attempts to combat climate change, while many liberals are refusing to vaccinate their children over fears of a nonexistent link to autism. It wouldn’t be hard to predict a liberal backlash against Tyson, similar to the one we’re seeing from conservatives, if he were to speak more prominently about his endorsement of genetically modified foods — one of the more scientifically unfounded banner arguments of the left.

Tyson is a threat to this cone of ignorance and self-interest. He’s a champion of knowledge and the human potential. He brings the fundamental belief that our species is destined for something greater than the interminable squabble between self-interested individuals and rival nations and dwindling resources — that our collective efforts can be applied to the pursuit of knowledge, ultimately paving the way for our exploration of the galaxy.

That’s a vision people can get behind. It’s also one that could potentially upend everything we know.

bzfd.it
Trump Health Adviser Worked To Kill US Funding For HIV/AIDS Research
During the Bush administration, Katy Talento claimed HIV/AIDS research money was going to support Russian prostitution.
By John Stanton

President-elect Donald Trump’s new health policy adviser, Katy Talento, tried to kill funding for HIV/AIDS research by claiming the money was going to support Russian prostitution, and she has suggested women can avoid the Zika virus by having their husbands sleep on top of the covers at night.

Former Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat who fought efforts by conservatives to eliminate AIDS research funding during the George W. Bush administration, told BuzzFeed News, “This appointment raises a lot of alarm bells.”

“This is a key position in the White House for health policy,” Waxman said, adding that he is concerned Talento may represent a new push against contraception and efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.

“I hope this administration is not going to roll back the clock … on what we can do to prevent sexually transmitted diseases,” Waxman said.

Talento has a master’s of science degree from Harvard University, and according to the Trump transition team’s press release on her appointment, she has “worked in the field on disease control programs in the U.S. and in Africa.” A biography posted at the Leadership Institute, where Talento serves as a volunteer faculty member, says she has also focused on “HIV prevention among injection drug users in the U.S. and Russia.” Talento is also a veteran Senate staffer who has worked on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, as well as for Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican.

The announcement was met with alarm from women’s health groups, who have taken issue with Talento’s belief that oral contraceptives can cause abortion, despite a clear consensus among researchers that they do not.

Talento’s recommendations for avoiding the Zika virus, blamed for severe birth defects in infants, have also raised eyebrows. In January she published a list of tips for avoiding the virus. While many of the recommendations are fairly standard — avoiding areas where mosquitos breed and using bug repellent, for instance — they also suggest that women “sleep with your husband, with you snug under the covers and him on top of the covers, offering himself as human sacrifice to the mosquitos, who will pick the easier target.”

There appears to be no basis for the notion that this would protect pregnant women. “I don’t know where she’s getting her data from,” said Dr. Nikos Vasilakis, a Zika expert at the University of Texas.

Continue reading.

4

Trump Fired The FBI Chief. Now An FBI Veteran Is Hired To Probe The Trump Team.

By Matt Ferner

Former Director Robert Mueller draws broad support as “impeccable” and “no-nonsense.”

One week after President Donald Trump fired the head of the FBI and raised fears about the future of the agency’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, the Department of Justice has appointed a widely admired former FBI director to lead an independent inquiry.

The newly named special counsel, Robert Mueller, was James Comey’s predecessor as FBI director. He and Comey drew widespread attention, and admiration, in an infamous showdown during the George W. Bush administration.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/robert-mueller-fbi-director-special-counsel-reaction_us_591ccbd6e4b094cdba50f098?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009

https://popolitiko.tumblr.com/archive/

Operation Just cause

snhooah81 ha dicho: Glad I could help, support or what not. More Panama “Operation Just Because” stuff please.

The United States Invasion of Panama, code-named Operation Just Cause, was the invasion of Panama by the United States between mid-December 1989 and late-January 1990. It occurred during the administration of U.S. President George H. W. Bush, and ten years after the Torrijos–Carter Treaties were ratified to transfer control of the Panama Canal from the United States to Panama by 1 January 2000.

During the invasion, de facto Panamanian leader, general, and dictator Manuel Noriega was deposed, president-elect Guillermo Endara sworn into office, and the Panamanian Defense Force dissolved.

washingtonpost.com
Trump has fired the acting attorney general who ordered Justice Dept. not to defend president’s travel ban
The White House in a statement said Sally Yates has “betrayed” the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce the executive order and has named Dana Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, as acting attorney general. Boente said he will agree to enforce the order.
By https://www.facebook.com/markberman

President Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates Monday night, after Yates ordered Justice Department lawyers Monday not to defend his immigration order temporarily banning entry into the United States for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world.

In a press release, the White House said Yates had “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”

The White House has named Dana Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, as acting attorney general.  Boente told The Washington Post that he will agree to enforce the immigration order.

Earlier on Monday, Yates ordered Justice Department not to defend President Trump’s immigration order temporarily banning entry into the United States for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world, declaring in a memo that she is not convinced the order is lawful.

Yates wrote that, as the leader of the Justice Department, she must ensure that the department’s position is “legally defensible” and “consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”

“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful,” Yates wrote.  She wrote that “for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”

Yates is a holdover from the Obama administration, but the move nonetheless marks a stunning dissent to the president’s directive from someone who would be on the front lines of implementing it.

Also Monday, State Department diplomats circulated various drafts of a memo objecting to Trump’s order, which was issued Friday.  The document is destined for what’s known as the department’s Dissent Channel, which was set up during the Vietnam War as a way for diplomats to signal to senior leadership their disagreement on foreign policy decisions.  More than 100 diplomats have signed the memo, which argues that the immigration ban will not deter attacks on American soil but will generate ill will toward U.S. citizens.

What will happen next is unclear.  A Justice Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said those who would normally defend the order under Yates’s authority can no longer do so.  Yates will probably be replaced soon by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s attorney general nominee, who could be confirmed as early as Thursday or Friday.  The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider his nomination Tuesday, and the entire Senate must wait one day before voting.

A spokeswoman for Sessions declined to comment.  A White House spokeswoman did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

White House domestic policy adviser Stephen Miller said on MSNBC that Yates’s decision was “a further demonstration of how politicized our legal system has become.”

“It’s sad that our politics have become so politicized that you have people refusing to enforce our laws,” Miller said.

A Justice Department official familiar with the matter said Yates felt she was in an “impossible situation” and had been struggling with what to do about a measure she did not consider lawful.  A Justice official confirmed over the weekend that the department’s office of legal counsel had been asked to review the measure to determine if it was “on its face lawful and properly drafted.”

In her memo, though, Yates said her role was broader.  She wrote that an office of legal counsel review does “not address whether any policy choice embodied in an Executive Order is wise or just,” nor does it “take account of statements made by an administration or its surrogates close in time to the issuance of an Executive Order that may bear on the order’s purpose.”

That could be a reference to Trump’s campaign trail comments about a “Muslim ban” or the recent assertion by Trump surrogate Rudolph W. Giuliani that the president had asked him “the right way to do it legally.”

Yates’s memo came as civil rights lawyers and others across the country increased the pressure on Trump on Monday to dial back the ban — filing or threatening to file legal challenges to the executive order as they worked to determine if people were still being improperly denied entry or detained.

The defiant legal conclusion from the country’s top law enforcement official will surely boost their arguments.  Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who worked on one of the legal challenges, said, “It sends a very strong message that there’s something very wrong with the Muslim ban.”

Just days after stepping down from office, former president Barack Obama weighed in through a spokesman, seeming to back those demonstrating against Trump’s decree and declaring his opposition to “discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”

Obama said that he was “heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country” — an apparent reference to protests at airports nationwide.  He also disputed Trump’s claim that his ban was based on Obama administration decisions.

Separately, more than 100 former Cabinet secretaries and senior national security and military officials from the Obama, George W. Bush and other administrations called on the current and acting heads of the Departments of Justice, State and Homeland Security to dial back enforcement of the order.

But George J. Terwilliger III, a deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration, said Yates’s memo was a “foolish, naked political move by what appears to be an ambitious holdover official” that would only create “unnecessary disorder.”

“She has to be asked to resign immediately,” Terwilliger said.  “Look, the executive branch of our government is unitary.  There’s only one boss, and that boss has spoken.   If some subordinate official thinks that his direction is illegal, than the choice is to resign.”

Even as Yates issued her memo, civil rights advocates said they still had significant questions about how the executive order was being enforced and even who it might be affecting.

A lawsuit in Virginia claimed that dozens of people may have been forced to give up their green cards by Customs and Border Protection agents, though that figure could not immediately be substantiated.  Lawyers in Los Angeles said they had received similar reports, though they were still exploring them.

Lawyers were also working to determine if anyone might still be in custody.

The ACLU’s Gelernt said that lawyers were “having trouble independently verifying anything because the government will not provide full access to all the detainees.”  Of particular concern, he said, was that the government had not turned over a list of detainees, as it had been ordered to do by a federal judge in New York.  He said lawyers might be back in federal court in the next day or so to forcibly get access to it.

The ACLU’s suit in New York is perhaps the most significant of a growing number of legal challenges to the order.  The Council on American-Islamic Relations also filed a sweeping challenge Monday, alleging that the order is meant “to initiate the mass expulsion of immigrant and non-immigrant Muslims lawfully residing in the United States.”  The lawsuit lists 27 plaintiffs, many of them lawful permanent residents and refugees who allege that Trump’s order will deny them citizenship or prevent them from traveling abroad and returning home.   Lawyers with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project filed a similar challenge in Washington state.

Bob Ferguson, Washington state’s attorney general, said Monday that he, too, plans to file a federal lawsuit seeking an immediate halt to the order’s implementation — making him the first state official to do so.  That lawsuit has the support of Microsoft and Amazon, two companies based in Washington state.  (Amazon owner Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post in his personal capacity and has voiced Amazon’s opposition to the order personally).

The White House, meanwhile, continued to defend Trump’s executive order.   White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that one lawsuit “doesn’t make any sense” and sought to minimize the action as simply subjecting 109 people to more rigorous screening.

According to State Department statistics, about 90,000 people received nonimmigrant or immigrant visas in fiscal year 2015 from the seven countries affected by Trump’s executive order.

[Some international passengers entering the U.S. more easily, but members of Congress say they’re still not getting answers]

Ed O’Keefe, Rachel Weiner, Ellen Nakashima, Juliet Eilperin, John Wagner and Carol Morello contributed to this report.

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants.  He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole.  Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right.  Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.  To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.  Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else.  But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.”  ― Theodore Roosevelt, The Kansas City Star, 18 May 1918

“If you’re not with me, you’re fired.” – Donald Trump, 30 January 2017

White House officials have decided that President Obama will not use the word “genocide” to describe the killings of more than 1 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks when he commemorates the deaths Friday, the 100th anniversary of the massacres.

The decision, revealed Tuesday in a meeting with Armenian American groups, backs down from a previous Obama pledge.

“As president I will recognize the Armenian Genocide,” Obama said while running for president in 2008.

His decision not to do so now sparked anger from activists.

“The president’s surrender represents a national disgrace,” said Aram S. Hamparian, executive director of the Washington-based Armenian National Committee of America. “It is a betrayal of the truth, and it is a betrayal of trust.”

White House officials defended the decision as necessary to preserve the chance of cooperation with Turkey, a NATO ally, on Middle Eastern conflicts.

The Turkish Embassy, which has spent millions lobbying Congress on the issue, did not respond to a request for comment. the Turkish government has said that the mass killings do not meet the legal definition of genocide and that it would be a mistake for the U.S. to use the term. Some members of Congress have also warned that a shift in official U.S. references could hurt American foreign policy.

California has the country’s largest population of people of Armenian descent, with more than 200,000 living in Los Angeles County, according to U.S. Census data.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), who has led efforts in Congress to recognize the genocide, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the decision.

“How long must the victims and their families wait before our nation has the courage to confront Turkey with the truth about the murderous past of the Ottoman Empire? If not this president, who spoke so eloquently and passionately about recognition in the past, whom? If not after 100 years, when?” he said in a statement.

After the meeting with Armenian American groups, White House officials released a statement that did not use the word “genocide.” The statement from National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the U.S. would use the anniversary of the onset of the massacres to “urge a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts that we believe is in the interest of all parties.”

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to comment on a diplomatically delicate issue, said the White House expects Obama to mark “the historical significance” of the Meds Yeghern, as the massacres are known in Armenian.

“We know and respect that there are some who are hoping to hear different language this year. We understand their perspective,” the official said.

But, the official added, “the approach we have taken in previous years remains the right one, both for acknowledging the past, and for our ability to work with regional partners to save lives in the present,” a reference to U.S. hope for cooperation from Turkey, particularly in the civil war in Syria.

White House national security advisor Susan Rice met Tuesday afternoon with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and urged him “to take concrete steps to improve relations with Armenia and to facilitate an open and frank dialogue in Turkey about the atrocities of 1915,” the White House said in a statement.

Hamparian said he and other Armenian American leaders learned the news at their White House meeting, which was attended by Denis McDonough, Obama’s chief of staff, and Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor.

During the meeting, which lasted just short of an hour, Hamparian said, the group was told that the U.S. would send a delegation to Armenia this week, led by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.

Serbia, Croatia did not commit genocide, U.N.’s top court says

The delegation will also include Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), who said in a statement, “I intend to call it what it was — I will call it a genocide everywhere I go.”

An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed starting in 1915 amid the chaotic collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Whether to use the word “genocide” to describe those killings has been a fraught political issue for years. Turkish officials base their argument that the killings do not meet the definition of genocide on the claim that no deliberate plan to eliminate Armenian populations was involved. Most historians, however, have concluded that the use of the word is appropriate.

U.S. administrations of both parties have resisted using the word out of deference to Turkey.

Activists had hoped Obama would change that this year, particularly after Pope Francis referred to genocide in a statement just over a week ago.

“Given Pope Francis and his statement, the European Parliament, the German chancellor [Angela Merkel], all coming out in the last many days encouraging Turkey to come to terms with its past, we had hoped and expected that President Obama would have done the same,” said Bryan Ardouny, executive director of Armenian Assembly of America.

Obama, as a senator and a candidate for president, supported using the term to describe the killings and criticized the George W. Bush administration for not doing so.

“Armenian genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence,” Obama said in 2008. “The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy.” 

Source (x)

Faced with growing transparency scandals, White House exempts itself from FOIA regulations

Darn that pesky Freedom of Information Act that gives the American people access to the “most transparent administration in history”!  Obama has a solution: just delete all of the regulations that make the White House subject to FOIA requests.

from USA Today:

The White House is removing a federal regulation that subjects its Office of Administration to the Freedom of Information Act, making official a policy under Presidents Bush and Obama to reject requests for records to that office.

The White House said the cleanup of FOIA regulations is consistent with court rulings that hold that the office is not subject to the transparency law. The office handles, among other things, White House record-keeping duties like the archiving of e-mails.

But the timing of the move raised eyebrows among transparency advocates, coming on National Freedom of Information Day and during a national debate over the preservation of Obama administration records. It’s also Sunshine Week, an effort by news organizations and watchdog groups to highlight issues of government transparency.

“The irony of this being Sunshine Week is not lost on me,” said Anne Weismann of the liberal Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW.

“It is completely out of step with the president’s supposed commitment to transparency,” she said. “That is a critical office, especially if you want to know, for example, how the White House is dealing with e-mail.”

Unlike other offices within the White House, which were always exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, the Office of Administration responded to FOIA requests for 30 years. Until the Obama administration, watchdog groups on the left and the right used records from the office to shed light on how the White House works.

“This is an office that operated under the FOIA for 30 years, and when it became politically inconvenient, they decided they weren’t subject to the Freedom of Information Act any more,” said Tom Fitton of the conservative Judicial Watch.

read the rest

I know, I know…I can already hear our liberal readers mindlessly reciting that mantra: “It’s Bushs’s fault!”  But that’s only true for Bush himself.  You can’t blame Bush when Obama turns into him!  Actually, Obama has only turned into the worst parts of George W. Bush.