All posts by William Boardman

Police State Mindset Sees One-Year-Old and Mother as Threat

The mission of the New York City Police Department is to enhance the quality of life in New York City by working in partnership with the community to enforce the law, preserve peace, reduce fear, and maintain order. The Department is committed to accomplishing its mission of protecting the lives and property of all citizens of New York City by treating every citizen with compassion, courtesy, professionalism, and respect….

— Mission and Values of NYPD, issued April 5, 2016

This mission was spectacularly NOT accomplished on Friday afternoon, December 7, at a Brooklyn office of the city’s HRA – Human Resources Administration (irony presumably unintended). The stunningly abject failure of police to live up to their professed mission featured several police officers violently separating a one-year-old boy from his mother as she lay on the floor crying for help. The end of the event was documented in a video posted on Facebook the same day by a witness who commented:

So I’m At 275 Bergen Street Handling My Business Or Whatever & There Wasn’t Any More Chairs For This Lady To Sit Down So She Sat In The Corner On The Floor. The Security Guard Came Over Said What Ever She Said To Her & She Made The Security Guard Feel Dumb So She Called The Cops On Her & This Was The Outcome SMH Mind You She Had Her Baby In Her Hands The Whole Time🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️ I’m So Fucking Disgusted with The NYPD EVRYBODY PLEASE SHARE!!! I’m a mother myself & I would’ve lost my fucking mind if this was me they would’ve had to kill me🤬🤬🤬🤬

Here’s what apparently happened, starting with the arrival of Jazmine Headley, 23, at the HRA office, carrying her one-year-old son. She was there to get a child care credit so that she could take a cleaning job. One account has her waiting four hours. She had no place to sit but the floor. None of the human resources workers offered her an extra chair. Instead, a security guard told this woman holding an infant that she had to stand. When Jazmine Headley refused to stand, the security guard or someone else called the cops.

That might not have been a bad thing, since New York has recently started training its police officers in de-escalation techniques that presumably help to “preserve peace, reduce fear, and maintain order.” How hard would it have been to sort out a situation where a mother and child are waiting patiently to get served? That really depends on the mindset of the enforcement officers. The security guards had already escalated a non-event into a confrontation. The NYPD officers, mostly (or all) women, turned it into a human rights violation, an unjustified assault on both the mother and the infant. When bystanders objected to the way the cops were acting, one of the cops threatened the bystanders with a taser. A police spokesman later refused to identify any of the cops involved or to say they had followed proper protocols.

This really should have been a no-brainer for every authority figure involved. A woman and her baby sitting in a corner pose what kind of threat to whom? Who is responsible for the way the hired security guards impose “order”? Where is the simple humanity of those who run a crowded “human resources” office? What possible rationale does anyone have for demanding that the woman stand with her child while she waits her turn? Why did the police not de-escalate the non-threatening situation instead of turning it into a violent arrest of the mother and violent detention of the infant? No wonder the video went viral and sparked widespread outrage.

Official response by higher-ups was little better and came days later. Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that the police assault was “a disturbing incident.” The NYPD issued a statement calling the assault “troubling.” The police statement apparently misrepresented the sequence of events, claiming HRA security “made unsuccessful attempts to remove this individual from the facility due to her disorderly conduct towards others and for obstructing the hallway.” The NYPD statement includes this inconsistent passage:

The woman was then informed by police numerous times to leave the location, and she refused. As NYPD officers were attempting to convince the woman to depart the facility, HRA peace officers brought the woman to the floor. NYPD officers then attempted to place her under arrest. She refused to comply with officers’ orders, and was then taken into custody.

She was “informed” to leave? Why? Did she not have every right to be there? What right did any of the authorities have to raise this barrier to her finding work when it was the job of at least some of them to help her? “HRA peace officers brought the woman to the floor.” What? She was standing, then tackled? With a child in her arms? Then she was arrested for what, littering? And why does the NYPD statement omit the child’s existence, as well as the assault on the child? After all, one of the charges against Headley was “acting in a manner injurious to a child.”

The bogus arrest of a young black woman on a Friday in Brooklyn didn’t generate much news coverage until the video went viral and public reaction pushed it into the news on December 9. The next day NY Police Commissioner James O’Neill tweeted:

As we investigate Friday’s arrest in Brooklyn, I’ll tell you the video is very disturbing to me — as PC, & as a dad. Also, #NYPD cops have a very tough job. We were called to a chaotic situation & we’re looking at all available video to determine why certain decisions were made.

The credible accounts available so far all suggest that if there was any chaos, then the private security guards created it, and the NYPD made it worse. Training in de-escalation – bringing a calming effect to an intense situation – began about four years ago, after an NY police officer killed Eric Garner with a stranglehold even though the underlying offense was selling single cigarettes on the street. Eric Garner, 43, was an unarmed black man and father of six when a gang of cops swarmed him. His last words were: “I can’t breathe.” Garner’s killer, Daniel Pantaleo, was not indicted by a grand jury in 2014, but he still faces an internal police disciplinary charge of using excessive force. Pantaleo’s hearing started December 7, the same day NY cops used Jazmine Headley to demonstrate that de-escalation techniques have not yet taken hold, although there was no stranglehold and Headley survived.

Pantaleo is defended by his police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. Union head Patrick Lynch responded to protesters that this trial is a “kangaroo court.” He accused the Civilian Complaint Review prosecuting Pantaleo of rushing the 2014 case. Lynch was also quick to absolve the police of any blame in tearing Jazmine Headley’s baby from her arms. Lynch said: “These police officers were put in an impossible situation. They didn’t create the dispute at the HRA office.” Yes, that’s true as far as it goes. But it ignores the reality that the police made the impossible situation into a disaster. Kind of reminds one of Chicago mayor Richard Daley’s exquisite malapropism during the 1968 police riots: “The police are not here to create disorder, they’re here to preserve disorder.”

Fifty years after the Chicago police riots, police violence remains an American plague. Police executions of innocent, unarmed, usually non-white victims continue to go unpunished. The same day Jazmine Headley became news, The New York Times published a study of excessive police violence in Phoenix. The piece starts with a cop roughing up and arresting a blind man who “came too close” to him in a men’s room. City officials did not dispute the statistics showing Phoenix police were more violent than police in other cities of similar size. Instead, the officials blamed Phoenix citizens, based on no statistics or other evidence. When the Phoenix police chief hired a non-profit research firm to study the violence issue, the Phoenix police union called that “second-guessing police officers who have done nothing wrong.”

That’s a police state mentality, the presumption that the police have done nothing wrong, without evidence or analysis. Patrick Lynch of the NY police union expressed the same poisonous attitude: “The event would have unfolded much differently if those at the scene had simply complied with the officers’ lawful orders.” The idea that we should obey the police whatever they say is raw authoritarianism (in plain view in Poland these days at the climate change conference there, where protest is contained and coal is promoted). In a free country, police need to be as accountable as the rest of us. And in the case of Jazmine Headley, accountability seems to have begun.

On December 11, the Brooklyn district attorney dropped all charges against her, saying:

I was horrified by the violence depicted in the video and immediately opened an investigation into this case…. An HRA officer escalated the situation as Ms Headley was about to leave the premises, creating an awful scenario of a baby being torn from his mother. The consequences this young and desperate mother has already suffered as a result of this arrest far outweigh any conduct that may have led to it. She and her baby have been traumatized, she was jailed on an unrelated warrant and may face additional collateral consequences.

The same day, Headley was released from Rikers Island prison after five days there. Ordering her release, Judge Craig S. Walker called her arrest a “horrific scene that was broadcast all over the United States.” While the viral video and subsequent outcry influenced the judge, Headley had only limited awareness of the media storm until she was released.

Headley was jailed because of a New Jersey warrant relating to credit card fraud charges for which she had missed at least one court appearance. The NY judge released her on her own recognizance, meaning that she did not have to post bail but was expected to appear at a New Jersey hearing next week. Brooklyn Defender Services, which has represented Headley, assured the judge that she would appear as required. The agency has also filed a motion in New Jersey asking for the dismissal of the charges there.

This represents partial justice of a sort for Jazmine Headley, but it’s hardly restorative or compensatory. Meanwhile, the police union’s Patrick Lynch continues to whine for police supremacy: “The immediate rush to condemn these officers leaves their fellow cops wondering – when confronted with a similar impossible scenario, what do you want us to do? The answer cannot be ‘do nothing.’”

What do we want police to do? Have they not been trained in de-escalation? Are they not capable of making sensible, proportionate decisions? How willing are they to live up to their mission of “treating every citizen with compassion, courtesy, professionalism, and respect…”?

US Calls for Ceasefire, Keeps Attacking Yemen

In case you missed it, US efforts to prolong the world’s most serious humanitarian crisis in Yemen continue to succeed spectacularly. US military support enables the Saudi coalition to continue to bomb markets, docks, mosques, hospitals, school buses, weddings and funerals, and other civilian targets with impunity. The Saudis’ Yemeni enemy, the Houthi rebels, have no effective air defenses. On March 26, 2015, with the blessing and tactical support of the Obama administration, Saudi Arabia and its allies launched an illegal, genocidal, aggressive war on Houthi-controlled Yemen. Yemen was – and is – in the midst of a civil war in which the long-oppressed Houthis overthrew the “legitimate” government that the US and others had imposed on Yemen. Since March 2015, the US and the Saudi coalition have subjected Yemen to daily war crimes, not only killing civilians but destroying non-military targets of all sorts, causing a form of biological warfare with a cholera plague, as well as massive famine for more than half the country’s 25 million people. The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) head said on September 27: “Yemen is a disaster and I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel right now.” Yemen was not a significant issue in the American election, even as the Trump administration sanctioned and supported military escalation that heightened the suffering of millions (and that has already killed tens of thousands).

At the US State Department, on November 7, the press briefing focused on the ideological basis for punishing Iran for continuing to abide by the nuclear agreement that the US pulled out of (still joined by Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China). The US blames Iran for Yemen, too, with little persuasive or significant evidence to support the propaganda bias. Eventually in the briefing there was a question about Yemen, and the exchange with State Department spokesman Robert Palladino went like this (edited, with emphasis added):

QUESTION: Yemen?

MR PALLADINO: Yemen? Let’s go to Yemen in the back, please.

QUESTION: The fighting around Hodedah [the Yemeni port critical to supplying food to the region’s poorest country that was a food importer before being attacked] seems to be picking up with – and UNICEF and MSF and all these aid groups who are saying children are at risk at these hospitals. And I wonder what’s happened to the U.S. call for a ceasefire.

MR PALLADINO: The – well, I would start by saying we closely are following the developments that are taking place in Hodedah. As the Secretary said, we’ve been urging all parties to come to the table, and to recognize that there’s no military victory that can be achieved in Yemen. And we continue to call for a cessation of hostilities and for all parties to support United Nations Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.

QUESTION: So have there been any phone calls?…

MR PALLADINO: We are in daily contact with the special envoy….

QUESTION: Would you call on the Saudi coalition to halt this offensive that they seem to now be bearing down on in Hodedah?

MR PALLADINO: We’ve called for a cessation of hostilities…. Please, next question….

QUESTION: Have you had a miscommunication then, with the Saud-led coalition, that they’re now beginning this offensive?

MR PALLADINO: – our assessment remains the same….

QUESTION: – to put a finer point on that, I mean, did the coalition – the Saudi coalition that the U.S. supports coordinate with or tell you in advance that they were going to increase fighting around Hudaydah or did they just ignore the Secretary’s call?

MR PALLADINO: We’ve been clear with Saudi, Emirati, and Yemeni [government-in-exile] officials at every level that the destruction of critical infrastructure or destruction of the delivery of vital (inaudible) aid and commercial goods is unacceptable, and we are in close contact with our partners.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, because you’re not really answering the question, I mean, the Secretary of State issued a very explicit statement with the Secretary of Defense saying it was time for this to end and it’s not ending. Do you see that as a slap in the face, and what are you going to do about it?

MR PALLADINO: … We continue to call for a cessation of hostilities. That is a cessation of hostilities and vigorous resumption of a political track. That is the way forward. That’s how we are going to ease this humanitarian crisis. The United States’ message remains we need to end this conflict and replace this conflict with compromise, and that’s all I have on this topic for today.

Within the context of pervasive American deceit regarding Yemen, spokesman Palladino probably allows for some technical truths to appear. Yes, after the US called for a ceasefire, the Saudis escalated their bombing of humanitarian targets. The Saudis may or may not have consulted with the US, but the Trump administration has no stomach for criticizing this bloodshed any more than it actively objects to the gutting of Jamal Khashoggi.

According to Palladino, “the destruction of critical infrastructure or destruction of the delivery of vital (inaudible) aid and commercial goods is unacceptable,” which seems to be a statement of law and decency acceptable to any humane observer. Palladino implies the lie that these crimes against humanity are unacceptable to the US, but he doesn’t actually say that. Clearly, having spent years enabling the Saudis in committing war crimes, the US finds the destruction of Yemen quite acceptable. That’s what Palladino really means when he says the US is “closely following the developments,” in the hope that Yemeni carnage can somehow persuade the Iranians to trust us.

OK, what about that US call for a ceasefire, why isn’t that working?

On October 31, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke about Yemen at the US Institute of Peace with presumably unconscious irony. Mattis said, self-contradictorily and revealingly:

We’ve got to move toward a peace effort here, and you can’t say we’re going to do it sometime in the future. We need to be doing this in the next 30 days. We’ve admired this problem for long enough down there.

Later the same day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement:

The time is now for the cessation of hostilities…. Substantive consultations under the UN Special Envoy must commence this November in a third country…. It is time to end this conflict, replace conflict with compromise, and allow the Yemeni people to heal through peace and reconstruction.

There was nary a tweet from the president in all this. Can one presume anything from that? In September, Pompeo certified to Congress, over the objections of staff, that the Saudis and their allies were doing their darnedest to reduce civilian casualties and the US should continue to support them. This was before the Saudi escalation on Hodedah. There is no credible evidence anywhere that the US is serious about doing anything to end the murder of Yemenis. Pompeo proposed that the ceasefire start with the Houthis ending their not very effective rocket attacks on Saudi Arabia. That’s the way the US deals with aggressive war in the 21st century: support the aggressor and demand that the victim stop resisting. And the Trump administration is even considering labeling the Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization, presumably following a logic that would have made the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto resistance into terrorists. Bad faith has no limits.

Both Mattis and Pompeo tried to appear as if they were taking immediate action, while in the next breath putting off any action for the near future. The supposed ceasefire has now receded toward 2019 as the UN’s Yemen envoy bows to the reality of US inaction and Saudi escalation.

If the US were actually serious about peace and humanitarian aid for Yemen, the US could exercise leadership in the UN Security Council to force a peace process. The US could unilaterally take immediate and forceful actions to stop the war. Pompeo could rescind the bad joke of certifying the Saudis as conscientious and responsible. That might not be enough, so Mattis could disengage the US military from the genocidal bombing campaign. Without US support – including cluster bombs and other ordnance – the Saudi aggression would falter if not fail. Rather than act rationally, Pompeo and Mattis chose to posture and preen in a charade of peace-loving rhetoric.

Well, their hollow performance was on Halloween after all, and that was perhaps the point. This was high-level US dishonesty, a shabby trick-or-treat deceit. It’s all trick for Yemen and endless treats for the Saudis. And for its lack of trouble, the US gets more and more blood on its hands.

[Note: Late on Friday, November 9, the US and Saudis announced that – at some unstated future time – the US will stop refueling Saudi bombers attacking Yemen. This is a cynical charade that will do nothing to reduce the bloodbath in Yemen, but may fool the gullible in the US that protest works.

First of all, with US help, the Saudis have developed their own mid-air refueling capability. The cessation of US refueling will have zero impact on Saudi war-making capacity.

The US will continue to support the Saudi targeting program. The US will continue to provide the Saudis with military intelligence. The US will continue to supply the Saudis with weapons and ordnance, including cluster bombs (designed to kill people and most effective against civilians). The US will continue to support the Saudi naval blockade, a primary cause of hunger and famine in Yemen (as intended). None of these or other elements of US participation in this illegal, genocidal war are addressed in Defense Secretary Mattis’s expertly opaque and misleading statement:

The U.S. and the coalition are planning to collaborate on building up legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, secure their country’s borders, and contribute to counter al-Qaida and ISIS efforts in Yemen and the region.  

The US and the coalition are the main attackers of most of the Yemeni people. The best defense for the Yemeni people is for the attackers to stop attacking, since the Yemenis remain well within their own borders. The only part of Yemen under actual Yemeni control is the northwest, where the native Houthis have governed since 2014. Southeastern Yemen is titularly under the control of the “legitimate” Yemeni government (based in Riyadh), but is effectively under a military dictatorship run by the United Arab Emirates. Eastern Yemen, which is thinly populated, is under fragmentary control of multiple forces, including ISIS and al-Qaeda, whose fortunes have been greatly enhanced by the US-Saudi obsession with preventing the Houthis from controlling their own country.

Mattis is trying to put rouge on a monster and call it beautiful. US policy in Yemen continues to be based on profound lies with no moral justification. Oh look, Mattis seems to say, we’re washing our hands of refueling bombers committing war crimes. Even in its narrow truth, this does nothing to support life or peace, and US hands remain drenched in blood.]

The Fire This Time: It Will Keep Burning Long After November 6

Perhaps enough Americans in enough numbers in enough places have woken up to the wildfires consuming our country. Perhaps these woke Americans will throw some water on the fires in the November 6 election. Perhaps an emerging American majority will slow the Republican burn of American idealism, decency, and justice. Perhaps an emerging American majority will elect enough new Democrats to prod old Democrats out of their lazy collusion with burning the country down. Perhaps.

Whatever happens November 6, the fires of political fascism and capitalist authoritarianism will continue to rage out of control. The conniving right has been feeding these flames for decades and it’s likely to take more decades to extinguish them, if that’s even possible. The Long March of the right from the debacle of Goldwater in 1964 to the triumph of Trump in 2016 has been astonishingly Maoist in its determination, orthodoxy, and political correctness. One has to acknowledge them for their sheer ruthlessness and determination. Minority rule is no mean trick.

The Republican right had help from supine Democrats with no coherent alternative. They had more help from media quislings and collaborators (yes, that’s Fox) whose idea of analysis involved telling “both sides” regardless of what might be true. They had more help from an educational system producing increasing compliant, ignorant voters who could no longer reliably assess what was real or important or even in their self-interest. And they had still more help from elitist leaders who, rather than engaging the country as a potential unity, dismissed millions of people as deplorables in love with their guns and their religion (as if either of those were unquestionably evil).

Whatever happens November 6, we’ll still have a president who aspires to dictatorship, as illustrated by his assertion that he has the power to rewrite the Constitution all by himself. We’ll still have a ruling party that relies on racism to maintain power, that enables its bigots to spread hate by graffiti and murder. We’ll still have concentration camps full of migrants and migrant children separated from their parents, rounded up and held with no due process of law.

We’ll still live in a country where Twitter enables the president to release a shamelessly dishonest racist ad scapegoating immigrants and libeling Democrats. We’ll still live in a country where Facebook profits by selling lists of likely customers to white nationalist marketers promoting myths of “white genocide.” We’ll still live in a country where the dominant culture makes it unsafe and sometimes lethal to be different, where the president invites the military to kill innocent, unarmed people with impunity. This is not politically correct, but it is true: even as we mourn the synagogue murders in Pittsburgh we remain silent about Israeli executions of innocents in Gaza or Saudi genocide in Yemen.

We’ll still live in a country where the government no longer makes grants to organizations fighting US terrorism. We’ll still live in a country where the government deliberately pursues policies that threaten the global climate. We’ll still live in a country that abrogates nuclear weapons treaties and pursues new, “usable” nuclear warheads and the domination of space.

In a sense, November 6 is a moment of truth for the country. In a deeper sense, that’s fundamentally facile and false. Nothing magically changes on November 6, no matter the outcome. The election of a Democratic House looks like the most likely best outcome. But that Democratic majority wouldn’t be seated till January, leaving Republicans two months to feed the flames consuming us. The reality is that every moment is a moment of truth. Radical Republican reactionaries internalized that decades ago. Perhaps the realization that the moment of truth is now, always now, has finally generated a humane, tolerant, democratic majority in America – and maybe even an enlightened majority that can sustain itself. It’s worth dreaming.

Rampant, Racist Voter Suppression in Georgia Goes to Federal Court

… almost a quarter of a million previously registered voters who may want to vote in this election who will find their registrations cancelled based on an assumption that they had moved when they had not.

This is a travesty for the people of Georgia whose fundamental right to vote has been taken without any formal notice that their registrations have been cancelled.

— Federal Court complaint against Georgia secretary of state Brian Kemp

If Brian Kemp wins the 2018 election for governor of Georgia, it will be one more triumph for the massive corruption Republicans have brought to American voting for the past 20 years or more. Brian Kemp is currently Georgia’s secretary of state. Part of the secretary’s job, as chair of the State Elections Board, is to make decisions that determine who can vote, where they can vote, when they can vote, and whether their votes will be counted accurately – in other words, the whole voting process.

As a secretary of state running for governor, Kemp has a clear conflict of interest, since any of his decisions about voting rights could help his campaign. Many of them already have. Previous secretaries of state who ran for governor have taken themselves out of the voting rights conflict. Kemp has refused to do so. His corruption is so blatantly transparent, his spokesman dishonestly proclaims that “Kemp is fighting to protect the integrity of our elections and ensure that only legal citizens cast a ballot.”

The claim of illegal voting by non-citizens has been a Republican Big Lie for a long time now. It works, it scares people who don’t know any better, but it’s not true and has never been true. In 2016, the Brennan Center for Justice analyzed 23.5 million votes for taint. Out of 23 million votes, only a handful of ballots were flagged for investigation or prosecution.  OK, it was a big handful – out of 23,500,000 ballots they found 30 – thirty! – that were suspect. Presumably their intimidation tactics work or Republicans wouldn’t work so hard to suppress the vote, even with recent (October 20), baseless presidential tweets.

Middle-aged white male Brian Kemp’s opponent for governor is a progressive Democrat, Stacey Abrams, a middle-aged black woman and Yale Law School graduate who would be the first-ever African-American governor of Georgia. She founded the New Georgia Project, registering some 200,000 voters of color since 2014. Kemp has been disqualifying voters of color even faster. With Kemp recently holding a two-point lead (48-46), their race is considered a toss-up.

The lawsuit cited above grew out of a records request to the secretary of state on March 2, 2018. The request was made under both the Georgia Open Records Act and the 1993 federal National Voter Registration Act (52 U.S.C. 20501 et seq.), the primary purpose of which is “to establish procedures that will increase the number of eligible citizens who register to vote in elections for  Federal office.” [emphasis added] Republicans like Kemp have spent a quarter century in more or less open defiance of this federal law, based on Congressional findings that would be unimaginable today:

(1) the right of citizens of the United States to vote is a fundamental right;

(2) it is the duty of the Federal, State, and local governments to promote the exercise of that right; and

(3) discriminatory and unfair registration laws and procedures can have a direct and damaging effect on voter participation in elections for Federal office and disproportionately harm voter participation by various groups, including racial minorities.

The plaintiffs in the federal case against Kemp are reporter Greg Palast of Los Angeles and civil rights activist Helen Butler of Atlanta.  Palast has built an international reputation with his investigative reporting, especially his reporting on voting rights issues that others in the media (and the Democratic Party) tend to ignore. Butler is the executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, which has organized state coalitions in more than half a dozen other southern states.

The initial request for legally public records included a request for information about how Georgia uses the Interstate Voter Crosscheck System in managing Georgia’s voter rolls. Crosscheck, which has a built-in racial bias against non-white voters, has been used since 2005, especially by Republican secretaries of state seeking to purge voters’ rolls into a more Republican-friendly form (led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach). Crosscheck purports to identify “duplicate” voters in different states using only two data points: name and birth date (different middle names, for example, are considered irrelevant). In 2017, Crosscheck claimed to find 7.2 million duplicate voter registrations out of 98 million analyzed in 28 states. Despite Crosscheck’s claim of the potential for over seven million voters to vote twice, only 4 – four! – double-voters were identified. Crosscheck is now dormant. The damage is lasting.

Kemp’s office did not respond to the request forthrightly. Instead, Kemp’s office demanded exorbitant payment in advance before providing redacted records. Other states acted similarly to stonewall legal “open records” requests.

On June 12, 2018, plaintiffs Palast and Butler filed a new request using only the National Voter Rights Act. The request allowed Kemp 90 days to reply. Kemp did not reply promptly to detailed questions about Crosscheck’s lists provided to Georgia in 2016 and 2017, as well as the “list of names and addresses of all those purged or changed to inactive in 2016 and 2017 and the basis for each individual being removed from the voter rolls….”

Kemp’s office did not respond in June. Kemp’s office did not respond in July. On August 14, plaintiffs sent Kemp a letter reminding him that his 90-day deadline for lawful compliance would expire on September 10. On September 4, Kemp provided a partial response, omitting any information about Crosscheck. In their October filing to compel a complete response to their questions, they wrote:

Plaintiffs were shocked when they saw that over a half a million Georgians had their registrations automatically cancelled through the inactivity process utilized by the Georgia Secretary of State.

Claiming that Georgians had not voted during a three-year period, Kemp’s office in 2017 cancelled the voter registrations of 534,517 Georgians for that reason alone. That is roughly one in 12 Georgians disenfranchised for not voting. That reason is illegal. That reason violates federal law – the National Voting Rights Act – which requires that state voting procedures “shall not result in the removal of the name of any person from the official list of voters registered to vote” solely because the person did not vote. Further reasons for removal include moving out of state, being convicted of a felony, or death.

Further analysis of the data showed that of the half-million-plus voters whose registrations were cancelled because they had supposedly moved, at least 340,134 of them – 61% of the total – still lived at the same address. These 340,134 persons did not know their registrations had been cancelled by the state. Palast posted all their names on his website in hopes that some might re-register before the October 9 deadline.

The cancellation of 340,134 registrations of people who have not moved is another violation of the National Voting Rights Act, which requires the state to keep voter rolls that are accurate and current.

This case is now before federal district judge Eleanor Louise Ross, an Obama appointee confirmed in 2014. In an interview with the Atlanta Tribune, Judge Ross said:

I believe this century has seen enormous strides by women and minorities in general. My having made history as the first African-American female on the U.S. Federal District Court in Atlanta, and one of the first two in the entire state, just continues to blow my mind. There are so many well-rounded, qualified candidates whom are ready to also jump in, if provided with the right opportunity. I think it is crucial that those of us already appointed and elected continue to work together to keep making history until it is not history anymore. It just is!

From that, one might infer that the judge is ready to rule for plaintiffs and deal a blow to Georgia’s corrupt voter management system. Restoring the voting rights of 340,134 purged voters would surely be the right thing to do. But even the plaintiffs have not asked for that kind of legal relief. The plaintiffs have asked only that Kemp be found in violation of the National Voter Rights Act and be compelled to provide all the information plaintiffs have requested.

That outcome would award corruption. That outcome would reward a state official for defying the law until the last possible minute. That outcome would leave purged voters with little useful recourse. That outcome might enable a corrupt secretary of state to become a corrupt governor. That outcome would allow Republicans to crow over protecting the integrity of the vote, when the truth is that they just went on corrupting it.

Court in Crisis: How Much Partisan Justice Is Too Much?

This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.

— Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate testimony, September 27, 2018

The integrity of the US judicial system is actively, albeit quietly, in play. A sitting federal judge, or more likely a panel of sitting federal judges, will be required in the near future to render an assessment of the honesty, integrity, and fitness of a Supreme Court justice to retain his lifetime appointment. The process and the result of the federal judges’ decision will, together, render a judgment as to the integrity of not just one Supreme Court justice but the federal courts as a national institution.

The stakes are as high as they are simple: Will our court system choose to defend the position of its own members or will it choose to defend the integrity of the US judicial system? There is no possibility it can do both with any credibility.

This is a morality play that began at a time uncertain, reaching back decades. The curtain opened as the president named Brett Kavanaugh to fill a seat on the Supreme Court despite – or because of – his long history of playing Republican hardball against the Clintons over Whitewater, against the Clintons over Monica Lewinsky, for George Bush over the Florida vote count in the 2000 election, for fake intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq War, and for the White House in its efforts to spy on or torture anyone they chose. On occasion even as a federal judge, Kavanaugh has proved the perfect partisan.

Kavanaugh’s history was a concern when he was first nominated for the federal bench in 2004, but he managed then to get confirmed with only limited doubt about his ability to tell the truth under oath. This year, when his Senate confirmation hearings began on September 4, the concerns about his integrity were still there, but Kavanaugh was protected from his own record because the White House kept most of it secret. Kavanaugh’s refusal to give full and complete answers to questions about his career as a political operative prompted the first formal ethics complaints (even before the Dr. Christime Blasey Ford story broke). One of those complaints, filed by attorney J. Whitfield Larrabee on behalf of two clients – all “under penalty of perjury” – summed up the case against Kavanaugh this way:

Kavanaugh received stolen information taken from Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee while he worked in the White House and he perjured himself while testifying about the matter in Congress in 2004, 2006 and 2018. Kavanaugh violated Canons 1 and 2 of Code of Judicial Conduct by committing crimes of dishonesty while he was a federal judge, by obtaining confirmation of his appointment as a federal judge by false and perjurious testimony, by concealing and covering up his criminal actions and by obstructing justice. He is unfit to serve as a judge by reason of his corrupt, unscrupulous, dishonest and criminal conduct.

This indictment is followed by five pages of factual allegations citing chapter and verse of some of Kavanaugh’s perjurious representations. The complaint concluded with a call for an investigation leading to a recommendation to Congress:

… that Kavanaugh be impeached in accordance with Rules 20 and 23 of the Rules for Judicial-conduct and Judicial-Disability Proceedings.

This is only one of a reported 15 or more formal ethics complaints made about Kavanaugh before the Dr. Blasey Ford farce or his confirmation to the Supreme Court. All the complaints made their way to the chief judge of the Court of Appeals, DC Circuit, on which Kavanaugh then sat. That chief judge is Merrick Garland, whose own appointment to the Supreme Court in 2016 was stonewalled by Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans (illegitimately making the seat available to usurper Neil Gorsuch). Garland, faced with the complaints against Kavanaugh, did the non-partisan thing and recused himself, leaving the first assessment of the complaints to someone else.

According to an October 6 press release from DC Circuit judge Karen LeCraft Henderson (a Bush appointee and Kavanaugh’s colleague on the bench):

After the start of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, members of the general public began filing complaints in the D.C. Circuit about statements made during those hearings. The complaints do not pertain to any conduct in which Judge Kavanaugh engaged as a judge. The complaints seek investigations only of the public statements he has made as a nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States.

This characterization is misleading if not just false. The complaints may only refer to false public statements (most of the complaints have not been made public), but those false public statements were, in fact, made by a sitting judge (just not while he was in court, apparently). Judge Henderson is implicitly arguing for a judicial standard that allows judges to lie whenever they want when they’re off the bench. This is not the standard of judicial temperament most of us thought we signed up for.

According to a letter from Chief Justice Roberts on October 10, he first heard officially about the Kavanaugh complaints starting on September 20. By October 6 he had received 15 complaints that were deemed worthy of review (it’s uncertain how many, if any, were dismissed as frivolous). In conveying the complaints to the chief justice, Judge Henderson, concerned “that local disposition may weaken public confidence in the process,” requested that the complaints be transferred to another circuit (as provided by Rule 26). In his October 10 letter, the chief justice did exactly that:

I have selected the Judicial Council of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to accept the transfer and to exercise the powers of a judicial council with respect to the identified complaints and any pending or new complaints relating to the same subject matter.

The chief judge of the 10th circuit, based in Denver, is Timothy M. Tymkovich (a Bush appointee). He was also on the White House short list with Kavanaugh. And now he is, at least for the moment, in charge of 15 or more Kavanaugh complaints. As of October 15, he had not yet announced how the complaints would be handled. Nor has he publicly addressed his own political bias or his clear conflict of interest in the matter. Early reporting on the Kavanaugh complaints has been somewhat sketchy and sometimes dismissive.

On October 4, the House Progressive Caucus sent a letter to the president in a last-ditch effort to have the Kavanagh nomination withdrawn. The letter, signed by 39 members of Congress, outlined Kavanaugh’s partisan political past and his efforts to minimize or hide it. The letter demanded a full investigation of Kavanaugh’s record and promised impeachment proceedings if the Senate’s accusations of lying under oath were borne out. The letter concluded: “The credibility and reputation of the country’s highest judicial body is at stake.”

Even if the Kavanaugh complaints continue to get scant media coverage, the issue seems unlikely to go away. The Supreme Court is on trial and the chief justice knows it. He also knows that Rules for Judicial Conduct say unambiguously: “As long as the subject of the complaint performs judicial duties, a complaint alleging judicial misconduct must be addressed.” [emphasis added] The chief justice also knows that Kavanaugh’s partisan outburst (quoted at the top) seems to clearly violate the judicial conduct rule against “making inappropriately partisan statements.” The Supreme Court, led by a man with a reputation for defending institutional integrity, is faced with finding a way to justify its own probity – or join the rest of the wreckage of the Trump era.

Brett Kavanaugh Is Long Past His Sell-by Date as a Credible Human

I have been speaking with a number of people on the other side. We’ve had conversations ongoing for a while with regard to making sure that we do due diligence here….

— Senator Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, September 28, 2018

When Jeff Flake says he’s been talking with people on the other side about doing due diligence regarding the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination, that’s the sound of hypocrisy talking. Flake’s party destroyed due diligence the moment it decided to keep most of the records of Kavanaugh’s government service secret. Think about that. It doesn’t seem the Democrats thought much about it. They made some token complaints before rolling over and saying, in effect, that’s OK, this guy worked for the executive branch on polarizing, partisan issues for years, but we don’t really need to know what he did even though taxpayers were paying him to do it. Seriously, whatever his involvement with Vince Foster’s suicide or the Starr investigation into Monica Lewinsky or shutting down the vote count in the 2000 election or building a bogus case for an illegal war in Iraq or developing justifications for torture and other war crimes, we don’t need to know about any of that. And so we don’t.

A bipartisan conspiracy of silence was treated as a reasonable approach to vetting a chronic liar whose known views would take this country in the opposite direction from where a majority of the people appear to want it to go. With that corrupt two-party bargain in place, the risk of an actual, factual record for the candidate was too great a risk to take. And then Dr. Christine Blasey Ford finally emerged with a credible tale of Kavanaugh and Mark Judge, both drunk and laughing hysterically, trying to rape her in an eerie enactment of a “devil’s triangle” (which Kavanaugh, with presumably unintended irony, would later testify falsely was a “drinking game” – a game for the drinkers, perhaps, but not so much the victim). This was one of the lesser dark areas of Kavanaugh’s case that persuaded Jeff Flake to play both sides of the aisle to no clear purpose (continuing his September 28 statement):

And I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to, but not more than, one week in order to let the FBI continue—to do an investigation, limited in time and scope, to the current allegations that are there, and limit in time to no more than one week….

Acting as if he were proposing something brave, Flake suggested postponing the floor vote, not the committee vote, a gesture that is so antithetical to itself as to be a moral cypher. If there is reason to postpone the floor vote, then there is at least as much reason to postpone the committee. The committee vote by definition pre-judges the floor vote. The committee vote maintains the nomination’s momentum, even as Flake pretends to pause for reflection while the FBI investigates.

But his proposal isn’t a good faith postponement. Flake does not seek a serious, credible FBI investigation that follows the facts wherever they might lead. Acting in patent bad faith, he calls for an investigation of limited time and scope, conditions that increase the likelihood of an inadequate investigation. And Flake calls for an investigation limited “to the current allegations,” which is tantamount to calling for a cover-up of any future allegations, or any further allegations developing out of current allegations. Having called for a process that could appear as fairness without significant risk of actual fairness, Flake concluded his statement:

And I will vote to advance the bill to the floor with that understanding.

Flake’s fellow Republicans professed to be shocked – shocked! – by his resort to subterfuge while moving the Kavanaugh nomination forward. Then they promptly went along with it. As did the president, with a still secret order implementing it. Flake may have imagined himself as the subject of a profile in courage, even though his action accomplished nothing. It was a profile in cowardice cloaked in hypocrisy. Little wonder this plan has been unraveling almost since it was put in place. Actual courage would have led Flake to vote against sending the nomination to the floor of the Senate until all Kavanaugh’s dishonesties, anger issues, and judicial temperament questions had been satisfactorily answered. A relatively simple example, when Kavanaugh says in his opening statement under oath:

Dr. Ford’s allegation is not merely uncorroborated, it is refuted by the very people she says were there, including by a longtime friend of hers. Refuted.

This is false. None of Dr. Ford’s allegations were refuted by anyone. Dr. Ford’s allegations have not been effectively rebutted by anyone. Kavanaugh has denied them. His supporters have said, in effect, I can’t imagine he’d do such a thing. But there is NO evidence that counters Dr. Ford’s allegations. And Kavanaugh knows that: right before claiming “refutation” Kavanaugh himself acknowledged that “the very people she says were there” have all said they don’t remember anything. Kavanaugh doesn’t mention that the “longtime friend” has said she believes Dr. Ford.

Why does this matter?

Any decent judge should know the difference between “refute” and “rebut,” and should take care not to assert refutation where none exists. If Kavanaugh is deliberately lying here, that should be disqualifying for service on the Supreme Court, or any court. If Kavanaugh is not lying, the dishonesty with which he presents and evaluates evidence should be disqualifying for his holding any judgeship.

Kavanaugh made a point of saying he wrote his own opening statement, with help from no one. He says he showed it to one former law clerk (who apparently had nothing to say about the misuse of “refute”). Kavanaugh insisted that it was all his own work, as was this passage:

This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.

That’s a pretty remarkable charge for a sitting judge to make without offering any supporting evidence. The record suggests it’s not entirely true (at best), since Dr. Ford tried to come forward in July, when Kavanaugh first appeared on the short list of possible nominees. The fact that Dr. Ford’s name was not public until September 17 was not her doing, and nothing in the record supports the notion that these events were “a calculated and orchestrated political hit.” Kavanaugh’s statement here smacks of raw, right-wing partisanship based not on fact but bias.

We do not want any more judges acting on bias rather than facts. We should have the FBI investigate Kavanaugh’s fervent claims. We should begin by believing him. We should provide a public hearing in which he may put forward any factual basis for his claim that he is the victim of an attempted political rape by unnamed attackers.

Saudi-US Propaganda by PBS NewsHour in Houthi-held Yemen

One of the poorest countries in the Middle East, Yemen’s war has pushed it to the brink of famine. A Saudi blockade has slowed the flow of food and helped push prices up. Markets and businesses are ruined from airstrikes. Millions are destitute. Special correspondent Jane Ferguson smuggled herself across front lines to report on what’s happening inside the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

— PBS NewsHour summary, July 2, 2018

This is what American tax-supported propaganda looks like when an organization like the PBS NewsHour wants to maintain a semblance of credibility while lying through its intimidated teeth. Yes, Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world, long dependent on imported food and other life support. But to say “Yemen’s war” is major league deceit, and PBS surely knows the truth: that the war on Yemen is American-backed, initiated – illegally – in March 2015 by a Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE (United Arab Emirates). The US/Saudi war is genocidal, creating famine and a cholera epidemic for military purposes. These are American and Arab war crimes that almost no one wants to acknowledge, much less confront.

The “Saudi blockade” is also a US Navy blockade. The blockade is a war crime. Starving civilians is a war crime.

The most amazing sentence is: “Markets and businesses are ruined from airstrikes.” Seems rather bland. But this is a tacit admission of more war crimes – Saudi bombing of civilian businesses, as well as civilian hospitals, weddings, and funerals. But PBS makes it sound like the airstrikes sort of come out of nowhere, like the rain. PBS omits the American culpability that makes the airstrikes possible: mid-air refueling, targeting support, intelligence sharing, and the rest. Think of Guernica, the fascist bombing of civilians that inspired Picasso’s painting. Now think of Guernica lasting three years. That’s what the US has supported in Yemen and that’s what PBS helps cover up.

Yes, “Millions are destitute,” and yes, this is “the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.” But an honest news organization might go on to note that the destitution and the disaster are deliberate results of the world’s most relentless war crime.

From a journalistic perspective, getting the perky blonde reporter Jane Ferguson into northern Yemen, where the Houthis have been in control since 2014, is an accomplishment of note. There has been little firsthand reporting from Houthi Yemen, where the worst war crimes have been committed and the worst suffering continues. Ferguson’s presence was certainly an opportunity for serious independent reporting. PBS didn’t allow that. Based on no persuasive evidence, PBS NewsHour host Judy Woodruff framed the report as coming from “territory held by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.” There is no credible evidence of meaningful Iranian support for the Houthis. To believe there is, one has to believe the Iranians are consistently getting through the US-Saudi blockade. PBS ignores such realities, as do most Washington policy-makers. Woodruff does acknowledge in her weaselly way that it’s “a brutal war that the United States is supporting through a Saudi-led coalition,” which is still a long way from the truth that it’s a genocidal bombing campaign made possible by the US.

Reporter Ferguson adds to the distraction by focusing on the poverty and suffering as if they came from nowhere:

Life is slipping away from Maimona Shaghadar. She suffers the agony of starvation in silence. No longer able to walk or talk, at 11 years old, little Maimona’s emaciated body weighs just 24 pounds. Watching over her is older brother Najib, who brought her to this remote hospital in Yemen, desperate to get help. The nurses here fight for the lives of children who are starving….

You were never supposed to see these images of Maimona. A blockade of rebel-held Northern Yemen stops reporters from getting here. Journalists are not allowed on flights into the area. No cameras, no pictures.

That last bit of self-dramatization of the daring journalist glosses over a harsh reality: in addition to waging a genocidal war on a trapped population, the US-Saudi axis is also enforcing isolation and censorship on the victim population. It is a US-Saudi blockade that keeps reporters out, preventing firsthand reporting of endless war crimes. Who says? Jane Ferguson says:

The Houthis cautiously welcomed me in and, once I was there, watched me closely.

Ferguson’s coverage of the hunger and starvation is heart-wrenching, journalism at its most moving but least informative. She frames her narrative falsely:

In the midst of political chaos in Yemen after the Arab Spring, Houthi rebels from the north captured the capital, Sanaa, in 2014, before sweeping south and causing the country’s then president to flee. Neighboring Sunni, Saudi Arabia, views the Houthis, from a Yemeni sect close to Shia Islam and backed by rival Iran, as an unacceptable threat along their border.

Political chaos is Yemen is decades if not centuries old, often fomented by the Saudis and other outside powers. The Houthis have been there for thousands of years (as Ferguson later acknowledges) and their dispute with the Saudis is ancient and territorial. The Houthis’ religion is independent. The influence of Iran is largely a Saudi night-fright made increasingly real by the war the Saudis say is supposed to stop Iran. This is contrary to the official story. Ferguson does not acknowledge it.

Ferguson pitches the second part of her three-part series, deceitfully understating American responsibility for the carnage. She doesn’t mention that the war would not have started without a US green light, saying only:

But there is a role played by the U.S. military, one that is sort of more passively behind, not quite as visible. And so we’re going to be looking at that role.

This is the official position of the Pentagon, which has claimed the US is not involved in combat in Yemen. The US role that is “more passively behind, not quite so visible” is still crucial to killing Yemenis on a daily basis. The war on Yemen began with US blessing and continues only because of US political, logistical, and materiel support. Jane Ferguson begins this segment with a reasonably accurate albeit morally numb description:

Inside rebel territory in Yemen, the war rains down from the sky. On the ground, front lines have not moved much in the past three years of conflict. Instead, an aerial bombing campaign by the Saudi-led and American-backed coalition hammers much of the country’s north….

Treating war crimes against defenseless people as a kind of natural disaster is barren of journalistic integrity and gives the war criminals a pass when they need calling out. Ferguson goes on in her antiseptic, no-one’s-responsible manner to illustrate the killing of civilians and the destruction of civilian facilities, including a Doctors Without Borders cholera clinic. She also documents US-made weaponry, including an array of unexploded bombs and a collection of cluster bombs. She doesn’t mention that cluster bombs are banned by most of the world and constitute a war crime in themselves. She does note that cluster bombs often wound civilians, that follows this fact with the gratuitously propagandistic comment: “The Houthis have also targeted civilians, throwing anyone suspected of opposing them in jail.” She has no follow-up, leaving the audience with a false moral equivalence between blowing off a child’s arm and throwing someone in jail. But it gets worse. Ferguson later gets off this political judo move:

Most people here, whether they support the Houthis or not, know that many of the bombs being dropped are American. It provides a strong propaganda tool for the Houthi rebels, who go by the slogan “Death to America.”

What does that even mean, “go by the slogan ‘Death to America’?” Again Ferguson has no follow-up. Later she shows a crowd chanting “Death to America” as if that has relevance. Why wouldn’t the defenseless victims wish death on the country that murders them without surcease? The main purpose of introducing “Death to America” (with all its Iran-hostage resonance) seems propagandistic, to inflame American audiences that remain in denial about their own very real war guilt. American-supported bombing of Yemen is a fact. It is, quite literally, “Death to Yemen.” For Ferguson to call it a “strong propaganda tool” is a Big Lie in classic propaganda tradition. For PBS to broadcast this lie is to engage in propaganda. PBS and Ferguson not only blame the victim, they characterize their very real victimization as if it weren’t true but mere propaganda. At the end of the segment, Ferguson once again engages in false moral equivalence:

Both the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition have disregarded innocent civilian life in this war. Every bomb that falls on a hospital, office building or home causes more unease about where they come from.

While it may well be true that “both sides” have killed or wounded civilians, there is absolutely no comparison in scale. The US-Saudi coalition comprises mass murderers; the Houthis don’t come close. “Every bomb that falls,” Ferguson should have said, is dropped by the US-Saudi side on the Houthi side. There is no doubt where the bombs come from.

In her third and last PBS segment, Ferguson foregoes any effort to explore the reality of hundreds of years of Houthi-Saudi territorial conflict. Instead, she goes to bed with US propaganda, opening with a crowd of Yemenis chanting “Death to America” and then stating:

These rebels, known as Houthis, seized control of Sanaa City and much of the north of the country in 2014. They are of Yemen’s Zaydi sect and closest to Shia Islam. Their growing power caused alarm across the border in Sunni Saudi Arabia, so the Saudis formed a coalition of Arab countries to defeat them, a coalition backed by the United States.

This is so twisted it amounts to intellectual fraud. Yemen has a long, tortured history of foreign interference. In the years before 2014, Yemen served (without much choice) as a base for US drone bases. At the same time, the international community imposed a Saudi puppet as Yemen’s president (presently in exile in Saudi Arabia). In 2014, the Houthi uprising, widely popular among Yemen’s 28 million people, drove out both the US drone bases and the Saudi puppet president. The Houthis represented something like Yemeni independence, which the US, Saudis, and others opposed with lethal force.

US support for the war in Yemen constitutes an impeachable offense for two American presidents. So do continuing drone strikes, also known as presidential assassinations. The war began because President Obama approved it and the Saudis were willing to bomb a defenseless population. But according to Ferguson:

The Saudis and the United States say the Houthis are puppets for Tehran, a proxy form of Iranian military power right on Saudi Arabia’s doorstep.

This is real propaganda. There is no evidence that the Houthis are anyone’s puppets (which is one reason they need to be oppressed). Historically, the Houthis are an oppressed people who keep rising up again and again to re-establish their own freedom and independence. There is no credible evidence of significant Iranian presence in Yemen. PBS and Ferguson certainly present none, and neither have the US or Saudi governments. American demonization of Iran has been a fixed idea since 1979, rooted in two psychopathologies: American unwillingness to accept responsibility for imposing a police state on Iran and American inability to see the hostage-taking of 1979 as a rational response to past American predation. American exceptionalism is a sickness that punishes others, currently millions of innocent Yemenis.

Ferguson concludes her series with a dishonest use of journalistic balance, first with a quote from Senator Bernie Sanders arguing that the US role in the Yemen war is unconstitutional. Rather than assess that straightforward argument, Ferguson turns to an Idaho Republican, Senator James Reich, who offers fairy dust and lies:

The Iranians are in there and they are causing the difficulty that’s there. If the Iranians would back off, I have no doubt that the Saudis will back off. But the Saudis have the absolute right to defend themselves.

Imaginary Iranians aren’t there now and they weren’t there when the Saudis attacked in 2015. No one attacked Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are not defending themselves, they are waging aggressive war.

By balancing these quotes, Ferguson creates yet another false moral equivalence. There is no meaningful equivalence between Bernie Sanders challenging the president’s right to take the country to war on his own and James Reich using a lie to defend war-making that disregards Congress. PBS should be ashamed. Jane Ferguson offers a fig leaf with another quote from Bernie Sanders:

I don’t know that I have ever participated in a vote which says that the United States must be an ally to Saudi’s militaristic ambitions. This is a despotic regime which treats women as third-class citizens. There are no elections there. They have their own goals and their own ambitions.

All this is true, but Ferguson has no follow up. Instead she again offers spurious analysis: “American support for Saudi Arabia is a major propaganda tool for the Houthis.” No, it’s not. American support for the Saudis is not propaganda, it’s a lethal reality for the Houthis and a crime against humanity for the world. Ferguson completes her piece with a soppy lament for civilian victims, as if no one is responsible for their suffering. That’s one last lie. There are many people responsible for the horror in Yemen today and leading the list is the US-Saudi coalition. It doesn’t take much intelligence to see that, but apparently it takes more courage than PBS has to report the obvious.

Dark Foreboding: Is the American Democratic Experiment Over

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

— William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming, 1919

Apocalyptic thinking has been with us for a long time, and it sometimes ushers in actual apocalypses, albeit at human scale, without biblical finality. For a century now, the Yeats poem above has served as an increasingly common reference point for those who fear apocalyptic events approaching. Today such fears are varied, the threats are real, and reactions range from crisis-mongering to self-serving denial, making any rational, coherent societal response almost impossible.

We’ve been heading this way for decades. We finally got here in 2016. It’s taken awhile, but the forces of chaos and greed seem to be cohering, tightening their grip on power, on government and culture, facing little or no effective opposition. An election is coming. It will matter. But how?

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

Worse, things are under attack, the center is the enemy. The US president veers toward dictatorial powers and seeks out new targets to disrupt or destroy. The US wages war around the world in at least 7 countries (with combat forces in 146 according to Seymour Hersh). The US Environmental Protection Agency wages war on the environment along with public health and safety. The US Education Department wages war on public education. The US Justice Department wages war on Justice, turning law enforcement into a profit-making, human-trafficking criminal enterprise. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development wages war on the poor, as do other agencies. The US Labor Department wages war on labor. The US Supreme Court wages war on pretty much 99% of the population. And so it goes: almost everywhere one looks, there is almost no center left to hold. Resistance is scattered, ineffective, inconsistent, fragmented – mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

This is our country that has loosed a blood-dimmed tide across the globe for decades. This is American exceptionalism that has flooded countries from Iran to Guatemala with its citizens’ blood for American ends. This endless flow of American violence and death has drowned our innocence, and still so many of us pretend there is no blood on our hands, no blood up to our eyeballs, no blood vengeance haunting our future.

That’s not the way we see the border, but that’s the way the border is. American-sponsored dictatorships and genocides are sending the children of their victims to our borders where we victimize them again and again and again. And finally, at least more than just a few people notice who and what we are, and who and what we have been for so long, and there is horror, at least for some. No border guards are yet showing signs of conscience as they carry out unlawful orders, but at least one immigration judge has expressed embarrassment at asking a one-year-old if he understood the proceedings the US was putting him through.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

And so we head for another election on November 6, bitterly divided as a country. It’s a so-called off-year election (no presidential race), but it may be darkly viewed as the last stand for the American democratic republic. Some say that 242-year-old experiment has already failed, and there’s logic to that opinion. The decline has been long, slow, relentless and the end will not likely be apocalyptic.

When did we lose the possibility of a country of freedom, tolerance, and honesty? OK, the Constitution allowed slavery. More recently, was it our willingness to incinerate Japanese civilians with atomic weapons? Was it our willingness to accept Reagan as president despite his dealing with Iran to rig the election? Was it our willingness to let the Supreme Court choose Bush for president? Was it our willingness to let Bush lie us into wars that haven’t ended yet? Was it our willingness to accept yet another blood dictatorship in Honduras (after all the others over so many years)? Was it our willingness to accept a Supreme Court decision (Citizens United) that turned democratic elections into plutocratic power auctions? Was it our acceptance of Republicans stealing a Supreme Court seat? Was it our election of minority-president Trump? Any of these points (and no doubt others) were turning points where the best lacked all conviction, while the worst rode their passionate intensity to the verge of total control of the US government. From there, it could be but a short distance to totalitarian control.

We’re heading into the 2018 election with polling that shows only a slight majority of Americans – around 53% – opposed to the direction of the country, opposed to Republicans, opposed to Trump. Republicans currently control the presidency, both houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court (with another justice online). The election can’t change the presidency. The election can’t change the Supreme Court directly (especially if Kavanaugh is approved beforehand). The election can change either house of Congress, neither of which is anything like a sure thing. If the House gets a Democratic majority, that puts all legislation on the negotiating table and raises the possibility of articles of impeachment for which this president has qualified since day one of his presidency. If the Senate gets a Democratic majority, that also makes all legislation negotiable and makes it harder for Republicans to pack the courts. If both houses of Congress get Democratic majorities, that gives the American experiment a chance to continue, dependent on Democratic courage long in short supply.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?  

So ends The Second Coming by Yeats, inconclusively, suggestively. There’s no knowing what may happen to head off our own rough beast slouching toward November. Perhaps Mueller will go public on Trump crimes. Perhaps the trade war will implode the US economy. Perhaps Trump will sack Mueller (or some other critical figure). Perhaps enough people will recognize – and reject – the already functional police state created by ICE jurisdiction. Perhaps Republican Senator Richard Burr, already on record as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russian collusion in 2016 happened, will seize the moment to hold hearings to learn “What did the President know and when did he know it?”

Or perhaps the fascist coup, the totalitarian American state, is already upon us and we’re only waiting for massive popular passivity to confirm it. There are those, after all, millions who seem to believe that Donald Trump really is the Second Coming.

FBI Goes Trumpian: Hypes Imaginary Terrorism Threat as Fake News

Protecting our citizens and our nation remains the Justice Department’s top priority,” U.S. Attorney [Justin] Herdman said. “This defendant plotted and scouted locations in downtown Cleveland for an attack on July 4th, when he knew it would be packed with people celebrating our nation’s birthday. We will continue to do all we can to identify, arrest and prosecute those threats while working to keep our communities safe and secure.

FBI press release, July 2, 2018

Well, that sounds like pretty good news, doesn’t it? The supposed July 4th attack sounds like it could have been horrendous, right? And your Justice Department saved us all yet again, right? That must be why the Justice Department headlined its press release:

Ohio Man Arrested for Attempting to Assist a Foreign Terrorist Organization With Homeland Attack Plot

Actually, no, that’s not quite what happened. This is fundamentally a big government lie. Actually, it’s a tissue of lies.

Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts

The government press release begins with some facts:

Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts, aka Abdur Raheem Rafeeq, aka Salah ad-Deen Osama Waleed, 48, of Maple Heights, Ohio, was charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda, a designated foreign terrorist organization. Pitts was arrested Sunday [July 1] by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

This press feed is well-framed to make readers think the worst – “al Qaeda” and “terrorist” and “Terrorism Task Force.” And all those aliases – that’s scary stuff. But what did Pitts actually do? And why only one count? And who else was involved? The details fail to live up to the hype.

Instead of clarifying the arrest, the press release then continues for its next four fat paragraphs with chest-thumping government officials offering bloated, irrelevant, and largely false rhetoric – “the dangerous threat posed by radical Islamic terrorism” and “plans to attack innocent civilians” and “working to keep our communities safe and secure.” This is all good, solid Orwellian language as it avoids lying without actually telling the truth. And it makes one wonder: Good lord, what on earth was Demetrius Pitts up to all by himself? According to the press release:

Pitts, a U.S. citizen living in Ohio, pledged his allegiance to al-Qaeda, a foreign terrorist organization, and was planning to conduct an attack in Cleveland on Independence Day, the very day we celebrate the freedoms we have in this country,” said Special Agent in Charge [Stephen] Anthony. “The FBI commends the public for reporting individuals that espouse their radical beliefs and/or engage in behavior that threaten the lives of our military personnel and community.

This is the only – mysterious – reference in the press release to thank “the public for reporting individuals.” And does the FBI now consider it a crime for people to “espouse their radical beliefs”? Isn’t that a radical belief? And does the thanks to informers mean that there was NO independent investigative work? The balance of the press release comprises a summary of a court-filed affidavit that completely supports such a conclusion. Apparently this heroic defense of public safety consisted of someone giving Pitts’s name to the FBI some time ago and the FBI then executing a sting operation bordering on entrapment (or more likely actual entrapment) of a man of less than full competence or significant ability. Not only that, it’s taken the FBI almost two and a half years to instigate Pitts to allegedly criminal action, as the FBI admits (indirectly) in its 31-page affidavit filed by Special Agent Andrew Wilson, a 22-year veteran assigned to the Cleveland Joint Terrorism Task Force:

On December 31, 2015, a Facebook profile for ABDUR RAHEEM RAFEEQ (which was ultimately determined to be PITTS) came to the FBI’s attention after RAFEEQ sent a private Facebook message to “The Craig Sewing Show,” a California-based political commentary program, stating: “Fuck America and there arm[sic] forces. The USA will be destroy. Allahu Akbar.”

First of all, this is all Constitutionally-protected free speech. Secondly, no serious terrorist is going to out himself to the Craig Sewing Show. What Pitts probably unwittingly did was to set himself up as a clay pigeon for the FBI to take potshots at. There is a long, shameful pattern of FBI agents manipulating marginal people into imaginary threats to build a bogus arrest record that actually undermines freedom by “defending” it. Who knows how many people rot in jail as “terrorists” only because they were entrapped by the FBI in “plots” that never actually existed as real-world threats? The FBI apparently ignored Pitts for a year until he made another post, on Facebook, according to the FBI affidavit:

On January 25, 2017, PITTS used his Facebook account Abdur Raheem Rafeeq (UID 100010669985661) to comment on pictures believed to be from a jihad training camp. PITTS posted, “We as Muslim need to start. Training like this everyday. We need to known how to shoot guns. Throw hand grenades hand to hand combat. How survey out in the woods. Look at the bed blue eyed devils. They teach their little dogs on how to shoot and Hunt. If you fear death. Then don’t say you love Islam. The Rasool saw said. We should always be prepared to fight in the name of Allah Akbar. All cowards stay home. Walsalaam. Abdur Raheem sahl Rafeeq. Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar.”

The FBI slouched into action, reviewing Pitts’s Facebook account in February 2017 and observing it into June 2018. According to the affidavit, during those 16 months, the FBI believed Pitts was “threatening violence against the United States,” “expressed a desire to recruit people to kill Americans,” and was “willing to conduct a U.S. based attack.” The FBI took no action. Neither did Pitts.

As of early 2018, Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts, 48, an African-American US citizen, had apparently been living a quiet life in Willoughby, Ohio, about 19 miles east of Cleveland on Lake Erie. In May he apparently moved to Maple Heights, about 13 miles south of Cleveland. It’s not clear what he did for work, or whether he was employed. He apparently lived alone. After the FBI arrested Pitts, Diane Stoudemire, his aunt near Cincinnati, expressed bewilderment, even though she hadn’t heard from him in two years:

He’s never been a violent person, so that’s what I don’t understand…. He had had some problems with drugs and everything. He came up without his father, which is my brother, that was killed before Demetrius was born. His mother passed away while Demetrius was in penitentiary, so he’s been having such a hard time….

Diane Stoudemire said Pitts lived “on the fringe” of society, but had no idea he’d been living near Cleveland:

We’ve been worried about him, because I was his favorite aunt. And he used to would come to me, and I haven’t heard from Demetrius in a few years…. He was a good person. I never knew him to get in no trouble, like hurting somebody or fighting or anything. Anything he ever done was to himself.

According to the FBI at a July 2 press conference, Pitts has a criminal history that includes felonious assault and aggravated robbery in 1989, when he was 19. He served less than a year before being released on probation. He was arrested in 2006 but charges were dismissed. He was arrested again in 2007, convicted on a theft charge, and placed on probation. He was arrested in 2016 for absconding from probation in 2009.

On June 18, everything started to change from bad to worse for Pitts. That was the day the FBI sent an undercover agent to meet with Pitts in Willoughby and surreptitiously recorded their conversation (excerpted in the FBI affidavit). The conversation is full of violent fantasy to which the FBI agent contributes, but nothing like a plan or even a credible threat emerges. Pitts makes it clear that he has not joined al Qaeda but would take a test to join. The FBI agent suggests a test: “take out a soldier? A US Army soldier?” Pitts responds: “He dead. He dead. He dead. It’s like I said.” Then Pitts seems to back off the idea. They go through a similar loop talking about killing a Marine. Nothing is decided, or even promised. Pitts does not ask the FBI agent to prove he’s from al Qaeda.

On June 22, the FBI agent met with Pitts in Walton Hills and surreptitiously recorded the conversation (excerpted in the affidavit). The FBI agent starts with a pitch that fits an effort at entrapment:

And so that’s part of, part of the question. Part of the in and out is understanding what al Qaeda is about and then wanting to know are you willing to, I mean any brother that’s gonna be in al Qaeda has to be willing to do all the things that we’ve already talked about…. That’s why I mean, I mean, I mean I’m excited I went back but of course the brothers, they wanna build trust by steps. And they’re willing to send a brother out to meet you but we gotta make, we gotta get to that level too. The other thing too is I mean there is, there is risk with all this and that’s why we gotta, we gotta start somewhere. I mean I think we are there but I gotta go back and convince…. I mean I think that can happen pretty soon. But-but this is, but I think this is what this is a big thing that was asked of me cause I told him I told him about hey the value in the knife fighting. The possibility of like what we talked about last time. Finding places where we could get in and set up a bomb. I mean if they provide the bomb maker and we find the path in. Then man, dude we can do, I mean you wanna talk about if doing something like that, that from, from, from within, that will shake them more than 9/11 . 9/11 mashallah was amazing.

Pitts doesn’t buy into any this. He volunteers that he been thinking about the 4th of July, but nothing specific. Pitts says: “I’m trying to figure out something that would shake them up on the 4th of July…. See I-I that’s why I like chess.” Pitts mentions “a bomb to blow up at the 4th of July parade,” then rejects it because of too many surveillance cameras in the city. The FBI agent abets the “planning” by googling a map of downtown Cleveland. Later the same day, the FBI agent promises to provide Pitts with a bus pass and a cell phone.

On June 25, a second FBI agent posing as “a trusted ‘brother’” met with Pitts in Maple Heights, delivering the bus pass and cell phone.

On June 26, Pitts texted the first FBI agent that he had scouted out downtown Cleveland, as discussed. Pitts said he planned to go to Philadelphia (his hometown) for further surveillance. The FBI agent talked to Pitts on the phone and asked if Pitts was going through with the July 4th plan that other “brothers” were building devices for. The conversation was inconclusive.

On June 27, Pitts met with the second agent posing as a “brother” and turned in his cell phone. The second agent gave Pitts a black flag as a terrorist symbol. Later the same day, Pitts met with the first FBI agent for two and a half hours to discuss “the impending July 4th bombing” (according to the FBI affidavit). Pitts says he’s going to spend the day July 3 casing the surroundings, “We’re just takin’ pictures, takin’ video.” Pitts says he wants to see the explosion on the 4th and the FBI agent says:

You wanna see it – you wanna see that fireball go flying – you wanna see the body parts flying into the sky?… Alright. Well you know what? Like where we were standing when you can overlook the whole lake, off by that – on top of that parking garage, you can get a pretty good view from way up there.

At this point in the affidavit, neither party has specified just what kind of bomb might be used and they’ve discussed a number of possibilities. They have no specific target. The FBI agent seems confused: “Oh, so you’re talking like uh – like uh full car bomb in the whole van.” Pitts, who has no way of knowing about and no connection with any bomb, agrees. The FBI agent says: “Alright. I mean this is a – we’re going from a remote control car bomb to a full size van.” Pitts seems to agree but talks about the remote control toy cars with bombs. This seems to fluster the FBI agent, the conversation wanders, “this is gonna take an adjustment and my plan was for the – well what we kinda – they gonna bring in the bomb guy for us….” They seem to reassure each other that they’re going through with the plan even though they haven’t settled on the plan. Pitts isn’t planning to be involved with the bombing directly:

My part is just to go scope, get the information we need, and bring it back…. See you gotta have Brothers who don’t nobody never see. Like I don’t wanna meet all the Brothers. No.

The FBI agent agrees to this. Later in the day, Pitts texted the FBI agent that the plan was impossible, too much security. Pitts talks about pushing on, maybe in Philadelphia:

Ahki (brother) I want to do this by myself. I have no reason to live. Since I know Philly very well. All I need from the brother. Is some chicken eggs that go [emojis inserted that appear to be explosions]. I will put my life on the line. This will be done in September labor day. Just help me get there. So ahki you must show me. How to drive  again. Now can you do that. You don’t need to be in this. Ahki you have a family. So keep your hands clean ahki.

On June 28, on the direction of the first FBI agent, Pitts carried out instructions relating to the imaginary bombing, including searching for a vehicle. Pitts said a purchase would be difficult because he’d have to provide a driver’s license. The FBI agent suggested a strawman purchase. Pitts found several possible vehicles, but bought none.

June 30, the FBI agent “told Pitts that the attack Pitts planned in Cleveland for July 4th was a “go” and that the al Qaeda brothers were happy with Pitts’ plan for Cleveland” (according to the FBI affidavit), even though there was still no clear record of any specific plan. The FBI agent egged Pitts on with false promises of a “large explosion … on behalf of al Qaeda.”

On July 1, the FBI agent met with Pitts in Garfield Heights to learn what plan Pitts had for Philadelphia. Pitts explained he was still planning an attack that he wanted to be bloody. The FBI showed Pitts a “remote control car … [that] contained C-4 explosives and BB’s” rigged by the FBI, a toy that could roll under a police vehicle. Pitts freely speculated on uses for remote control cars as well as a larger bomb that he assumed existed. The meeting ended with his arrest.

On July 2, the Justice Department issued its deceitful press release, claiming to have protected the country from a fearsome terrorist attack, even though the FBI knew that attack was never even close to taking place, and even though the FBI knew Pitts had zero capability of carrying it out on his own. The FBI makes no claim to the contrary, but merely asserts the sort-of-true claim that Pitts “did knowingly attempt to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.” The FBI does not acknowledge that the “foreign terrorist organization” was an FBI fiction and that Pitts’s attempt was based on a delusion.

The FBI filings make very clear that no terrorism and no threat of terrorism existed before the FBI decided to pump one up, using a troubled, angry, isolated black man as its pawn to inflate its own institutional ego with fake news. And the news media bought the fake news as presented, uncritically parroting the FBI spin that they stopped an attempted terror attack.

CNNMan accused of plotting terror attack on July 4th parade in Cleveland 

New York TimesMan Arrested in Cleveland Terror Plot After F.B.I. Sting 

ABC NewsMan accused of planning terrorist attack in Cleveland had San Francisco travel plans

USA TodayFBI: Man who planned attack on Cleveland wanted to give explosive-filled cars to military children

And so it went across the news media, with a presumption of guilt fostered by FBI lies taken at face value. FBI agent Stephen Anthony set the tone for media coverage:

Law enforcement cannot sit back and wait for Mr. Pitts to commit a violent attack…. We don’t have the luxury of hoping an individual decides not do harm someone or get others to act.

This is disingenuous to the point of deceit. This is a totalitarian mindset. Anthony knows full well that Pitts has never committed a terrorist act, that Pitts has never attempted a terrorist act, that Pitts is known to have “planned” a terrorist act only with FBI incitement. The FBI knows it has no evidence that Pitts is even capable of committing a terrorist act. Based on the available evidence, Pitts has done nothing worse than exercise his First Amendment rights in politically incorrect ways, expressing deep anger and hostility toward the US for its endless slaughter or Muslims. What Pitts was incoherently expressing was rage at his own country’s terrorism. For that, his country makes him the terrorist.

That’s not a reality that many Americans can perceive from their 9/11-induced fear bubble (that the FBI cleverly invoked). The hysteria of 9/11 has not abated much. We continue to spend endless millions on terrorism task forces, so, of course, they’re going to find terrorists even where there are none – that’s their job. And if they can’t find terrorists, they’ll invent them as they did with Demetrius Pitts, who was essentially helpless once the FBI targeted him. His case should bring shame to anyone serious about law enforcement and justice. Instead it has brought on nothing better than official empty strutting and craven media credulity.

As for Demetrius Pitts, he has been serially lynched – first by life, which could happen to anyone. But then he was lynched by an FBI in search of easy prey, next he was lynched by the Justice Department in search of easy praise, and now he is being lynched by news media in search of easy answers. In due course, he will likely be lynched by the court system and then by the prison system.

This case is what societal failure looks like. Police-state tactics can railroad an innocent man and no one questions the police state’s flimsy official story.

Trump Isn’t The Problem, He’s the Manifestation of America’s Id

Paul Krugman, professor of international trade and economics at Princeton University

The speed of America’s moral descent under Donald Trump is breathtaking. In a matter of months we’ve gone from a nation that stood for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to a nation that tears children from their parents and puts them in cages.
— Paul Krugman, New York Times column, June 21, 2018

conomist Paul Krugman is a smart Princeton professor who won a Nobel Prize, and most of what he says in this column is heartfelt, decent, and humane. His argument is relatively simple: since there is no present immigration crisis, there is no basis – practical, moral – no decent basis whatsoever for the current government’s inhumane, illegal, brutal treatment of immigrants and their children. In an apparently deliberate exercise of hatred and bigotry, the Trump administration is committing crimes against humanity.

That’s all quite true, quite obvious, and millions of people already recognize the government’s mindless cruelty for what it is – mindless cruelty that stimulates the mindlessly cruel base of Trump supporters from the cabinet on down.

But the way Krugman opens his column is mind-bogglingly delusional at best, dishonestly partisan at worst. Yes, “America’s moral descent under Donald Trump is breathtaking,” but not because of its speed. America’s moral descent has been with us from the beginning. America’s beginning was a struggle to ascend from the accepted moral order rooted in slave-holding authoritarianism, where inequality was God-given and women and children were property. The big difference between now and then is that then the angry white men making a revolution had enlightened ideals that were in conflict with the darker angels of their nature. The core dynamic of American history has always been the struggle between those who want to realize American ideals and those who don’t. The record is decidedly mixed, but the big victories mostly belong to the exploiters and killers. Trump is clearly in that line of descent.

Krugman asks us to believe that, in January 2017, America was “a nation that stood for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This is just a fantasy. These are words from the Declaration of Independence and have no weight in law that defines the nation. The preamble to the Constitution sets our national goals as a more perfect Union, Justice, domestic Tranquility, the common defence, general Welfare, and the Blessings of Liberty. In January 2017, our common defence was secure, except in the paranoid rantings of demagogues. Every other aspiration of the Constitution was in a shambles of long duration.

As he rose to the Presidency, Donald Trump was not so much a unique persona in triumph as he was the cobbled-together excrescence of more than 40 years of collective struggle by right-wing operatives trying to build their own fantasy of America, which Trump now embodies, perhaps imperfectly in the eyes of the idealist right. But he’s their Frankenstein creation and the rabble loves him, contradictory sewn-together bits and all.

Trumpenstein was a long time in the making, but one could see the first bits taking shape at least as early as Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign. The racist veins were pulsing clearly at the kick-off in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in quiet celebration of the lynching of the three civil rights workers, Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, who went unmentioned. The racism of the right has only grown with race-based drug laws, race-populated prisons, race-based poverty, police executions, and on and on. The Clintons were shameful accomplices. No president since Reagan has dialed back American racism. Obama spoke eloquently about race, but that didn’t keep Republicans from racializing politics, much to the glee of the Tea Party, and Obama never pushed back effectively, instead becoming the deporter-in-chief after blessing the military coup in Honduras that later fed the immigration wave fleeing oppression and murder.

Yes, we are now officially “a nation that tears children from their parents and puts them in cages.” We are also a nation that took years to notice our official brutality to immigrants, especially asylum seekers, and most especially those seeking asylum from brutal dictatorships we nurture and support. American brutality on the border is hardly a serious departure from American brutality in Iraq or Vietnam or Korea or in nations of Native Americans where we took children and put them in cages we called Christian schools.

Krugman surely knows all this and more, so why won’t he see it or say it? It’s as if he’s drunk the kool-aid of American Exceptionalism and must deny anything not pre-blessed by our cultural cult. Republicans were rabid to impeach Clinton for lying about a blow-job, Democrats couldn’t even impeach Bush for lying us into war (a war we’ve yet to escape). Obama couldn’t even close Guantanamo, but he refused to prosecute the torturers, and now one of them runs the CIA. It’s taken America years of bipartisan betrayal to get where we are now, but how can we change if we can’t even say clearly and directly who we are and how we got this way?

Krugman is wholly justified in any moral outrage he may feel about the Trump administration, but he is not justified, morally or intellectually, in making Trump a scapegoat embodying longstanding American evils long promoted by the right with little opposition. Trump is a mirror for the country, and if the country doesn’t like what it sees, the country needs to change.