Friday, February 21, 2020

Stephen Miller - Trump's Fanatic Racist Aide

I thought I had put up a post on Stephen Miller long ago, but I couldn't find it.  Eventually, I looked in my drafts - started posts I never posted and there was one just after Trump's inauguration that offered links to background on Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Roger Stone.  I eventually covered Stone in one post, and Bannon.

The link on that page for Miller looked at his high school days and beyond.  He was clearly troubled already then.

I was reminded of that by this new piece from the New Yorker which looks at how he leads the extreme and cruel immigration policies.

"One participant in the November meeting pointed out that El Salvador didn’t have a functioning asylum system. “They don’t need a system,” Miller interrupted. He began speaking over people, asking questions, then cutting off the answers.
As the meeting ended, Miller held up his hand to make a final comment. “I didn’t mean to come across as harsh,” he said. His voice dropped. “It’s just that this is all I care about. I don’t have a family. I don’t have anything else. This is my life.”
Miller, who is thirty-four, with thinning hair and a sharp, narrow face, is an anomaly in Washington: an adviser with total authority over a single issue that has come to define an entire Administration. “We have never had a President who ran, and won, on immigration,” Muzaffar Chishti, of the Migration Policy Institute, told me. “And he’s kept his promise on immigration.” Miller, who was a speechwriter during the campaign, is now Trump’s longest-serving senior aide. He is also an Internet meme, a public scourge, and a catch-all symbol of the racism and malice of the current government. In a cast of exceptionally polarizing officials, he has embraced the role of archvillain."

"He asked to head the Domestic Policy Council, an influential but amorphous group inside the White House. The position gave him proximity to the President and insulation from congressional scrutiny; he would issue, rather than implement, orders. “The rest of us have to testify before Congress. That’s a check. If you’re going to have your ass hauled before Congress, you’re not going to feel comfortable breaking the law,” a former top Administration official told me. 'Miller will never have to testify for anything.'”

"In the days leading up to Trump’s Inauguration, Miller and a close associate named Gene Hamilton, another former Sessions staffer in his mid-thirties, drafted an executive order called “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”—the travel ban.
When Trump signed it, none of the top officials at the Department of Homeland Security, which was in charge of enforcing the ban, had been notified in advance. Travellers with valid visas were suddenly trapped at American airports, unable to enter the country; refugees who, after years of waiting, had been vetted and approved for entry were turned back. Thousands of protesters and civil-rights attorneys began congregating at airports across the country, and Senators Graham and McCain issued a statement saying that “we should not turn our backs on those refugees who . . . pose no demonstrable threat to our nation, and who have suffered unspeakable horrors.” Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and senior adviser, was enraged. The next day, when the President’s senior staff assembled in the Situation Room, Miller told John Kelly, the head of D.H.S.; Tom Bossert, the President’s homeland-security adviser; and officials from the State Department, “This is the new world order. You need to get on board,” according to an account in “Border Wars,” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear."

While many of Trump's appointees have either seen themselves as people who could hold Trump back, or people just happy to be able to put their Trump service on their resumes, Miller is one who clearly has Trump's ear and pushes Trump towards his worst decisions on immigration.    

Thursday, February 20, 2020

How Many Active Duty US Generals?

From Congressional Research Service Report:

click to enlarge and focus

Table 3 in the report shows the historical numbers of officers and the percentage of total force.  (it's up from 0.048% in 1965 to 0.070% in 2018.  All officers, as a percentage of total force, are up from 12.76% to 17.51% in the same time period.

I got to this report from an article by a retired US army major that focused on Smedley and hypothesized about why there are no retired generals today criticizing the US involvement in endless wars today.

This is just a reminder that there is a lot of reading material out there that has facts and in-depth looks at things.  An alternative to memes and tweets, where people can actually learn something that helps fill holes in their world views.  Below is just the first page of the Congressional Research Service's index of reports that start with those issued today 20/02/2020:

Feb 20, 2020
Feb 20, 2020
Feb 20, 2020
Feb 19, 2020
Feb 19, 2020
Feb 18, 2020

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

"The rule of law and the survival of our Republic demand nothing less." From Justice Department Alumni Letter

Exceprts from the letter written by 2000 Department of Justice Alumni.  The whole letter is here.  These are things that are worth taking the time to read in their entirety.  This one isn't that long.

"As former DOJ officials, we each proudly took an oath to support and defend our Constitution and faithfully execute the duties of our offices. The very first of these duties is to apply the law equally to all Americans. This obligation flows directly from the Constitution, and it is embedded in countless rules and laws governing the conduct of DOJ lawyers. The Justice Manual — the DOJ’s rulebook for its lawyers — states that “the rule of law depends on the evenhanded administration of justice”; that the Department’s legal decisions “must be impartial and insulated from political influence”; and that the Department’s prosecutorial powers, in particular, must be “exercised free from partisan consideration.”
All DOJ lawyers are well-versed in these rules, regulations, and constitutional commands. They stand for the proposition that political interference in the conduct of a criminal prosecution is anathema to the Department’s core mission and to its sacred obligation to ensure equal justice under the law."
It's worth sending this to your members of Congress, reminding them of the oaths they took.

"For these reasons, we support and commend the four career prosecutors who upheld their oaths and stood up for the Department’s independence by withdrawing from the Stone case and/or resigning from the Department. Our simple message to them is that we — and millions of other Americans — stand with them. And we call on every DOJ employee to follow their heroic example and be prepared to report future abuses to the Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility, and Congress; to refuse to carry out directives that are inconsistent with their oaths of office; to withdraw from cases that involve such directives or other misconduct; and, if necessary, to resign and report publicly — in a manner consistent with professional ethics — to the American people the reasons for their resignation. We likewise call on the other branches of government to protect from retaliation those employees who uphold their oaths in the face of unlawful directives. The rule of law and the survival of our Republic demand nothing less."


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Knees Of Candidates

Really?  Women are still expected to bare their knees and walk on stilts while men are allowed to walk on more solid shoes and cover their whole legs?  They should have to compete equally.  Since we call these political 'races' why don't we require all male racers to compete in the same racing uniform as the women?

I put this up because we are so accustomed to seeing women and men dressed like this that we don't even see the disparity any more.  I'm hoping readers will really see this sort of thing in the future.  Women are expected to dress 'like women.'   They are allowed to dress dress like men to the extent they may wear pants.  Male candidates would never show up a debate dressed like the female candidate in this picture.  That alone tells us about male/female equality and power.

I think candidates in a debate like this should be asked about what they are wearing and how it reflects the power of men and women in our society.

And I suspect everyone responds, viscerally, a little differently.  Do the bare legs enhance the woman's appeal to voters?  Distract from what she says?  How would the man wearing shorts affect voters?  There's a lot more to unpack from this picture.

[The picture is from the LA Times and is of Jackie Lacey and George Gascón  both running for Los Angeles County District Attorney.  Photo by Irfan Khan]

Monday, February 17, 2020


There's a demon living between my knee and my heel/ankle, on my right leg, moving around and causing pain in a seeming random way.  With ice, ace bandages, and a knee brace, I've been able to keep walking and pretending everything is normal.  Underlying this all is the damage I did to my sciatic nerve during the earthquake Nov 2018.  The problems I'm having are along the path of the nerve, and the three toes on the right side of my right foot are still odd.  Sort of like after your foot's been asleep and is getting better, but isn't quite normal yet.  That's been pretty much how things are.

Last time I saw the physical therapist, he gave me new exercises to do, and when I asked about acupuncture, said that 70% of his patients who have done acupuncture report that it helps.

So I was going to try in San Francisco where there were acupuncturists on every corner it seems.  But we really weren't there long enough.  But here on Bainbridge there's an acupuncture person a very short walk from where we stay.  My hope is that it can clear the passage of the nerve to my toes.  And all the other problems are along the same route and affected by muscles along that path.

And while I have an aversion to needles used to give shots or draw blood, my head has no problem with the little acupuncture needles.  So I emailed and got a response that there was a cancellation at 4:30 today.  My granddaughter accompanied me.  

After taking some history of the issues, she had me get up on the table and put little needles in me on both sides from chest too foot and let me lie there and relax.   The goal she said, was to do general body work, not specific.  The hope was to alert the body to try to recalibrate itself.

We'll see.  It seems there's a slight improvement in my toes, but I don't know if I'm just imagining that or not.  After a few days I'll know more.  I'll go back for several more sessions before we return to Anchorage.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial

Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial is a short drive from here.  A friend from Anchorage who is also in Seattle visiting grandkids brought two and two dogs to visit us on Bainbridge today.  So I haven't had much time to even think about posting.  But here's a bit.

There's a path here with a series of panels with wooden pictures of the removal of Japanese-Americans, many, not most,  American citizens, from Bainbridge Island after the US declared war on Japan after Pearl Harbor.  Japanese had settled here and many raised strawberries.  The book Snow Falling On Cedars is a novel about this period here on the island.  This path is also the path the internees were walked down to get to ships to remove them on their way to internment camps further from the coast.

There are also quotes here and there from people who experienced this, like this one:

This echoes the sentiment of Holocaust survivors in Europe during World War II.  And give the imprisonment of asylum seekers and the separation of children from their parents there, it seems that we are letting this happen again.

The LA Times today reports that California is going to officially apologize for internment of Japanese in World War II.

Then we walked along the nearby beach, where the dogs had a great time off leash.

Here, the ferry from downtown Seattle is coming into downtown Winslow.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Fictional Accuracy Of Elections And The Iowa Caucus

As the Nevada caucuses begin, I'm still pondering how pundits, the media in general, and people in general reacted to the Iowa caucuses.  My sense is that caucuses are a kind of community gathering where people share with others to get a sense of how the collective feels about the candidates.  But we are in a world that demands precision, demand instant results.  People get impatient if it takes a website to open in more than 2 seconds, so election results need to be available 20 minutes after the polls close.  But what do the numbers mean anyway?

Caucus Thoughts

I’ve been to two caucuses in Anchorage - 2008 and 2016.  People come together.  Lots of people.  There’s camaraderie,  laughter, crowds, confusion, donuts, and a chance to see lots of folks you haven’t seen for a while.  

Once into your precinct rooms, talk gets more serious, but there’s still a friendly banter about candidates.  It’s time to hear from proponents of different candidates, to ask questions, and be asked questions.  Some people have done their homework, others are seeking answers.  

People eventually get asked to stand in different parts of the room depending on which candidate they support.  Then those candidates with too few supporters are eliminated and their supporters get to join their second choice.  

If the group is small, it’s easy to get an accurate count.  If there are 100 or more, it starts getting trickier.  People have to stand still.  Did you count him already? What about her?

But if the tally is 111 or 113 it doesn’t really matter that much.  You’ve got a good sense that a lot more people want candidate A over candidate B.  Besides, the people in the room represent only those people who had the time, transportation, or interest to go.  There are plenty more people who couldn’t or just didn’t come.  

There’s lots good about a caucus.  The chance to see and talk and debate with lots of people - some good friends, some acquaintances you haven’t seen a while, and some strangers you want to see again or not.  It’s a way to get more information about candidates, to learn why others support or don’t support different candidates.  And it’s a way to get a sense of how many people prefer this candidate over that one.  It's a lot different from making the decision alone in the voting booth.

Nowadays, science and efficiency and legal (but not scientific) precision are demanded.  The people of the media have made elections into a sport with stats that tell us precisely what the electorate wants down to two or three decimal points.  

All this comes to mind as I watch the coverage of the Iowa caucuses.  Here we have an old fashioned process that allows neighbors and friends to work out who they want to support, even with the benefits of being able to pick a second choice when it’s clear their first choice isn’t going to make it.  In the past, I’m sure, these things never had to be lunar landing precise, just good enough.  And they served a lot of social functions that individually marking a ballot in a curtained off booth doesn’t serve.  People get a better sense of what those voting for other candidates are thinking.  And they even learn that people are voting for their own preference for different reasons.

This process has been coming into conflict with the increasing demands from the politicians and the media for precision.  Iowa’s attempts to ‘bring the caucus into the 21st Century’ by using an app, just didn’t work out.  And the candidates and the media, who need the certainty of precise numbers, were left to run off to New Hampshire without the resolution they needed as quickly as they needed it.  

It makes sense for elections to be precise, and if people choose not to vote, well, that’s their choice.  (Unless it’s manufactured by removing people from the voting rolls, limiting access to the polls by having fewer polling places, or not enough workers or ballots, and other such schemes.)  But this form of caucus has served a lot of other purposes beyond getting a final precise voting count.  

And the numerical precision that the media demand, really isn’t as precise or reflective of what people want any way.  And even when nearly 3 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump, the technicalities of the electoral college voided all those votes.   

And the purging of voters in states like Florida and Michigan, not to mention irregularities with the unbacked up voting machines, probably were enough to fix the electoral college vote.  (Greg Palast tells us that while Trump won by 13,107 in Michigan, 449,922 voters (mostly black) had been purged from the voting list.)

I’d note that Alaska has a petition gathering signatures now that would allow for ranked-choice voting.  That is, like in a caucus, they would be able to indicate their second and third choices, so two candidates they like wouldn’t split the vote and allow one they don’t like to win.  Which is part of what’s in the caucus process.  

I think we're being way too controlled by technological demands for an artificial accuracy and for instant turnaround in the elections.  The harder to measure social and civic benefits of voting itself are ignored and sacrificed in exchange.  And the bigger issues of voter suppression and hacking voting machines are not getting the attention they should get.  Trump will win this election only with the help of foreign propaganda, voter purging, and tampering with the count of votes, both electronic and otherwise.  

Friday, February 14, 2020

Better Husband, Architecture, New Monopoly, Trump and Hitler

There are so many things to post that I get overwhelmed.  A few drafts are backed up as I write and rewrite and gather more information and then try to shorten them to focus on the key points.  I try anyway.  But in the mean time here are a few things.

1.  I Quit Being a Therapist so I Could Be a Better Husband

 "I hated the idea of being someone who spends the day helping other families overcome difficult emotions but can’t do the same with himself at home for his family. I felt like a fraud."
"Early on, the skills I refined as a therapist made me a better husband. I got good at understanding the variety of reasons people do what they do. I became more compassionate in our marriage and I was better equipped to help Nhu-An navigate challenges in her family, with her friends, and at work. I think it’s also made me a better father to our daughter — more patient, present, and involved.
Three things changed."
 It's a good piece, I recommend you read it all.  It's positive, but also critical of the medical system.

3.  If Trump's Loves Classical Architecture, He Needs To Congratulate Nancy Pelosi On Her Home Town City Hall.

Trump had just issued an order about court houses needing to only be built in classical style.  No modern buildings (like his towers).  I thought about this as we walked past the San Francisco City Hall on our way to BART and the airport Wednesday.

2. San Francisco as we flew back to Seattle.  

3.  New Monopoly Uses Credit Cards Instead Of Money

My granddaughter insisted we play monopoly.  It was never one of my favorite activities, but she's my granddaughter, so what could I do?  It turns out that each player now gets credit cards and there's this little gadget you put the cards in.  Then you type how much money, and it either a) transfers it in or out of one card (if you pass go or have to pay Luxury Taxes, etc.) or b) transfers money from one card to the other (if you have to pay rent.)

As I recall, it was relatively easy to cheat when you used paper money.  This gadget takes that ease to a whole new level.  The banker just types it in and you get your card back.  Unless you insist the banker shows what your card is now, you have no idea how much money you have.

And the amounts are in the tens of thousands to millions.  One dollar bills?  Hah!

4.  Sound Transit (Seattle) Hate Free Zone

If you want to keep out of the darker side of politics, stop here.

4.  Leading Civil Rights Lawyer Shows 20 Ways Trump Is Copying Hitler’s Early Rhetoric and Policies  -  I've been talking about this since at least the election in 2016. (For example this post.)  No one can say we weren't warned.
"A younger Trump, according to his first wife’s divorce filings, kept and studied a book translating and annotating Adolf Hitler’s pre-World War II speeches in a locked bedside cabinet, Neuborne noted. The English edition of My New Order, published in 1941, also had analyses of the speeches’ impact on his era’s press and politics. “Ugly and appalling as they are, those speeches are masterpieces of demagogic manipulation,” Neuborne says.
“Watching Trump work his crowds, though, I see a dangerously manipulative narcissist unleashing the demagogic spells that he learned from studying Hitler’s speeches—spells that he cannot control and that are capable of eroding the fabric of American democracy,” Neuborne says. 'You see, we’ve seen what these rhetorical techniques can do. Much of Trump’s rhetoric—as a candidate and in office—mirrors the strategies, even the language, used by Adolf Hitler in the early 1930s to erode German democracy.'”