Sunday, April 8, 2018

Last Call For A Syria's Problem

If one of the bonuses of Putin's interference with our elections and the Trump regime is "getting away with literal murder in Syria" then the Kremlin has to be pretty pleased with itself right about now.

President Trump on Sunday promised a “big price” to be paid for what he said was a chemical weapons attack that choked dozens of Syrians to death the day before, and a top White House official said the administration would not rule out a missile strike to retaliate against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

In a tweet, Mr. Trump laid the blame for the attack partly on President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, the first time since his election that he has criticized the Russian leader by name on Twitter. Mr. Putin’s forces have been fighting for years to keep the Assad government in power amid Syria’s brutal civil war.

Mr. Trump also left no doubt that he believed the assessment of aid groups that Mr. Assad’s military had used chemical weapons to inflict the carnage on Saturday in Douma, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. The attack left at least 42 people dead in their homes from apparent suffocation and sent many others to clinics with burning eyes and breathing problems.

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria,” Mr. Trump wrote. “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad.”

“Big price to pay,” Mr. Trump continued in a second tweet. “Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!”

Thomas P. Bossert, Mr. Trump’s homeland security adviser, said he and the rest of the president’s national security team had been in talks with Mr. Trump late Saturday and early Sunday about how to respond. Asked specifically about the possibility of a missile strike, Mr. Bossert did not rule it out.

“I wouldn’t take anything off the table,” Mr. Bossert said on ABC’s “This Week.” “These are horrible photos; we’re looking into the attack at this point.”

That raised the prospect of a strike along the lines of one that the president ordered almost exactly a year ago after a sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun that killed more than 80 civilians. In that strike, the United States military dropped 59 Tomahawk missiles on the Al Shayrat airfield, where the chemical weapons attack had originated.

Mr. Trump may be considering such a strike even as he has expressed his desire in recent days to pull American troops out of Syria, where they are seeking to eliminate the last vestiges of the Islamic State. White House officials said Mr. Trump would have a meeting and dinner on Monday at the White House with senior military leaders.

Nikki R. Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, announced an emergency meeting there on Monday to demand immediate access to Douma for emergency workers, urge an independent investigation of the massacre, and “hold accountable those responsible for this atrocious act.”

The assault on Douma and the president’s response also showed how Syria has bedeviled Mr. Trump just as it did his predecessor, repeatedly presenting them with grave challenges and few good options for confronting them.

Understand that if Trump responds with another Tomahawk missile attack, Putin wins.

There's no reason to believe at this point that Trump won't declare victory over ISIS in Syria and complete the withdrawal of troops, either.  It's easy and fashionable to pin all this on Obama too, but the reality is that the US has been outmanuevered by Putin for some time now in both Europe and the Middle East dating back to almost two decades.  Putin can afford to play the longest of games, and he's been winning for some time now.  I don't see any way to stop him at this point, either.

There's enough chaos in the former Baltics and Eastern Europe now that the buffer between Russia and the European Union is non-existent, with several Eastern European countries now firmly under the sway of virulent nationalism. In the Middle East, propping up Syria and winning over Iran has been Putin's crowning achievement. And there's every indication that Trump is doing all Putin's heavy lifting for him and is clearing the decks to get the last obstacles between the Kremlin and Russian hegemony in the Middle East out of the way.

Where we go from here is anyone's guess, but my gut tells me Trump is going to do something catastrophically stupid and soon.

Sunday Long Read: Vacate The Premises

Ten years ago the Great Recession destroyed the black middle class, wiping out 85%+ of black net worth and more than 50% of wealth in the United States, what little we had.  Black and Latino household median net worth is headed for zero now and that's before his trade wars and disastrous economic policy move up that timetable from 2053-2073 to much, much sooner.

We already know what that future looks like today: the massive eviction machinery in the South in states like Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia that exists to put an increasing number of black renters out on the streets to disappear into the black hole that is America's criminal justice system.

Before the first hearings on the morning docket, the line starts to clog the lobby of the John Marshall Courthouse. No cellphones are allowed inside, but many of the people who’ve been summoned don’t learn that until they arrive. “Put it in your car,” the sheriff’s deputies suggest at the metal detector. That advice is no help to renters who have come by bus. To make it inside, some tuck their phones in the bushes nearby.

This courthouse handles every eviction in Richmond, a city with one of the highest eviction rates in the country, according to new data covering dozens of states and compiled by a team led by the Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond.

Two years ago, Mr. Desmond turned eviction into a national topic of conversation with “Evicted,” a book that chronicled how poor families who lost their homes in Milwaukee sank ever deeper into poverty. It became a favorite among civic groups and on college campuses, some here in Richmond. Bill Gates and former President Obama named it among the best books they had read in 2017, and it was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

But for all the attention the problem began to draw, even Mr. Desmond could not say how widespread it was. Surveys of renters have tried to gauge displacement, but there is no government data tracking all eviction cases in America. Now that Mr. Desmond has been mining court records across the country to build a database of millions of evictions, it’s clear even in his incomplete national picture that they are more rampant in many places than what he saw in Milwaukee.

Mr. Desmond’s team found records for nearly 900,000 eviction judgments in 2016, meaning landlords were given the legal right to remove at least one in 50 renter households in the communities covered by this data. That figure was one in 25 in Milwaukee and one in nine in Richmond. And one in five renter households in Richmond were threatened with eviction in 2016. Their landlords began legal proceedings, even if those cases didn’t end with a lasting mark on a tenant’s record.

For landlords, these numbers represent a financial drain of unpaid rent; for tenants, a looming risk of losing their homes.

In Richmond, most of those evicted never made it to a courtroom. They didn’t appear because the process seemed inscrutable, or because they didn’t have lawyers to navigate it, or because they believed there is not much to say when you simply don’t have the money. The median amount owed was $686.

Inside the courtroom, cases sometimes brought in bulk by property managers are settled in minutes when defendants aren’t present.

“The whole system works on default judgments and people not showing up,” said Martin Wegbreit, director of litigation at the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society. “Imagine if every person asked for a trial. The system would bog down in a couple of months.”

The consequences of what happens here then spread across the city. The Richmond public school system reroutes buses to follow children from apartments to homeless shelters to pay-by-the-week motels. City social workers coach residents on how to fill out job applications when they have no answer for the address line. Families lose their food stamps and Medicaid benefits when they lose the permanent addresses where renewal notices are sent.

An eviction isn’t one problem,” said Amy Woolard, a lawyer and the policy coordinator at the Legal Aid Justice Center in town. “It’s like 12 problems.”

I know it's fashionable to lay all this at the feet of Obama in an effort to strip the black and Latino vote away from the Democrats, but considering Trump destroyed what Obama was able to accomplish in a matter of months without a peep from the usual suspects tells me all I need to know.

We saddled Obama with a GOP House in just two years and kept making it worse for 99% of us because they promised to rectify the "error" of electing a black president.  Now we're all surprised that the most suffering is once again brought upon the black community.

This is what America voted for, though.
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