Saturday, September 22, 2018

Last Call For Deportation Nation, Con't

Earlier this month I warned that the Trump regime was driving immigrants away (both documented and those with undocumented family members) away from government food programs with the twin threats of both using registration information to give to ICE, and by the threat of denying green cards to those immigrants who use public food programs.

The result was that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of immigrants were abandoning food assistance programs like SNAP and WIC and housing programs like Section 8, even those with US citizen children.

As of Saturday, that threat of denial of citizenship and deportation as a consequence of using any government food or housing program is now a harsh Trump regime reality.

Trump administration officials announced Saturday that immigrants who legally use public benefits like food assistance and Section 8 housing vouchers could be denied green cards under new rules aimed at keeping out people the administration deems a drain on the country.

The move could force millions of poor immigrants who rely on public assistance for food and shelter to make a difficult choice between accepting financial help and seeking a green card to live and work legally in the United States.

Older immigrants, many of whom get low-cost prescription drugs through the Medicare Part D program, could also be forced to stop participating in the popular benefits program or risk being deemed a “public charge” who is ineligible for legal resident status.

The move is not intended to affect most immigrants who have already been granted green cards, but advocates have said they fear that those with legal resident status will stop using public benefits to protect their status. The regulation, which the administration said would affect about 382,000 people a year, is the latest in a series of aggressive crackdowns by President Trump and his hard-line aides on legal and illegal immigration.

Federal law has always required those seeking green cards to prove they will not be a burden and has taken into consideration the acceptance of cash benefits. But the government has never before considered the use of other public benefits, like assistance for food.

Now, the new regulation — announced on the Department of Homeland Security website — will require that immigration caseworkers consider the use of public benefits to be “heavily weighed negative factors” for those who are applying to remain legally in the country on a permanent basis. Those who are deemed likely to become dependent on government assistance will probably be denied.

Denied and deported.  And what becomes of their US citizen children?  Well, who cares?  That's the state's problem, not Trump's, right?  If they can't be placed with relatives (who will also get careful scrutiny) then into the foster care system they go.

Or worse.  Our government keeps kids in cages, you know.  Hell, who's going to advocate if a toddler can prove his citizenship?  Not this regime.  Maybe we "keep the families together" and everybody gets a one-way trip out of the country.  It's humane, see?

And so it goes.

Deportation Nation.

The Endless Search For Enemies

The White House is preparing orders for antitrust investigations to bring down Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other "enemies of the state" because they allow criticism of Dear Leader, as we grow one step closer to authoritarian control of the internet.

The White House has drafted an executive order for President Donald Trump’s signature that would instruct federal antitrust and law enforcement agencies to open probes into the practices of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc., and other social media companies.

The order is in its preliminary stages and hasn’t yet been run past other government agencies, said a White House official. Bloomberg News obtained a draft of the order.

The document instructs U.S. antitrust authorities to “thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws.” It instructs other government agencies to recommend within a month after it’s signed, actions that could potentially “protect competition among online platforms and address online platform bias.”

The document doesn’t name any companies. If signed, the order would represent a significant escalation of Trump’s aversion to Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies, whom he’s publicly accused of silencing conservative voices and news sources online.

The press offices of Google, Facebook and Twitter didn’t respond Saturday to emails and telephone calls requesting comment.

No, the document hasn't named any companies, but it doesn't have to in order to intimidate Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon's parent companies and their other businesses, including the Washington Post, to suddenly make sure that their coverage of Trump is a whole lot nicer.

The draft order directs that any actions federal agencies take should be “consistent with other laws” -- an apparent nod to concerns that it could threaten the traditional independence of U.S. law enforcement or conflict with the First Amendment, which protects political views from government regulation.

“Because of their critical role in American society, it is essential that American citizens are protected from anticompetitive acts by dominant online platforms,” the order says. It adds that consumer harm -- a key measure in antitrust investigations -- could come “through the exercise of bias.”

The order’s preliminary status is reflected in the text of the draft, which includes a note in red that the first section could be expanded “if necessary, to provide more detail on role of platforms and the importance of competition.”

Drowning Big Tech in antitrust investigations sure is a good way to crash stock prices.  Whether or not you believe the government should be paying attention to the outsized market share of these companies -- and it should, frankly -- going after them because of political revenge isn't the way to do it.

Keep an eye on this one.  Expect it to go places, especially should the GOP lose control of the House and/or Senate in November.

Trump always needs an enemy to blame...

Supreme Misgivings, Con't

A press adviser helping lead the Senate Judiciary Committee’s response to a sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has stepped down amid evidence he was fired from a previous political job in part because of a sexual harassment allegation against him.

Garrett Ventry, 29, who served as a communications aide to the committee chaired by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, had been helping coordinate the majority party's messaging in the wake of Christine Blasey Ford’s claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 years ago at a high school party. In a response to NBC News, Ventry denied any past "allegations of misconduct."

After NBC News raised questions about Ventry's employment history and the sexual harassment allegation against him, Judiciary Committee Spokesman Taylor Foy replied in a statement: "While (Ventry) strongly denies allegations of wrongdoing, he decided to resign to avoid causing any distraction from the work of the committee."

Republicans familiar with the situation had been concerned that Ventry, because of his history, could not lead an effective communications response.

Ventry worked as a social media adviser in 2017 in the office of North Carolina House Majority Leader John Bell, who fired Ventry after several months.

“Mr. Ventry did work in my office and he’s no longer there, he moved on,” Bell told NBC News. He refused to discuss the precise nature of the firing.

Ventry did not answer questions about the circumstances of his departure but said, "I deny allegations of misconduct." He also forwarded a letter of resignation he said he sent to Bell, giving two weeks notice. "Thank you for the opportunity to serve on the staff of the North Carolina House Majority leader at the North Carolina General Assembly," it read.

Sources familiar with the situation said Ventry was let go from Bell’s office after parts of his résumé were found to have been embellished, and because he faced an accusation of sexual harassment from a female employee of the North Carolina General Assembly's Republican staff.

Ventry’s termination was described to NBC News as unusually swift for an office with little overall turnover

Hard to defend the Supreme Court nominee accused of sexual harassment when your media response team is led by a guy accused of sexual harassment.  Or hey, maybe he has relevant experience!

Of course, the main issue is now it's blinding obvious that the GOP is leading a coordinated effort to destroy Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford's life, and right-wing noisemaker Ed Whelen has all but given the game away.

Yesterday, Whelan, the president of the Ethics and & Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank, and an assertive supporter of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, took to Twitter to lay out a Hardy Boys-inspired scenario, suggesting that Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Kavanaugh of attempted rape in high school, might have been mistaken about the identity of her alleged sexual assaulter. Using a mash-up of yearbook photos, Zillow information, Google Maps and Facebook, Whelan laid out a “case” that another man, a former classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Georgetown Prep—whom he named and provided a current photograph of—might have been the person Ford has in mind. After his wild theory received widespread criticism, Whelan deleted the tweets, and tried to walk back the accusation this morning.

But, if it’s false, it’s already too late to protect him against a possible defamation claim.

The common law of defamation isn’t that complicated. To be liable, the defendant must make an intentionally or negligently false statement about the plaintiff that tends to cause reputational harm, and harm must actually ensue.

The requirement that the statements Whelan made about the “mystery man” (whom we’ll not re-identify here) be false might be the most difficult requirement to satisfy. The first question courts ask is whether a reasonable person would think that the defendant was saying something that would be taken as the truth—because a statement can only be “false” if compared to a true one. Generally, opinions are not actionable, if the defendant sets forth the basis for them and doesn’t claim them to be true. Whelan might argue that he himself was publishing an opinion, as one of the last tweets in the storm has this disclaimer: “I have no idea what, if anything, did or did not happen in that bedroom at the top of the stairs.”

But that may not be enough to insulate Whelan, given that he also wrote of “compelling reasons to believe” Kavanaugh’s denial, and then launched into a Twitterstorm examination of what he clearly presents as evidence in support of his “theory.” A reasonable person might well think he was making a claim about what “really” happened. The case he builds reads much more like a series of factual, evidence-based claims than an opinion. The mystery man, though, will have the burden of proving that the statement Whelan made was false, and would be reasonably taken that way.

Whelan retracted everything, but it turns out he was pushed by a GOP PR firm into running with the accusations, the same group behind the now infamous Swift Boat accusations against John Kerry.

The larger problem for Kavanaugh though is that it's looking more and more like both the nominee and the White House knew full well what Whelan was up to, meaning they were in on the smear from the start.  If that's the case, then I don't see how Kavanaugh survives.

Hell, it's getting so bad for the GOP that they can't help themselves and have already created this year's Todd Akin moment.

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), the GOP Senate nominee, said Friday that giving credence to allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a young woman when they were teenagers is “absurd.”

Cramer sounded off on professor Christine Blasey Ford’s claim that Brett Kavanaugh drunkenly sexually assaulted her when she was 15 and he was 17 during a radio interview, describing them as “even more absurd” than Anita Hill’s accusations that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her because of Kavanaugh’s age at the time and because it was “an attempt or something that never went anywhere.”

This case is even more absurd because these people were teenagers when this supposed, alleged incident took place. Teenagers. Not a boss, supervisor-subordinate situation as the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill situation was claimed to be,” he said during an appearance on KNOX. “These are teenagers who evidently were drunk according to her own, her own statements. They were drunk when it evidently happened… even by her own accusation. Again, it was supposedly an attempt or something that never went anywhere. So you just have to wonder.”

Congratulations to Heidi Heitkamp for having this dirt clod as an opponent, because she just won re-election.

Everything that the GOP could possibly be doing to drive the massive gender gap higher and to lose women for a generation is happening.

Another #MeToo Moment, Con't

Another woman comes forward, another politician ends their reelection campaign, but the circumstances surrounding Minnesota Republican state Rep. Jim Knoblach here are far more serious.

Republican state Rep. Jim Knoblach abruptly ended his re-election campaign Friday as MPR News prepared to publish detailed accusations from his daughter of inappropriate behavior toward her since childhood.

The announcement came hours after an attorney for Knoblach denied the allegations in an interview.

Knoblach, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, declined to be interviewed after being approached more than a week ago.

In a written statement, Knoblach called the allegations "indescribably hurtful" and said he would work toward healing his family.

"I love my children more than anything, and would never do anything to hurt them. Her allegations are false," Knoblach wrote. "I and other family members have made repeated attempts to reconcile with her in recent years, but she has refused."

The timing of his exit could make his St. Cloud-area seat, already a top target for Democrats, impossible for Republicans to hold, barring some kind of court intervention or a write-in campaign by a substitute candidate. Knoblach was seeking a ninth term and was being challenged by Democratic candidate Dan Wolgamott, also of St. Cloud. Knoblach plans to serve out his term.

Yes America, fathers abuse their daughters (and their sons.)  It happens far more often than you think, because it is kept silent for years, for decades, for lifetimes.

Knoblach's daughter, Laura, alleges that the prominent legislator inappropriately touched her for most of her life, behavior she confided to close friends, family and authority figures at her school and church for more than a decade.

She said she decided to tell her story to MPR News after exhausting other means to hold her father accountable, including a 2017 investigation by local law enforcement. No charges resulted. She provided MPR News with extensive documentation about her attempts to get help.

Laura Knoblach, 23, said she first remembers her father, an eight-term state representative, touching her when she was 9 years old. He came into her room after she'd gone to bed and climbed in and laid down behind her.

"He would put his arm around me and not let me get up or get away and he would lick my neck or bite my ear," she said in an interview with MPR News.

You will never convince me that coming forward like this isn't the definition of bravery, because of this.

Susan Gaertner, Jim Knoblach's attorney, said while her client denied the allegations, he "does not want to drag his family through six weeks of hell."

Gaertner suggested Laura Knoblach disagrees with her father's political beliefs and her actions are politically motivated.

"There have been family conflicts, as is true of any family, some of them have been quite difficult," Gaertner told MPR News. "You add a layer of family conflicts to politics, and that makes the situation even more difficult."

And so it goes.  A woman who has exhausted all other options to make the abuse stop is accused of purposely wrecking her father's political career by another woman, made out to be the villain for daring to come forward now.  I'm sure Laura is already receiving death threats and hate mail, phone calls and shouted insults.

She may have to move from where she lives in Boulder, Colorado, but it won't matter because this will be used to define her for the rest of her life, "Aren't you the woman who turned in her dad in Minnesota for abuse and ended his political career?"

Men reading this, I guarantee you that your wife, your girlfriend, your best friend, your sister, your niece, your female co-worker, your kid's teacher, your friend's wife, your aunt, your mother, your daughter, all have stories that they never told a soul.  They carry it with them every day and you would never, ever know. If you ask, they may not be ready to tell you, even though they trust and love you, even though they've known you for decades.

But that story is there.
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