Sunday, September 15, 2019

Last Call For Deportation Nation, Con't

Apparently the US Border Patrol doesn't like being Trump's paid thugs to round up those people and slam them in for-profit detention camps, but hey, they're doing it anyway because they gotta make a buck somehow.

One Border Patrol agent in Tucson said he had been called a “sellout” and a “kid killer.” In El Paso, an agent said he and his colleagues in uniform had avoided eating lunch together except at certain “BP friendly” restaurants because “there’s always the possibility of them spitting in your food.” An agent in Arizona quit last year out of frustration. “Caging people for a nonviolent activity,” he said, “started to eat away at me.” 
For decades, the Border Patrol was a largely invisible security force. Along the southwestern border, its work was dusty and lonely. Between adrenaline-fueled chases, the shells of sunflower seeds piled up outside the windows of their idling pickup trucks. Agents called their slow-motion specialty “laying in” — hiding in the desert and brush for hours, to wait and watch, and watch and wait. 
Two years ago, when President Trump entered the White House with a pledge to close the door on illegal immigration, all that changed. The nearly 20,000 agents of the Border Patrol became the leading edge of one of the most aggressive immigration crackdowns ever imposed in the United States. 
No longer were they a quasi-military organization tasked primarily with intercepting drug runners and chasing smugglers. Their new focus was to block and detain hundreds of thousands of migrant families fleeing violence and extreme poverty — herding people into tents and cages, seizing children and sending their parents to jail, trying to spot those too sick to survive in the densely packed processing facilities along the border.

It's just heart-rending, isn't it.

Ten migrants have died since September in the custody of the Border Patrol and its parent agency, Customs and Border Protection. 
In recent months, the extreme overcrowding on the border has begun to ease, with migrants turned away and made to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed. Last week, the Supreme Court allowed the administration to close the door further, at least for now, by requiring migrants from countries outside Mexico to show they have already been denied refuge in another country before applying for asylum.

The Border Patrol, whose agents have gone from having one of the most obscure jobs in law enforcement to one of the most hated, is suffering a crisis in both mission and morale. Earlier this year, the disclosure of a private Facebook group where agents posted sexist and callous references to migrants and the politicians who support them reinforced the perception that agents often view the vulnerable people in their care with frustration and contempt. 
Interviews with 25 current and former agents in Texas, California and Arizona — some conducted on the condition of anonymity so the agents could speak more candidly — paint a portrait of an agency in a political and operational quagmire. Overwhelmed through the spring and early summer by desperate migrants, many agents have grown defensive, insular and bitter. 
The president of the agents’ union said he had received death threats. An agent in South Texas said some colleagues he knew were looking for other federal law enforcement jobs. One agent in El Paso told a retired agent he was so disgusted by scandals in which the Border Patrol has been accused of neglecting or mistreating migrants that he wanted the motto emblazoned on its green-and-white vehicles — “Honor First” — scratched off.

Honor among jackbooted thugs and all.

I have zero sympathy for the folks actively working to be Donald Trump's white supremacist paramilitary police.  You have a choice, and that choice is helping the rest of us get rid of the bastard, or stay with him and face the consequences of that choice.

Rounding up kids and families for semi-permanent detention is repugnant.  You can stop at anytime and resign, you know.

Of course, the people working for Trump never will.

The Saudis And The Houthis, Con't

As I said yesterday, the drone attack that damaged the heart of Saudi Arabia's oilfields on Saturday is a massive issue, because despite Yemeni Houthi rebels claiming responsibility, the Trump regime says Iran is behind the attack.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pinned the blame on Iran for an attack at a Saudi oil field in a pair of tweets Saturday. 
Drone strikes on crucial Saudi Arabian oil facilities have disrupted about half of the kingdom's oil capacity, or 5% of the daily global oil supply, CNN Business reported earlier Saturday. Yemen's Houthi rebels took responsibility for the attacks but they are often backed by Iran. 
But preliminary indications are that the attacks did not originate from Yemen and likely originated from Iraq, according to a source with knowledge of the incident. The same official said the damage was caused by an armed drone attack. 
CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen said there have been more than 200 drone attacks launched by Houthi rebels from Yemen into Saudi Arabia, and none have been as effective as Saturday's attack, lending credence to the belief that the attack did not originate from Yemen. 
"Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy," Pompeo tweeted, referencing Iran's president Hassan Rouhani and foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. 
"Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen," Pompeo continued, providing no evidence that Iran was behind the attacks. 
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Seyyed Abbas Mousavi, rejected the accusation that Iran was behind the attack. 
"Such blind accusations and inappropriate comments in a diplomatic context are incomprehensible and meaningless," he said, adding: "even hostility needs a certain degree of credibility and reasonable frameworks, US officials have also violated these basic principles." 

John Bolton's mustache may be gone, but the Trump regime is still looking for any excuse for war with Tehran, and it finally may have found one.

Sunday Long Read: Knows The Land Like The Back Of His Hand

This week's long read comes as a reminder that while not every US farmer believes in climate change, they all deal with its effects whether they want to or not.

The sun wasn’t even up yet when Ethan Cox tugged his work boots on, along with his old barn coat, the lighter one. He knew he wouldn’t need the heavier one. He didn’t even have to check the local forecast. It was going to be warm that day, low to mid-80s as the day wore on, he guessed, pretty much the same as it had been for quite a while. He glanced out the bedroom window at the sky. It was gray and brittle. It was going to be dry, too. That was no surprise either. The first week of March 2012 had been unusually dry. So had the whole month of February. In fact, the whole winter had been warm and dry. The yuppies and the liberals across the river in St. Louis or up in Chicago or out in San Francisco and New York all talked about that as being evidence that the climate was changing, that the bill was coming due for a century’s worth of pouring all manner of poison into the atmosphere. 
Ethan’s neighbors thought that was kind of amusing. They saw the warm, dry weather as a godsend. After two years of record or near-record flooding, a deluge in 2011 so powerful that the Army Corps of Engineers decided to blow up the levees along the Mississippi River to keep Cairo, Illinois, from being washed off the map and such brutal rainstorms a year earlier that the region suffered $3 billion in losses and crop and infrastructure damage that forced many farmers in the region to the brink of bankruptcy, to them the unseasonably warm and dry spring of 2012 was a sign from above that the worst was over, at least for now. 
Ethan didn’t think much of the liberals’ point of view. They were always warning that something — the weather, the pesticides and fertilizers the farmers used, the very crops they grew, modified by biochemists in some corporate lab someplace — was going to tilt Earth on its axis and unleash all kinds of demonic forces. And it always seemed as if the only solution was to rein in farmers like Ethan, make them toe the line, regardless of what it cost in terms of productivity, regardless of what it cost the rest of the world in terms of slowing down the rate of food production even as the number of hungry mouths to feed skyrocketed around the globe. Not that he was entirely hostile to liberal ideas — he didn’t mind the farm subsidies that came his way. 
Ethan paused in the sleepy kitchen of the White Hall, Illinois, farm where he had been born sixty-five years earlier, poured himself a cup of coffee, and then trudged out the side door, across the yard toward the workshop, a kind of tractor shed and makeshift office that he had turned into the nerve center of the 3,000-acre corn and soy and cattle farm he had built the place into. He was moving a little slower these days. His knees weren’t what they used to be. Neither was his heart. Seemed as if his body was every bit as creaky as the old corrugated metal sliding door to the workshop that grumbled and screeched in protest every time he hauled it open.
No, Ethan didn’t think much of the liberals’ point of view. But he didn’t think much of his neighbors’ unbounded optimism either. Maybe the liberals’ warnings about global warming were overblown, but something was happening. Those two years of back-to-back storms were like nothing he had ever seen, and despite his best efforts to gird his land against nature’s ravages — adopting no-till or strip-till farming to leave a protective cover on the ground and reduce the worst effects of erosion, for example — those storms had taken a toll, even on a farsighted farmer like him. His 2011 crop was a fraction of what it should have been. So was his 2010 harvest. Another year like that, and instead of getting paid, he’d owe money to the corporation that took his corn. 
The thing was, there had been an ever-increasing number of years like that. In the fifty years since Ethan was a teenager, the number of extreme rain events — storms dumping more than three inches of rain on the sprawling farm fields of Illinois — had increased by 83 percent. There were years like 1993 and 2008, years that saw the worst flooding in the Mississippi basin since the 1930s, and years like 2010 and 2011, when one after another, storms of amazing fury threatened to drown the young corn and soy before they got their heads up. 
The good years were getting to be fewer and fewer. Ethan understood that. And as far forward as he could peer into the future, he saw that continuing. 
He also understood in a way that most of his neighbors and even many scientists didn’t yet that the volatility in the weather, those forces that were driving the rains, could—and no doubt would — just as easily shut off the tap altogether, leaving the same fields that only a year earlier had been inundated baking under a relentless, desiccating drought. 
Those clear, warm blue skies that had raised his neighbors’ hopes were, for Ethan, a bit more ominous. All winter long, it had been gnawing at him. Every time he’d head out on his ATV across snowless fields, he’d think back to those days six decades ago when he had been out here with his own father, plowing through axle-deep drifts in the first of several old Jeeps his father had bought — he had fallen in love with the things after a visit to Ethan’s uncle in the mountains of New Mexico in the years after the Second World War, one of the few times Ethan had ever been that far from southern Illinois. That was back in 1954. The old man had figured that a Jeep like that would come in handy; they could use it to chase cattle or to haul back a deer after hunting, and it could even help them earn a couple of extra bucks if he fitted a blade to the front of it and hired himself out to clear his neighbors’ lanes and driveways of snow. His father had been right. He usually was, Ethan thought. Maybe that was part of the reason why Ethan still kept an old Jeep around the place, as a kind of rolling monument to his father’s foresight. 
Of course, Ethan hadn’t really needed the Jeep much lately. The snows just weren’t falling the way they used to. The cold didn’t settle long enough or deep enough to freeze the water lines that snaked from the house his family had lived in for six generations to the livestock pens anymore. It seemed to Ethan that the deep cold and snows of his childhood were now as unusual as January thaws used to be. 
Maybe it wasn’t climate change, at least not the way the liberals talked about it. But something was changing — call it the weather if you like — and it had been changing for a long time. And there was no reason to believe that it wasn’t going to continue. For how long? He didn’t know for sure. 
Ethan was a guy who measured time by the sort of work he did and when he did it, and by that reckoning, they hadn’t experienced the kind of winters that were common when he was a kid, not in any of the years since he had sold a chunk of land to a corporate hog operation and leased it back, with the proviso that he not only would plant 800 acres of hay and 600 of corn on the land, but would also handle snowplowing operations for them for $75 an hour. There hadn’t much snow to speak of since then. That was about fifteen years now. 
That previous winter had been an especially mild one, and all winter long Ethan had been thinking about the lessons his father had taught him — how in those years when the real deep freezes and the snows didn’t come, those years when the water lines never froze and they never had to haul water by hand to the hogs and cows, how those winters were, as often as not, followed by drought. Ethan’s father didn’t know the first thing about interdecadal variations in ocean temperatures, about how El Niño/La Niña cycles in the Pacific Ocean could cause flooding one year in the Mississippi River basin and drought the next. Hell, the old man didn’t even believe that glaciers really existed. But he knew how to read the signs on his own land. And he taught his son how to do the same thing. 
And all winter long, the signs were pointing toward drought.

Of course, 2012 was one of the worst drought years in US history, especially in Texas.  And more years like that are coming.  They're coming fast, along with brutal storms, powerful hurricanes, deadly wildfires, and all with devastating consequences.

Science doesn't require your belief any more than your scorn.

Fighting The Klep-Trump-Cracy

A lawsuit against Donald Trump over the Emoluments clause of the Constitution, previously left for dead, has been revived by an appellate court.

One of three major cases accusing President Donald Trump of violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause has been brought back from the dead. A panel of federal appellate judges ruled Friday that a group of restaurants in New York City can move forward with their claim that Trump is unfairly using his position as president to convince foreign governments to spend money at his own properties. The news comes amid a new flurry of questions about how Trump may be profiting from his presidency, with details emerging about the Air Force’s use of a Trump-owned Scottish resort to house service members and Vice President Mike Pence’s taxpayer-funded stay at Trump’s Irish resort—apparently at the suggestion of Trump himself.

When Trump took office, he refused to give up ownership or control of his business empire—which includes restaurants and hotels in New York City and Washington, D.C.—though he said he would no longer maintain day-to-day oversight. It’s an unprecedented situation: No other presidents, at least in recent history, have come to office with such an extensive business operation. Critics claimed that Trump was violating the emoluments clause—a section of the Constitution that prohibits the president from accepting payments from foreign governments—because foreign officials almost immediately began spending at the president’s hotels in New York and Washington.

In December 2017, in one of the first big court cases dealing with the issue, a federal judge in New York threw out a suit brought by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a group of restauranteurs in New York. The judge ruled that the plaintiffs’ argument—that their businesses had suffered because foreign governments were instead patronizing Trump-owned establishments in hopes of currying favor with the president—was too speculative. But in a 2-1 decision Friday, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the trial judge, stating that the plaintiffs had a right to attempt to prove their argument. The court noted that numerous foreign officials have said in the press that they booked events at Trump properties to make a good impression. 
Notably, the 2nd Circuit panel also took aim at a ruling made by a different appellate court. In that case, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a separate emoluments cases, arguing that there was little the judicial branch could do to fix the problem. As long as the Trump name remained on his properties and foreign governments knew the president’s family would benefit, issuing an injunction against the president’s involvement wouldn’t help, the 4th Circuit judges reasoned. On Friday, the 2nd Circuit countered that even if the courts couldn’t completely solve the problem, they could still can take steps intended to eliminate any unfair advantage the president might have in encouraging foreign governments to patronize his businesses.

In addition to possibilities such as barring Trump businesses from offering services to foreign governments or requiring the president to set up a blind trust, the new ruling suggested another alternative: sunlight.
“A court could require public disclosure of the President’s private business dealings with government officials through the Trump establishments, which may discourage Presidential action that appears to improperly reward such patronage,” the 2nd Circuit panel wrote.

Sunlight and shame is an option, but it won't work. If Trump is openly flouting the Constitution, there's only two remedies, voting him out, or impeachment and removal.

Neither one is anywhere near to being a close thing, either.
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