This is where you can read our posts, listed chronologically. We hope you find them thought-provoking, informative and/or in some other way worthwhile reading.
This is where you can read our posts, listed chronologically. We hope you find them thought-provoking, informative and/or in some other way worthwhile reading.
A divided America just celebrated a Fourth of July marked by controversy over a shoe.
By now, that story is well-known. Nike made a sneaker with the so-called Betsy Ross flag on the heel. Former NFL quarterback and Nike pitchman Colin Kaepernick objected, claiming it was a symbol of slavery. Nike recalled the shoes.
The controversy is strange. The Betsy Ross flag was a symbol of the American Colonies’ rebellion against Britain and their fight for liberty. A case can be made that that drive for liberty was a touch hypocritical, since some of those colonists fighting for their own liberty continued to own slaves.
But the flag, at the time, was not used as a justification for slavery.
In recent years, it seems some white supremacist groups co-opted the Ross flag, but allowing them to do that only heightens their influence.
But what of Ross, herself? The seamstress credited with sewing that first flag appears to have been a radical progressive when it came to race relations. Marla Miller’s 2010 book, “Betsy Ross And the Making of America” provides strong evidence that Ross was an abolitionist at a time when abolitionists were rare.
Ross grew up in colonial Philadelphia at a time when slavery was a part of the city. She had relatives who were slaveowners and worked for an upholsterer who employed slave labor. She and her first husband, John Ross, had a black child in their home who may have been a slave, although the historical record is unclear.
John Ross’s father, according to the book, was an Anglican minister who opposed slavery, opened his church’s doors to the city’s slaves and baptized black residents.
Betsy Ross and her third husband, John Claypoole, attended an antislavery Quaker congregation that filed a lawsuit in an unsuccessful attempt to free an enslaved woman named Dinah Nevil and her four children.
In 1787, John Claypoole became a member of the reorganized Pennsylvania Abolition Society. In the spring of that year, the group renamed itself a mouthful of a moniker: Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage. Benjamin Franklin became its first president.
The group distributed 1,000 copies of its constitution, and directed that copies be sent to each state’s governor, along with a copy of Thomas Clarkson’s essay on the commerce and slavery of Africans. The constitution promoted the idea that all humans were of the same family, regardless of color, religion or station in society.
Wrote Miller in the Ross biography: “This is particularly true, the men continued, among those who claimed to embrace the ‘rights of human nature’ and who call themselves Christian; for these men and women the protection of others ‘detained in bondage, by fraud or violence,’ demanded their action.”
Claypoole took an active role in the organization, serving on the Acting Committee, a group of six men charged with carrying out the broader organization’s mandates. This consisted of things like trying to persuade people to free their slaves.
Miller cites an example of a woman named Margaret Tolman, who had moved to Philadelphia from New Jersey and brought a slaved named Pompey with her – although she had promised to free him.
Claypoole agreed to accept another request for help, from a free black woman who had signed an indenture placing her daughter in the household of a man named R.R. Cross. The mother, Rosannah Lux, asked the society for help when Cross shipped her daughter off to New York without her consent.
“Claypoole embraced his duties with vigor,” Miller wrote.
Claypoole and his compatriots often met with some success. He reported to the society, for instance, that a judge had found that Lux’s daughter was a servant of Cross but that the girl could not legally be taken out of Pennsylvania. Claypoole’s efforts led to several other favorable rulings.
Now that independent counsel Robert Mueller’s much-awaited report on Russian election interference has been delivered, it is time to sort through the consequences.
Here are five observations:
The Mueller probe was not a “witch hunt.” President Donald Trump’s repeated characterizations to the contrary, Mueller appears to have proceeded with the utmost professionalism. He had a specific job to do, and he did it.
The task was to get to the bottom of Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election and determine whether the plot involved Americans. We did not really learn that much more about Russia’s activities than we did from the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community. But Mueller importantly named names, indicting Russian operatives accused of sewing dissention on social media in violation of election law and hacking Democratic computer systems.
It is unlikely any of those operatives ever will face trial in the United States, but the fact that they have been indicted means they never will be able to safely travel to the United States or countries that have extradition treaties with the U.S.
Mueller also appears to have left no stone unturned in an attempt to find out if President Donald Trump or his campaign participated in a conspiracy.
The special counsel racked up a bunch of indictments and convictions of so-called process crimes – mainly witnesses lying to investigators. This, too, is appropriate. Even if not directly related to election collusion, a prosecutor cannot just ignore crimes he comes across.
To his credit, Mueller ran a tight ship. He made sure nothing leaked from his office and behaved professionally despite incessant criticism from the president and his allies. He even took the extraordinary step of refuting a BuzzFeed story indicating that Trump directed witnesses to lie during the probe.
Mueller’s report should – but probably won’t – put an end to the collusion narrative. For almost two years, Democrats demanded that Trump let Mueller do his job and accept his conclusions. The exact contents of the report have not even been made public and already Democrats are moving the goalposts.
This is only the beginning, not the end, they insist. Committee chairmen in the House of Representatives already are teeing up multiple investigations.
Oversight is fine. It’s the job of Congress. But if Mueller has not been able to establish a criminal conspiracy involving Trump associates after almost two years of trying, it is unlikely that congressional investigations will.
And Mueller’s findings are pretty unequivocal. Attorney General William Barr, in a letter to congressional leaders, quotes Mueller as finding that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference.” That is despite multiple efforts by Russian agents to do so, Barr wrote.
Other probes will continue. With Mueller ending the investigation, Democrats quickly have shifted hopes to the Southern District of New York, where federal prosecutors already have obtained a conviction of onetime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen on campaign finance charges – offenses that Cohen says Trump directed him to commit.
Federal prosecutors reportedly also are investigating possible financial wrongdoing by the president.
The hope affixed to these investigations is ironic, because it undermines the entire rationale for Mueller’s appointment in the first place. Trump critics argued that an independent counsel was needed because the Justice Department could not be trusted to investigate wrongdoing that might involve the president.
Yet, it is the regular Justice Department in charge of non-election matters involving Trump. Based on developments so far, it does not seem as if career prosecutors have bene deterred.
The guardrails of democracy have held. Trump critics have spent the past two years panicked that he would sweep away the institutions and norms that govern American democracy. He must not be allowed to pardon witnesses! Congress needs to pass legislation to “protect the Mueller probe.”
In the end, the only thing that happened was Trump complaining on Twitter and elsewhere. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, held firm and let him do his job. Trump groused but did not pardon any of the central figures. The president did not move to fire Mueller, despite reports that at times, he had made up his mind to do so. Rosenstein did not either. Neither did Matthew Whitaker, who took over supervision of Mueller when he became acting attorney general.
And finally, Barr did not stop Mueller, either.
Americans ought to be reassured that their democracy can survive stress.
Barr should be transparent. The new rallying cry among Democrats is “release the report.” Barr probably cannot release Mueller’s entire report word for word. But he ought to make public however much he can, with reasonable redactions as specified by law.
Transparency would be good for public confidence and good for Trump.
Democrats should focus on 2020. Impeachment and removal always seemed like a longshot. Even a more damaging Mueller report ultimately would not have resulted in a Senate conviction unless 20 Republican senators broke with Trump. Pure politics dictated that would be unlikely without smoking-gun evidence of conspiring with the Russian government or a severe drop in Trump’s approval rating.
Now, the impeachment dream is all but dead.
Democrats ought to focus on finding a candidate with a compelling message to voters in 2020. To the extent that candidate wants to make Russia an issue, there is plenty of material to work with. Many Trump associates had contact with Russians during the campaign and then later lied about them.
Trump openly campaigned on better relations with Russia and as president has refrained from sharp criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also has seemed to resist aggressive moves against Russia (even as his administration has).
While none of that is illegal, they could be good campaign issues.
Democrats ought to be careful, however. The American people don’t list Russia high on their list of concerns. The Democratic candidate would do well to focus on addressing middle class concerns about economic security, education and health care. Those are winning issues.
Critics of President Donald Trump cheered Wednesday’s news that prosecutors in New York have filed state charges against former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Significantly, if a jury convicts Manafort of any of the 16 counts, Trump could not pardon him for the offenses.
A possible pardon of Manafort has been something of an obsession for progressives since the former campaign boss first came into the crosshairs of independent counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump has given no indication that he intends to pardon Manafort of the federal tax evasion and bank fraud charges of which he has been convicted. On Wednesday, he told reporters that he feels badly for Manafort, who received additional punishment and now will serve 7½ years in prison. But Trump added that he has not thought about a pardon.
The perplexing part about the notion of a pardon is what Trump would have to gain from such an action. The downside is obvious. It would trigger a new round of negative publicity and allegations that the pardon was an attempt to shortchange the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election – perhaps even obstruction of justice.
Indeed, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) on Wednesday issued a warning on Twitter.
“Any attempt to pardon him would be a gross abuse of power requiring immediate action by Congress,” he wrote.
And the upside?
It’s hard to figure out. If Trump’s intention were to somehow thwart Mueller’s investigation, the time to issue a pardon would have been shortly after Mueller filed the charges. By now, whatever information about collusion Mueller may have been able to obtain from Manafort has been obtained already.
A pardon now cannot undo whatever Mueller has learned.
Even an early pardon likely would not have slowed Mueller down. In fact, it might have backfired; had Manafort been pardoned, he would have had no grounds to assert his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. That means he would have had no legal reason to avoid testifying before Mueller’s grand jury if he were trying to hide some scheme between the campaign and Russian agents to fix the 2016 election.
Throughout his career, Trump has revealed himself to be transactional. That is, he rarely acts out of purely altruistic motives. Many who have been close to him describe his concept of loyalty as a one-way street.
If this picture is accurate, it suggests all the more that he would not grant a pardon with nothing to gain.
Reportedly, Trump rebuffed pleas for help from Michael Cohen, his onetime personal lawyer. And Cohen’s relationship with Trump ran far deeper than Manafort’s. The president apparently did not know Manafort before the campaign, turning to him when aides suggested his experience in Republican politics could be helpful if Trump failed to gain enough delegates to win the nomination at the GOP convention without a fight.
Unlike Trump’s pardon of say, former Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is extremely popular with immigration hawks and others who admire the former sheriff’s tough-on-crime stances, Manafort has no constituency in the Republican Party.
Pardoning the former campaign boss would not help Trump politically, even with a narrow segment of the party. It would not stop Mueller. It would not stop multiple congressional investigations.
It would, however, create new headaches.
So why do it?
An indictment accusing some of America’s richest and most famous citizens of bribing and scheming to fraudulently get their unqualified kids into elite colleges exploded like a bomb Tuesday, drawing bipartisan outrage.
The allegations are shocking. Parents paying to have stand-ins take standardized tests for their kids, or to have their kids’ scores changed. College coaches taking bribes to designate the children of the bribers as recruits – even though they had never played the sport.
And on and on.
Some parents stand accused of paying seven-figure bribes.
It’s hard to imagine a story more tailor-made to make the case of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and his fellow travelers who contend that America is rigged by and for the wealthy.
Patrick Deneen, a political science professor at the University of Notre Dame, rendered a harsh judgment during an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show.
“It’s a meritocracy that has taken on all of the features of an aristocracy,” he said. “In other words, it’s able to perpetuate itself from one generation to the next, which is at least, in theory, what the meritocracy came into being to get rid of. And so, what we have now is a new version of the old aristocracy.”
But perhaps the scandal – and it is a scandal, to be sure – ought to in a weird way increase confidence in the meritocracy of the U.S. college system.
Nothing in the indictment made public Tuesday implicates the colleges as institutions. Administrators at the targeted universities told reporters that they do not believe admissions officers were aware of the schemes.
If true, that actually refutes the widely held belief that people with wealth and connections easily can get their children in the right colleges. Many people assume that children of those kinds of parents do not have to worry about grades and test scores because elite universities will welcome their families with open arms.
If that were true, however, parents would not have to resort to breaking the law. Why risk prison time manipulating test scores or bribing rogue employees if all you have to do is call up a college president or admissions officer and let them know who you are?
The sordid affair also highlights a grotesque and sad desperation among many parents to get their kids into the “right” schools.
It underpins an entire industry geared toward helping kids gain an edge – everything from advice on writing essays to help preparing for standardized tests.
Parents ought to relax. There is plenty of research suggesting that it does not make much difference for most people where they go to college. A smart, motivated student who graduates from her local state university will do fine, even if she had to settle when Harvard University sent a rejection letter.
The budget formally unveiled by President Donald Trump on Monday contains implausible assumptions and outright gimmicks – and still foresees trillions of dollars in new debt.
Russell Vought, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, succinctly captured the essence of American government nearly two decades into the 21st century.
“Washington has a spending problem, and it endangers the future prosperity of our nation for generations to come,” he told reporters.
To fix that spending problem, though, Trump seeks to wring almost all of the spending cuts out of one small sliver of the overall budget – discretionary, domestic spending. That includes education, energy, environmental protection and all of the other programs Congress must vote on every year.
The budget increases spending on national defense and barely touches Social Security, Medicare and the other giant entitlement programs that are on auto pilot.
“Medicare spending will go up every single year by healthy margins, and there are no structural changes for Medicare beneficiaries,” Vought said.
The government will run a trillion-dollar deficit this year. Without significant cuts or new revenue, then just the interest on the borrowed money – staggeringly – will exceed the entire budget by 2024.
Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, tweeted that the budget includes promising reforms in Medicare that would save money while protecting beneficiaries. But she added “aggressive growth numbers, unpaid for tax cut extensions, insufficient deficit reduction [are] so frustrating.”
The think tank projects the spending blueprint would add $10.5 trillion to the debt over a decade.
Vought claims the budget trims $2.8 trillion over a decade – the most cuts in history. Noting that the economy grew at a 3.1 percent clip the last four quarters, he also defended the administration’s budget projections. He pointed out that the administration hit its growth projections two years in a row, which is the first time in history that has happened.
Even under the administration’s own long-term forecast, though, the budget would not balance for 15 years. That is five years longer than the projections in the president’s first budget.
Predicting anything with certainty 15 years away is almost absurd. It anticipates no war, no recession, no major disaster. OMB projects a $35 trillion gross domestic product in 2019, roughly $4 trillion higher than the forecast by the Congressional Budget Office.
Plus, even if the country could avoid those ordinary downturns, achieving the kinds of cuts Trump is calling for appears politically unlikely.
There are proposals that likely would gain widespread support. For instance, the administration calls for eliminating 85 different cultural programs for international college students in which less than 1 percent of the foreign students studying in the United States participate . Savings: $600 million.
The budget also calls for saving hundreds of millions of dollars more by eliminating Job Corps, a program criticized as costly and ineffective.
But those are chump change in the context of the overall budget. Many big-ticket items on Trump’s hit list simply are going to be non-starters in a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. The budget, for instance, anticipates $660 billion in savings from the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans could not even manage to repeal Obamacare when they controlled both houses of Congress. Needless to say, the odds are much longer now.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget also blasts an outright gimmick – the so-called Overseas Contingency Operations fund in 2020 and 2021; it ostensibly is for war spending and is not subject to normal spending caps.
The budget think tank asserts that if the administration’s rosy economic growth assumptions fail to materialize, debt likely will reach 85 percent to 90 percent of GDP.
The organization calls for the president to demonstrate leadership on the debt.
“But leadership means putting all parts of the budget and tax code on the table to find savings and new revenue, not papering over the problem with gimmicks, gains, and fantasy growth,” the group states in an analysis of the budget.
Alabama’s junior senator, Democrat Doug Jones, accused Republicans on Sunday of suppressing the black vote. Then he doubled down on that position this week.
“Well, you know I think if you look at – carefully you have to look at the state legislatures, governors and members of Congress that are Republicans. For whatever reason, they do not want African-Americans and other minorities to vote. I assume rather than trying to get those votes, they seem to want to restrict those votes,” he said on “Face the Nation.”
This week, he told Huntsville radio host Jeff Poor that Republicans “have passed these very, very stringent voter ID laws, some of which have been struck down by the courts. They have gerrymandered a number of districts to concentrate white voting power among a few districts. Voting rolls are being purged across the country.”
Jones hardly is the first Democrat to accuse Republicans of voter suppression, conjuring images of Southern officials from the Jim Crow era using poll taxes and rigged literacy tests to keep black people off of the voter rolls and out of the voting booths.
Claims by Jones of modern-day suppression run headlong into a series of inconvenient facts, however. The first is that there is scant evidence that laws requiring voters to show a photo ID before voting knock blacks – or anyone else – out of elections.
Take the senator’s home state, Alabama. The voter ID law has not stopped the state from registering more than 1.2 million new voters since January 2015. As Secretary of State John Merrill points out, a record number of nearly 3.5 million voters currently are registered. He estimated that 96 percent of all eligible African-Americans are registered.
If for some reason a voter does not have a driver’s license or another acceptable form of photo ID – which is rare – he or she can obtain a photo voter ID from the state for free. And if all else fails, a voter without an ID can cast a provisional ballot that counts as long as the voter later proves he or she is a valid voter.
U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler sided with Alabama when activists challenged the law. He wrote that there is “no person who is qualified to register to vote who cannot also get a photo ID.”
Actual voting data also belies the notion that black residents disproportionately are deterred from voting. A Census Bureau report demonstrates that 60.8 percent of black adult citizens cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election in Alabama. That exceeds the 57 percent turnout rate among non-Hispanic whites.
For the nation as a whole, meanwhile, adult white turnout exceeded black turnout by 5.9 points.
Or compare turnout data to California, the quintessential progressive state, which never would dream of suppressing minority votes. It has no voter ID law. The results? In 2016, 67.1 percent of non-Hispanic, adult, white citizens voted, while just 48.4 percent of black citizens did.
Black turnout also exceeded white turnout in Alabama in the 2012 election, the first election after the state passed its stricter photo ID law. But America’s first black president was on the ballot. Significantly, black turnout remained higher than white turnout even in an election when there was not a black candidate running for president.
Jones also misleads when he complains about the purging of voter registration rolls. It suggests Republican elections officials are arbitrarily deleting minority voters for partisan advantage.
In fact, the Supreme Court considered this very issue last year in a case involving Ohio. The state removed voters who had moved or failed to respond to mailings after having not voted in multiple elections. The high court determined that Ohio scrubbed its rolls in precisely the manner prescribed by the motor-voter law, signed by then-President Bill Clinton.
Jones also complains about gerrymandering, the practice of drawing political boundaries in ways that favor the party in power. The senator accuses Republicans of maneuvering to “concentrate white voting power among a few districts.”
He has it backward. Republicans in states with large black populations have gerrymandered districts to concentrate black voters into a few districts. That makes surrounding districts whiter and, as a result, more Republican.
Jones is right that Republicans have used the device to maximize their wins in legislative races. But he leaves out some important history. The practice results from the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which the George H.W. Bush administration argued in court requires states to create as many black supermajority districts as possible.
The Justice Department at the time had an odd-bedfellows alliance with civil rights leaders, who supported the administration’s position. At the time, white Democrats held sway in the South, and civil rights activists saw the Voting Rights Act as a tool to create more opportunities for African-American candidates – at the expense of white Democrats.
The Justice Department came up with a goal of making districts with at least 65 percent minority voters whenever possible. And it was not just in the South. A redistricting plan in Illinois following the 1990 census expanded the number of majority-minority state legislative districts to 17.
Voting rights activist Bruce Crosby cheered.
“Republicans should be applauded, and 17 is what the black community should get,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 1992.
In the ensuing two decades, two things happened. Democrats discovered that the arrangement was helping to elect more Republicans. And racially polarized voting patterns began to break down. It no longer requires nearly as many black citizens in a district to ensure the election of an African-American candidate.
It is understandable why Democrats now want to change the rules. But it seems disingenuous for Jones to insist that following those rules amounts to Republicans not wanting black people to vote.
A new study by the Cato Institute examining crime offers fodder for both sides of the immigration debate.
Consider the following narratives:
The Cato report supports both conclusions. It all depends on the framing.
The libertarian-leaning think tank used data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to estimate the incarceration rate for immigrants ages 18 to 54. The authors then used other data to estimate which immigrants entered lawfully and which are illegal immigrants.
Crunching all the numbers, Cato estimated that the 2017 incarceration rate for native-born Americans was 1,471 per 100,000. That is almost twice as high as the estimated rate of 756 per 100,000 immigrants living illegally in the United States.
That finding, similar to Cato’s previous research, offers potent ammunition to those who contend President Donald Trump’s focus on immigration as a public safety issue is misplaced demagoguery.
“Most of what the president’s doing is failing. It’s not going through. It’s not going to become law,” report co-author Alex Nowrastah said on a podcast produced by the think tank. “And the fact that his policies, his preferred policies, are not being put into effect will not have a deleterious effect on American crime.”
On the other hand, the illegal immigrant crime rate of 756 per 100,000 compares with just 364 per 100,000 among legal immigrants. Even after subtracting about 13,000 illegal immigrants convicted of immigration-related offenses and another 38,000 held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers, illegal immigrants still have an incarceration rate 9 percent higher than legal immigrants.
Cato’s own data support the notion that America should prioritize and encourage foreigners who jump through the legal immigration hoops over those who skip the line.
And that does not even take into consideration the fact that crime is only one concern associated with illegal immigration. Arguably more important are the reasons why America adopted its immigration limits in the first place – to reduce the strain on government services and competition with American-born workers in low-skill jobs.
As with native-born Americans, Cato found a correlation based on education. Better-educated immigrants are far less likely to be incarcerated than those with less education. For instance, 55.3 percent of all incarcerated illegal immigrants ages 18 to 54 in 2017 did not graduate from high school. Just 1.7 percent of imprisoned illegal immigrants had postgraduate degrees.
Among imprisoned natives in that age range in 2017, just a half-percent had postgraduate degrees, and 29.2 percent were high school dropouts.
Age and time in the United States also play a role. The incarceration rate was higher for immigrants younger than 35. For legal and illegal immigrants, incarceration rates were higher for recent arrivals – those who had been in the United States less than five years – than for those in the United States longer than that.
In addition, immigrants who come at a young age are far more likely to commit crimes than those who come when they are older. Legal immigrants who came before the age of 18 were 231 percent more likely to be imprisoned than legal immigrants who came as adults. Illegal immigrants who came as children were 286 percent more likely to be incarcerated than those who came at age 18 or older.
The Cato report posits two possible explanations. Perhaps, immigrant children are more quickly assimilated into America’s “high-crime culture.” Or, the authors suggest, maybe adults who make the decision to come to America possess qualities that make them less likely to commit crimes than those who were too young to make the decision for themselves.
Either way, the figures suggest that the surge in unaccompanied minors and children traveling with adults across the border are worse for America from a crime perspective than single adults who come legally or illegally.
Finally, it’s worth noting that not all researchers agree with Cato’s conclusions. A study last month by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors reduced immigration, found that illegal immigrants commit crimes at higher rates than citizens.
The think tank based its findings on an analysis of data from the federal government’s State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, or SCAAP, which reimburses state and local governments for the cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants who have been convicted of felonies or multiple misdemeanors.
Based on SCAAP data from the 10 states with the most illegal immigrants, FAIR determined that illegal immigrants are about three times as likely as citizens or legal immigrants to be incarcerated.
U.S. officials apprehended 76,103 illegal immigrants trying to sneak into the country or deemed inadmissible at the ports of entry along the southwest border last month, according to the latest data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.
That is the highest number of any month dating to fiscal year 2014. It represents a staggering 382 percent increase since illegal border crossings hit a low mark of 15,798. That was in April 2017, during President Donald Trump’s first few months in office. His tough rhetoric on border security had an effect; illegal crossings began dropping immediately after he took the oath of office.
But after the U.S. government failed to back up Trump’s words with meaningful policy changes, illegal crossings started climbing again.
Still, Democrats and media critics continued to chastise Trump for manufacturing a “fake” crisis at the border.
Exactly what constitutes a “crisis” or an “emergency” is subjective. But what is indisputable is that the United States is on track for an annual illegal immigration total not seen in years. Don’t take the word of the Trump-friendly right-wing media. Here is Nick Miroff, The Washington Post’s national security reporter:
“The claim that border crossings are near historic lows is simply no longer true,” he tweeted. “Feb stats will show another huge increase in families, with some days topping 3,000 detentions. We are at levels of unauthorized migration not seen since the GW Bush admin.”
As they have for months now, it was adults and children traveling together who drove much of the increase in February. The migrants, dubbed “family units” by the government, accounted for 36,174 of the illegal immigrants apprehended along the border.
That is a nearly 50 percent increase over January and is nearly as many as the total number of illegal immigrants apprehended at and between border crossing stations in February 2018.
Brian Hastings, chief of operations for the U.S. Border Patrol, told reporters historically, 70 percent to 90 percent of illegal immigrants caught at the border were Mexicans. They easily can be sent back to their neighboring homeland.
Today, Hastings noted, some 70 percent of illegal immigrants caught at the border come from Central America. And they increasingly are traveling with children. He said family units in October exceeded single adults for the first time. Last month, family units and unaccompanied children accounted for 65 percent of illegal border crossers.
And since April 2018, about 2,400 of the family units have been fraudulent – either adults claiming to be children, or adults falsely claiming to be the parents of the children traveling with them.
Since those border crossers are not from Mexico, they cannot easily be returned. And court rulings have banned the long-term detention of illegal immigrant children.
“Without being able to deliver a consequence to those individuals for illegally crossing our border, the Border Patrol has no reason to believe that trend will decrease,” Hastings said. “In fact, we believe it will increase.”
In addition to failing to address the court rulings, Congress has not expanded detention space and has refused to devote more than token resources to constructing new fences between Mexico and the United States.
The result should have been predictable.
“Catch-and-release is in full swing,” tweeted the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based think tank that advocates limiting immigration.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington-based think tank, predicted the numbers will continue to grow.
“This is going to keep getting worse until the Dems agree to plug the legal loopholes driving it,” he tweeted.
America is like a socially awkward guy at a party, talking up an uncomfortable girl, oblivious to her body language.
Americans, according to a survey released Monday by the Pew Research Center, think things are going swimmingly with the girl – who in this case, is Germany. Germans, meanwhile, are just not that into us.
The Pew survey shows that 70 percent of Americans describe the relationship between the two countries as good, up from 68 percent in 2017. (Those describing it as bad also increased slightly, from 22 percent to 25 percent).
Some 73 percent of Germans, meanwhile, describe the bilateral relationship as bad. That is up from 56 percent in 2017. Those describing the relationship as good dropped from 42 percent to 24 percent.
The assessments come amid rising tensions between the two countries over trade and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and between President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The funny thing about the rift is that Americans and Germans share a similar worldview.
Germans and Americans also express similar concerns about threats facing their respective nations. Cyberattacks and the Islamic State rated as a top concern for both countries, with Americans expressing more concern about cyberattacks and Germans more fearful of ISIS.
Germans also are more concerned about global climate change, with 71 percent rating it as a “major threat” to their country, compared with just 59 percent of Americans.
Americans were more concerned about North Korea’s nuclear program, as well as the power and influence of China and Russia. (At 49 percent, more Germans expressed alarm at America’s power and influence than they did about either China (33 percent) or Russia (30 percent).
The gap between Germans and Americans over Russia appears to be a product of the 2016 U.S. election and Russian meddling. Since 2007, public opinion of Russia has ebbed and flowed in the United States and Germany, with both countries hewing very closely together.
But opinion in the two nations diverged sharply between 2017 and 2018, with favorable views of Russia jumping from 27 percent to 35 percent among Germans and declining from 29 percent to 21 percent in the United States.
Immigration has been a big issue in both nations. Germans want fewer migrants, the option chosen by 58 percent of citizens of that country. Among Americans, the most popular choice was taking in the same number of immigrants.
Some 44 percent of Americans picked that option, compared with 29 percent who said fewer and 24 percent who said more. (It should be noted that in surveys when Americans are asked to put a specific number on the ideal level of immigration, the average answer frequently is far lower than the 1 million immigrants admitted each year).
While issues like trade, global warming and the NATO alliance have been divisive during the last couple of years, pure politics might explain much of the trending negativity coming from Germans, who tend to view America more favorably when a Democrat is president.
Confidence in George W. Bush and America steadily plummeted in Germany, reaching a low of 14 percent for Bush and 31 percent with a favorable view of America just before he left office. Opinion in Germany rebounded sharply when Barack Obama succeeded him.
The share of Germans with a favorable view of America regularly topped 85 percent during the Obama years. And Obama, himself, regularly enjoyed a higher approval rating in Germany than he had in his own country.
When Trump took office, opinions of both the president and the country tanked again. In 2018, only 30 percent of Germans had a favorable view of the United States, while Trump’s approval rating stood at just 10 percent.
So whatever ails the U.S.-German relationship may be cured simply with a change in the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Quoting a U.N. climate official, the Associated Press reported dire warnings of what’s in store for planet Earth if humans do not reverse the trend on carbon emissions in 10 years.
Possible consequences include 1930s-style Dust Bowl conditions in U.S. and Canadian wheat fields, the disappearance of entire countries by rising sea levels and millions of “eco-refugees” triggered by crop failures and coastal flooding.
A fifth of Egypt’s arable land might be flooded; a sixth of Bangladesh might be underwater, displacing 22.5 million people.
“The most conservative scientific estimate [is] that the Earth’s temperature will rise 1 to 7 degrees in the next 30 years,” the story states.
If those warnings sound familiar, it’s because Americans hear them on a regular basis. It underpins the ambitious – some say unrealistically ambitious – Green New Deal proposal that aims to transform the way the country powers its homes and industries in 10 years.
What gives the AP article perspective, however, is the date it was published – June 29, 1989.
Noel Brown, director of the New York office of the U.N. Environment Program, told the wire service that the world had until 2000 to reverse course. If not, the dire consequences would come to pass in about 30 years.
Meaning this year.
This is not an exercise in “climate denial.” The AP story from 1989 does not prove that climate change is a “hoax” or anything of the sort. It merely is a cautionary tale about the limitations of using complicated computer models to forecast global climate patterns with precision.
In fact, according to data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the planet has warmed since 1989 – just not by as much as Brown predicted. The average global surface temperature last year was 0.8 degrees Celsius higher than the yearly average since 1880. In 1989, the average surface temperature was 0.3 degrees Celsius above average.
Bangladesh remains poor and has faced stress from coastal erosion. Residents have been displaced, but not by the magnitude of a quarter of the nation’s population that the United Nations predicted in 1989. In fact, Bangladesh has accepted hundreds of thousands of foreign refugees – Rohingya Muslims fleeing not climate catastrophe, but religious persecution in Myanmar.
In the U.S. heartland, meanwhile, overall wheat yields have declined since 1989. But the yield per acre actually has increased. The Dust Bowl has not come.
The Maldives, too, have battled erosion. But the islands off the coast of India are not buried underwater entirely, as the 1989 AP article suggested might be the case by now.
The overwhelming majority of climate researchers believe that the Earth is warming and that it is caused partly or wholly by human activity. But the consensus breaks down when researchers venture specific forecasts and time horizons. Perhaps we have passed a tipping point. Maybe, we’re within 10 years or so of that threshold.
Or, maybe the horizon stretches decades into the future.
Humans had better hope for the latter. Because if saving life on Earth depends on eliminating or dramatically reducing carbon emissions in a decade, as this New York Times interactive model demonstrates, we are most likely doomed.