New York used to send Washington, and the nation, a cavalcade of admirable, honorable, people, the pick of its élites: Hamilton, TR, FDR, Robert Wagner Sr., Robert Mueller III,..a long list. As a New Yorker, I used to be proud of this (though of course I can’t take credit for any of them).
Now, not so much; the Empire State and the Big Apple are–what’s the right word? yeah–infesting Washington with scrapings from the bottom: the Trumps, Michael Cohen, Rudy Giuliani, the Mooch,…
Well, it was a good run for a couple of centuries at least.
A moment of sympathy for Republicans. Trump won’t protect them from the agony of an immigration debate or lead them through it in any useful way, and now they are being tasked by the zero-tolerance fiasco to show (or at least emulate) courage and decency they long ago threw on the political bonfire. Today, he even denied them the tough, never-settle leader today’s GOP wants to cower behind, left them thousands of kids in secret prisons, and the larger issue remains.
It is an exquisitely difficult issue, especially for the rich and xenophobic. To enact any kind of immigration reform requires keeping the following balls in the air:
(1) Agriculture, hospitality, domestic service, home construction and repair, restaurants, and gardening are all important to rich people, whether as proprietors or consumers. All depend on a docile, cheap work force, often a seasonal one. Americans will not tolerate lettuce prices high enough to support ag wages that get Americans to work in the fields, or hotel rates ditto. Fear of ICE is almost indispensable in insuring docility.
(2) The hi-tech industry also depends on a work force that Americans will not pay to educate, especially in red states, so we also need an ample supply of H-1b immigrants who don’t need salaries that will amortize crippling student loan debts; they aren’t as cheap as farm workers, but their docility needs even more reinforcement, and not being able to quit their jobs helps with this.
(3) The Republican game plan, since the party’s consignment of its brain and conscience to Trump, demands that the image of immigrants as murderous brown gangsters, planning their assault on your job and your family in Spanish, be vividly front and center. It also requires a population on which the old, and many young, white Trump-base frightened haters can look down.
(4) Trump himself requires regular opportunity to hurt the weak, unfortunate, sick, helpless, and poor, and to be seen doing so. Immigrants, especially refugees, are not indispensable for this–plain Americans with pre-existing medical conditions or dependent on Social Security, in any color, qualify–but are still very useful.
(5) Somehow the whole project has to enrich Trump personally, his circle of grifters, and the top 1% who gave him to us, or why bother? It’s really not clear how any particular immigration scheme can be monetized this way, though (1) and (2) are relevant.
[correction 21/VI/18: (5) above is not quite true; there is real money to be made from immigrant
These criteria comprise pretty fundamental contradictions, and the discovery this week that there really are limits to the official cruelty Americans will tolerate makes everything so much harder. No wonder Republicans scatter like cockroaches at the approach of a reporter these days.
I wept Sunday, placing stones at various Holocaust memorials at Paris’s Pere Lachaise. I cried remembering various survivors I have known, many now deceased: The neighbor up the street, my friends’ parents growing up in Rochester, NY. the math professor Lipman Bers, who introduced me to multivariable calculus many years ago. He reminisced in class about the Big Ben-style clock in Prague’s old Jewish ghetto. It ran counter-clockwise in homage to the Jewish tradition.
As human beings and citizens, we have such an obligation to oppose cruelty, discrimination, group hatred, and dehumanizing rhetoric. In every form. Always.
On eve of Massachusetts marijuana legalization, impaired driving panel just getting started. What changes should Boston expect from legal recreational marijuana?With Massachusetts marijuana sales set to begin, employers grapple with drug tests. Massachusetts marijuana won’t be legal on July 1, and here’s why. Former Massachusetts public safety official to head pot company. Alcohol: A roadmap for marijuana in Massachusetts. New Vermont marijuana law leaves medical patients with conflicting rules.
Can New Jersey effort to legalize pot find a way through the expungement maze?
These seven US mayors want pot removed from federal list of illegal drugs. Let’s not pour gasoline on the marijuana legalization dumpster fire. With box of chocolates, hotel workers didn’t know they were getting pot edibles.
Trump looks to trade cannabis legalization for Justice Department nominees. Sessions struggles to get planned marijuana crackdown going. Thank you, Jeff Sessions, for inadvertently kickstarting Congress’ effort to legalize marijuana. Banks take on Sessions over legalized pot. On marijuana, Elizabeth Warren discovers she agrees with Clarence Thomas. How Republican Cory Gardner changed Trump’s position on pot. Expect fully legal weed within 5 years, says former top pharma lobbyist and Congressman. On legal weed, let states tend their own gardens. Tax court again denies deductions of state-legal marijuana facility. Marijuana banking measure rejected by Congressional committee.
Trudeau is legalizing Canada weed, but it hasn’t been pretty. Canada pot legalization battle brewing as government rejects key Senate change. Canada Feds accept most, not all Senate amendments to marijuana bill. Quebec passes long-awaited cannabis law. Canada marijuana firms warned to play by the rules after legalization. Head of Canada legalization task force urges licensed cannabis producers to be cautious. Many Canada workplaces not ready for legal marijuana.
I got a surprising amount of emails about this post, with requests for more such puzzles, so here you go (answers after the jump).
1. A deaf-mute man walks alone up to a movie theater counter shortly before a matinee which costs 50 cents to enter. Making no particular gesture (and obviously, saying nothing), he hands the clerk a dollar. Rather than giving him 50 cents in change, the clerk hands him two tickets. The man smiles and nods his thanks. How did the clerk know that he wanted two tickets rather than one?
2. Four people are fleeing the zombie apocalypse in the dark of night, and have to get across a narrow bridge in 17 minutes to survive. The bridge is so rickety that no more than two people can stand on it at any one time or it will collapse. It is also full of holes such that it can only be safely crossed while holding a flashlight. The 4 people have only one flashlight between them. A further challenge is that the 4 people are of different ages and levels of health, such that it takes each a different amount of time to cross the bridge. One takes 10 minutes, one needs 5 minutes, one needs 2 minutes, and one needs 1 minute (all invariably, i.e., no amount of help from a faster person can speed a slower person up). How do the 4 people manage to save their lives by crossing their entire party in the 17 minutes available?
3. A man with a heart condition has to take two medications at the same time every 4 hours or he will die. The medication regime is hard to follow: If he takes none or just one of the needed pills at the appointed time, or he takes that more than 1 of either pill within each 4 hour block, he will have a fatal heart attack. To add to the complexity, the pills of each medication are exactly the same in every respect – color, shape, size, texture, weight, labeling. He copes with this challenge by keeping each medication in its own, clearly labelled pill bottle.
While at his hunting lodge in Northern California, something terrible happens. Just before he is about to take his medications, a earth tremor hits and he falls over. The tremor passes quickly, but unfortunately all but 2 pills have fallen out of one bottle and all but 3 have fallen out of the other. Every other pill is scattered on the floor and he can’t tell them apart! It’s a two day trip back to town where he can help from his pharmacist and doctor, and he has no phone, so he has to figure out how to keep himself alive until he can return to town. How does he do it?
4. 4. A man hands a bank teller a check with the symbols “O – O X +” written on the back. The teller says “Oh, I see you are in the navy!”. Why?
Steve Schmidt – who is as unapologetically conservative as I am unapologetically liberal – had more or less the same reaction I did to the Trump policy that literally tears children away from their mothers’ breasts: that it was horrible to see people in American uniforms behaving like Nazis.
Glenn Greenwald, who has brought anti-anti-Trumpism up to the very border of Trumpism, was horrified: not by the fact that children were being maltreated by people wearing American flag insignia, but by the notion that this was in any way unusual.
Every tweet like this that creates bullshit jingoistic fairy tales about the Goodness of America instantly goes viral. Liberals now love nothing more than über-nationalistic revisionism like this from Bush-era Republican operatives. It’s the most bizarre pathology to observe.
(If Greenwald has criticized the new policy itself, as opposed to criticizing its critics, that critique does not show up on his Twitter timeline. Greenwald is consistent in constantly bashing Trump critics but avoiding criticism of Trump and Trump’s policies.)
Greenwald isn’t alone. This is fairly standard alt-left rhetoric, just as “We’re better than this!” is fairly standard liberal anti-Trump rhetoric.
If you’re both anti-Trump and pro-American, it’s natural to say when Trump does something awful, “This is contrary to American principles and a disgrace to the flag.”
If you’re pro-Trump or anti-American or both, the natural rebuttal is, “Nonsense! America has always sucked! Are you just noticing now?” (When Trump himself was asked about his buddy Putin’s habit of murdering critical journalists, he responded. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”). The far left and the alt-right are united in thinking that Trump is perfectly normal and that any objection to him (or to Putin or Kim Jung un) by liberals is hypocritical.
Of course Trump and Glenn Greenwald have actual facts to point to. Disgraceful things have been done in the name of the United States, from the Trail of Tears and the Fugitive Slave Act onwards. Abroad the record is at least equally equivocal: the U.S. has not been – to put it gently – a consistent friend of democracy and human rights in this hemisphere. More than once, we’ve backed the tyrants FDR referred to as “our sonsofbitches.” Whether a hypothetical historian from Mars would regard those as characteristic, or instead as unfortunate deviations from national principles, it’s hard for someone with less perspective to say.
But, as Nietzsche pointed out a long time ago, “critical” history isn’t the only kind. National myths are, themselves, potent realities. A country where the belief that horrible actions Aren’t Like Us is widespread has an internal political resource that helps political actors within that country oppose such horrible actions. A country where that belief isn’t widespread – where criminality is an accepted part of the political culture – lacks that resource, which of course is a benefit to criminal political actors within that country. The accuracy of the underlying belief is an independent question.
Or, as Matt Yglesias put in in a Tweet
Talk about how “this is not who we are” is not a literal claim about American history, and it’s permissible (praiseworthy, even) to engage in some rhetorical gambits while trying to Do Politics.
So, as a liberal and a patriot, I’m going to keep saying “This. Is. Not. Like. Us.” Saying so is one way to make it so.
Update Shortly after the invasion of Iraq, when the torture question first arose, Glenn Reynolds (“Instapundit”), who had been vociferously pro-war, was briefly anti-torture. (He changed his mind when torture was defined as a partisan issue, with Democrats plus McCain against it and Republicans for it.) Reynolds approvingly quoted another warblogger as answering the question, “Why shouldn’t we torture terrorists?” with “Because we’re the f*cking United States of America, that’s why!” Seemed to me an excellent answer, in part because it claimed the high ground of patriotism for the anti-torture position.
A progressive group of Democrats, “We the People”, have just held an early beauty contest of five presidential hopefuls and possibles: Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
In this report, I only saw one interesting position.
Gillibrand … in response to a question … said she supports a tax on financial transactions.
A Tobin tax! It’s a wonk’s dream, tailor-made to appeal to the all-important RBC reader demographic: something like 0.003% of the US electorate, concentrated in a handful of blue states where Ricky the Spider-raccoon on the Democratic ticket would be a shoo-in.
It has three other characteristics.
1. It’s a genuine policy proposal. Other countries have tried it (Sweden for equities and bonds). It’s tricky, but there’s a big literature. It isn’t handwaving like Sanders’ “break up the banks.”
2. Though the tax really does stick it to Wall Street, it won’t be easy to explain this to the Rustbelt voters. How many know there is a highly organised worldwide foreign exchange market, let alone that it turns over $5 trillion a day?
3. The tax is anathema to Wall Street, a huge lobby in Washington and in Gillibrand’s home state, and a major source of political donations. Maybe their counterattack will help with problem 2.
Any Democratic nominee in 2020, whether it’s one of this five or Ricky the Raccoon, will run on the same basic platform: joined-up honest government, expanded health care, fighting climate change, reversing tax cuts for the rich, rebuilding alliances, letting the Dreamers stay. But to get the nomination, the winner will have to mark out something distinctive, in character and policy. Was Gillibrand improvising or flying a kite? She does not strike me as an impulsive politician. Walking back the proposal would damage her chances as a “flip-flop”. It looks to me like a calculated risk, and a pretty brave one. Have any of the other contenders staked out comparable positions on anything difficult?
Note on the FX market. The $5trn a day is from here. The real total is higher, as not all trades are cleared through the New York clearing-house. Physical global trade is about $16 trn a year, or $44 bn a day. Add services and long-term investment flows, and you might double that. What economic purpose is served by inflating this 50 times, with banks and dealers taking a cut – a small one, but a cut – on each artificial transaction?
Update one day later
The comments thread below confirms my point about the RBC readership. The Tobin tax is public policy catnip to you. Good, but nobody has picked up on the electoral politics. Gillibrand has moved the financial transactions tax from a nice academic speculation to live policymaking. She may well not become President, and may not prioritize the proposal if she does. On the other hand, a successful rival may take it on board – like Edwards’ health plan in 2008 that eventually became ACA. Folks, there is now a decent chance the Tobin tax will happen. Reporters should take an interest. Just who has Gillibrand been getting advice from? I’m sure Shiller, Krugman, Stiglitz, Arrow or deLong would take her calls.
A photo in a handout given by the management of the Casa Padre detention centre in Brownsville, Texas, to MSNBC reporter Jacob Soboroff. The centre houses child migrants separated from their parents by officials acting in the name of the United States. Twitter source.
It reminds you of something else, doesn’t it.
Unfair? Soboroff saw no evidence of abuse by the Casa Padre staff – beyond the inherent cruelty of separation. The analogy is the sickening bad faith and institutionalised in-your-face lying to cover up horrific policies. Oh, and mass incarceration outside the rule of law.
Footnote: I deliberately took Sachsenhausen not the better-known Auschwitz gate. Konzentrazionslager – KZ – was a broad Nazi term for a variety of civilian camps, including pure extermination camps like Treblinka, slave labour camps like Sachsenhausen, political prisons like Dachau and Flossenburg, and of course Auschwitz, an unusual combination of an extermination and labour camp, giving rise to the infamous selections. The slogan was common but not universal; it was up to the camp commandant.