The Ivanka Irritation in Two NYTimes Articles

 

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“Female empowerment is more than a slogan for me–it’s a brand!”

 

I actually don’t really want to focus on Ivanka Trump, but it is also sort of weird not to, in a way that reflects the grotesque weirdness of our current political moment. I keep thinking, ugh, just ignore her, she’s a self-empowerment facade, a rich kid with smooth PR, a platitudinous ghost-person who is just some barely-earned dignity above any other fake celebrity. Famous for being famous. Before 2016, I doubt I spent more than four total minutes of my life thinking about Ivanka Trump.

But then, this person is a top advisor to the President of the United States. Ignoring her because she’s a political nobody is to ignore the central problem of America at the moment: we’re being run by reality show idiots. Our country has fully empowered our idol worship, celebrity obsession, and anti-intellectual pitchforking. And while Ivanka may be pretty and say nice things, she’s as much to blame as anyone else, and in her own way as much an embodiment of what is happening to us.

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Reminder: Call Your Senator And Tell Them To Vote No On Justice Gorsuch

 

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Seriously, get on the horn

 

One way or the other, Neil Gorsuch will be the next Supreme Court justice. If the Democrats try to filibuster, Mitch McConnell will, with “deep sadness at this unprecedented assault on Presidential prerogative”, get rid of the filibuster. Or, knowing this, and knowing that Gorsuch is generally popular, will keep their powder dry, and maybe have some protest votes against him, but will largely let him pass through.

But they shouldn’t. The answer to Gorsuch should be the what Michael Corleone offered to Senator Geary: nothing. Gorsuch should not get one single Democratic vote.

This is partly a matter of politics (we have to fight everything about Trumpism to make sure that none of this is normalized and to get out the vote in midterms and local elections), but also, mostly, principle. It’s not just that this seat belongs to Merrick Garland. It’s that, in denying President Obama his right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, the Republican overturned the 2012 election.

There’s no other word for it: they nullified the election, trampled on the will of voters in the biggest display of contempt for the union since Wallace, or possibly the Civil War. In 2012, by a wide margin, voters elected Barack Obama to a four-year term. Everyone votes knowing that there is always the chance of a Supreme Court seat opening up. Mitch McConnell saw that he had a chance to overthrow the election and literally reduce Obama’s term to three years, and he took it. This wasn’t legally treason, but it was a moral assault on our democracy.

And they won, thanks to the slave-state empowerment of the Electoral College. And now they get to put on an extremely, overwhelmingly conservative justice, against the will of the majority of voters in two straight elections. And they will do so, and the nation will suffer.

Over at Slate, the incomparable Dahlia Lithwick talks about teeth-breaking GOP hypocrisy during the hearings, insulted as they are that anyone would even question Gorsuch. (“GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch lectured the Judiciary Committee about the fact that the Senate ‘owes the president deference over his judicial nominees.’ Hearing this, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont about fell out of his chair.”)

We have to expect their cynicism. We have to be willing to stand up to their calculated outrage (which probably isn’t “phony”, per se; cognitive dissonance rules all). We have to let our Senators know that they aren’t in a hearing for Gorsuch, as we normally understand it. They are in a hearing for Merrick Garland’s seat, which was stolen through a subversion of democracy.

So call your Senator. Tell them you support them voting NO on Gorsuch, and not because of any reprehensible position of the other. That’s important, but in a way incidental, because a right-wing Scalia-y Justice is the outcome of the crime, not the crime itself. Give our Senators the strength and backing to protest this outrage against our very democracy.

A hard right court can destroy environmental pushback, end labor, and annihilate civil rights. Our country will be changed in ways it is hard to imagine. But it already has: the idea of a Presidential term was suddenly subject to a political gamble. That hits at the basis of our country. Tell your Senator to fight back against it. We might not win, but it’s how the fight can start.

Nationalist Bulgarian Paramilitary Border Forces Are Weird and Foreign, Right?

 

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Trees are the only thing that differentiate Bulgarian border militias from American ones.

 

The historical roots of the refugee crisis in Europe follow the same lines as the immigration debate here, and have had the same atavistic reaction.

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The Spiteful Illogic of the New Travel Ban

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When the first “Travel Ban” executive order was announced a week into the Trump administration some 4600 years ago, some of the key pillars of a free society made their impact felt in a way that shocked even the most optimistic observer. The legal system had a two-pronged effort. Organizations like the ACLU protected the victims of the order’s cruelty and brought their cases to an independent judiciary, which treated the order as what it was: a legal measure subject to review; not the blessed fiat of a New Dawn.

The other pillar, of course, was public protest, which stunned anyone who expected obsequiousness after the snowflakes of the women’s march melted. It is doubtful that legislators, and possibly even the courts, would have reacted with the swiftness they did were in not for spontaneous acts of disobedience, compassion, and righteous fury. Protests were shown again to not be movements of self-expression or sideshows to politics; they are a vital part of civil society.

So, the reaction to the travel ban, and its being held up by the courts, led to the rollout of a newly revised order yesterday. This was supposed to be rolled out last week, but it was delayed so that news of it wouldn’t step on the reception to Trump’s Congressional address last week.

Now, it is a good demonstration of how deeply dumb the President and his people are that they genuinely thought the rest of the week–month?–should revolve around him garnering praise for clearing the lowest possible bar. Trump was reportedly livid that the news of Sessions misleading Russian testimony and subsequent recusal took away from what I promise you he believes is regarded as the finest speech in American history. That’s partly what led to this weekend’s insanity.

But more importantly, as everyone pointed out, the delay for some good ol’ self-gratification contradicted the fierce urgency with which the initial rollout happened, and made Trump’s truly dangerous tweets about how judges were making our country less safe even more reckless. But that hypocrisy is just one of the many contradictions that shows how pointlessly self-defeating (not to mention cruel and un-American) these travel bans really are.

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Border Patrol Loosening Standard for Hiring While Granting More Power

 

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Papers!

The other day we talked about a newly-empowered Customs and Order Protection, taking full advantage of the outskirts of their legal rights, and how they were seemingly taking on the role of vanguard of the Trump administration’s more insidious plans. Today the Times expands on that, talking about how the CBP, and ICE, have more “freedom” to do what they want.

Our speculation is that, as these agencies looked to expand to carry out the brutal immigration policies of the Trump/Bannon/Sessions axis, they would naturally lend themselves to people even more ready to gang up on Mexers and camel jockeys. Both CPB and ICE already have a reputation for attracting more lawless, vigilante types (though that is certainly far from a complete picture of the agents; many of whom are as serious as their serious jobs demand). The fear is that with the license to really bust some heads, these agencies will attract recruits who are frustrated by the lack of head-bashing opportunities their daily lives or other law enforcement jobs provide.

Those fears are not misplaced. Foreign Policy exclusive today looks at how it seems like the DHS will be lowering standards and easing restrictions when it comes to hiring for the CPB.

Molly O’Toole’s article talks about how the DHS wants to reduce the use of certain background checks, including polygraphs, arguing that they are too burdensome, and recruits coming from other law enforcement agencies shouldn’t have to do redundant tests. (You could also say that polygraphs are stupids.) But there is a reason that CPB has such strict background tests: they are super easy to corrupt.

Or, if not easy, really great targets for smugglers, gangs, and human traffickers to bribe or blackmail. They are targeted with sex and money, so that they look the other way. The nature of their jobs requires more probity, the theory goes.

Yet those tough standards, including a mandatory polygraph, were put into place by Congress in 2010, after Customs and Border Protection suffered acute growing pains during the Bush administration, when CBP doubled in size. Some Border Patrol agents didn’t complete background checks before they deployed to the frontlines, officials reported, and the agency saw an increase in cases of internal corruption, and questions over its use-of-force training following a spate of deadly incidents.

I have no idea if the background checks are really too burdensome. It seems like a good idea, given how quickly the department expanded under President Bush, and how much of a problem that caused (as the FP article details). But maybe, in normal circumstances, it would be ok to make it a little easier to get in.

These aren’t normal circumstances. And while the article doesn’t go into the possibility that underqualified Gestapo-wannabes will flood the ranks of CBP and ICE, I think that’s a major fear. A rapid expansion of the ranks for people looking for exercise racialized and expanded powers with lower background standards seems like it will be, at best, a disaster. At worst, it is exactly what Trump and Bannon and Sessions want. Their own extremely loyal white nationalist force.