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Monday, July 08, 2019

After decades of nurturing a culture of violent, racist abuse, Customs and Border Protection cannot be seen as just another working-class job. Like Hitler's SS, we must see CBP not as a place where good people do bad things, but where bad people do bad things. The SS was prized by Hitler for training its members to be totally unambivalent about the atrocities they committed. With Border Patrol now becoming the same, and using that right-wing ideological commitment to oversee dehmanizing and murderous concentration camps, the Left must be unequivocal in calling the agency what it is: the American SS.

Monday, July 01, 2019

We have been brought up to believe that American political parties are the same -- that they are similar creatures with similar traits and similar ways of behaving. Political science spent decades teaching us this. The idea that one party has become so radically different from the other, despite mountains of evidence, is a tough sell. It's a hard sell to make for one very simple reason: It doesn't have a name, this thing the Republicans are trying to do. It's not true democracy that they want.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Donald Trump has personally accused former Special Counsel Robert Mueller of committing a crime, claiming he deleted sensitive information during his Russia investigation -- the president did not produce any evidence whatsoever to back up the assertion. read more

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, filed the Committee's bipartisan report recommending that the House of Representatives hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas for documents about the real reasons behind the Trump Administration's efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The contempt report includes new transcripts of witnesses who were interviewed by Committee staff as part of the investigation, but refused to answer hundreds of questions. Among the new information released today is a memo and transcript from the Committee's interview with James Uthmeier, a former Senior Advisor and Counsel to Secretary Ross. read more

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

There are an incredible number of lies people are trying to sell today to get people to look away from Trump's concentration camps. Let's dispense with one of the big ones: the idea that they can't be camps because the conditions inside are fine. That's a lie. People are dying. You need cattle cars to fit your definition? How about this IG report from May that found detainees are packed so tightly into rooms that they have to stand on toilets to breathe. One cell with a capacity of 8 held 41 detainees. A cell built for 35 held 155. And these aren't temporary conditions. People are being kept in conditions where they can't sit down for WEEKS. Thousands are being tortured in solitary confinement. A man from Nicaragua was kept in solitary for two months b/c he had a bad leg (?!?!). Inside, people are going crazy, cutting their wrists and gouging out their eyes. read more


In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan, one of the court's four liberals, blasted the five conservative justices. She accused them of abdicating their duties with a "tragically wrong" decision that would have disastrous consequences for American democracy. Here are six of the most blistering lines from Kagan's dissent:

"The majority's abdication comes just when courts across the country, including those below, have coalesced around manageable judicial standards to resolve partisan gerrymandering claims."

"Maybe the majority errs in these cases because it pays so little attention to the constitutional harms at their core. After dutifully reciting each case's facts, the majority leaves them forever behind, instead immersing itself in everything that could conceivably go amiss if courts became involved."

"The majority's idea instead seems to be that if we have lived with partisan gerrymanders so long, we will survive. That complacency has no cause. Yes, partisan gerrymandering goes back to the Republic's earliest days. (As does vociferous opposition to it.) But big data and modern technology -- of just the kind that the mapmakers in North Carolina and Maryland used -- make today's gerrymandering altogether different from the crude line-drawing of the past."

"For the first time in this Nation's history, the majority declares that it can do nothing about an acknowledged constitutional violation because it has searched high and low and cannot find a workable legal standard to apply."

"[I]n throwing up its hands, the majority misses something under its nose: What it says can't be done has been done. Over the past several years, federal courts across the country -- including, but not exclusively, in the decisions below -- have largely converged on a standard for adjudicating partisan gerrymandering claims (striking down both Democratic and Republican districting plans in the process)."

"Of all times to abandon the Court's duty to declare the law, this was not the one. The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government. Part of the Court's role in that system is to defend its foundations. None is more important than free and fair elections. With respect but deep sadness, I dissent."


Surely, the United States of America could not operate concentration camps. In the American consciousness, the term is synonymous with the Nazi death machines across the European continent that the Allies began the process of dismantling 75 years ago this month. But while the world-historical horrors of the Holocaust are unmatched, they are only the most extreme and inhuman manifestation of a concentration-camp system -- which, according to Andrea Pitzer, author of One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps, has a more global definition. There have been concentration camps in France, South Africa, Cuba, the Soviet Union, and -- with Japanese internment -- the United States. In fact, she contends we are operating such a system right now in response to a very real spike in arrivals at our southern border.

"We have what I would call a concentration camp system," Pitzer says, "and the definition of that in my book is, mass detention of civilians without trial."

Historians use a broader definition of concentration camps, as well.

"What's required is a little bit of demystification of it," says Waitman Wade Beorn, a Holocaust and genocide studies historian and a lecturer at the University of Virginia. "Things can be concentration camps without being Dachau or Auschwitz. Concentration camps in general have always been designed -- at the most basic level -- to separate one group of people from another group. Usually, because the majority group, or the creators of the camp, deem the people they're putting in it to be dangerous or undesirable in some way."

Not every concentration camp is a death camp -- in fact, their primary purpose is rarely extermination, and never in the beginning. Often, much of the death and suffering is a result of insufficient resources, overcrowding, and deteriorating conditions. So far, 24 people have died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Trump administration, while six children have died in the care of other agencies since September. Systems like these have emerged across the world for well over 100 years, and they've been established by putative liberal democracies -- as with Britain's camps in South Africa during the Boer War -- as well as authoritarian states like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. Camps set up with one aim can be repurposed by new regimes, often with devastating consequences.


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