• On the Border, Trump is Both Cruel and Incompetent

    Jorge Garcia hugs his wife and children at Detroit Metro Airport, moments before he boarded a flight to Mexico. Garcia was being deported to Mexico after living in the U.S. for 30 years.Niraj Warikoo/Detroit Free Press via ZUMA

    The Border Patrol union says that Donald Trump isn’t being tough on the border:

    The last time the National Guard was deployed to the border — in Texas in 2014 and borderwide in 2010 — troops assumed Border Patrol posts on the front lines, easing the workload, Judd said. Although National Guard members were restricted to an “observe and report” role and couldn’t detain migrants, they still aided patrols. “They were allowed to do a lot more than they are under the Trump administration. They were allowed to be in lookout and observation posts. They were allowed to be out grading the roads and mending fences. They were allowed to be our eyes and ears, freeing us up,” Judd said.

    This deployment, he said, has proved to be far more limited — despite the Trump administration’s claims. “They’re not allowed to be in the public eye. They’re not allowed to be in our lookout and observation posts, even in Texas,” he said, the busiest area of the border for migrants and drug smuggling. Judd said agents had complained about the restrictions to National Guard commanders, but “they just ignore the concerns.”

    This is yet another example of Trump talking big but accomplishing little because he has no idea what the issues really are and what kind of actions to order. He just tweets out a command to deploy the National Guard to the border, basks in the applause, and then assumes everything will just work out.

    And we also have this:

    A top official with the Department of Health and Human Services told members of Congress on Thursday that the agency had lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children it placed with sponsors in the United States, raising concerns they could end up in the hands of human traffickers or be used as laborers by people posing as relatives.

    ….From last October to the end of the year, officials at the agency’s Office of Refugee Resettlement tried to reach 7,635 children and their sponsors, Mr. Wagner testified. From these calls, officials learned that 6,075 children remained with their sponsors. Twenty-eight had run away, five had been removed from the United States and 52 had relocated to live with a nonsponsor. But officials at the agency were unable to determine with certainty the whereabouts of 1,475 children, Mr. Wagner said.

    Things like this would give any normal person pause about how they handle children who have crossed the border. But not Trump. A few days ago he ordered that children who crossed the border illegally with their parents would be separated from them. John Kelly explained the plan: “The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.” So not just cruel, but incompetent too. They obviously don’t give a shit: it’s just something that’s theatrically inhumane enough to satisfy the bloodlust of Trump’s base. Once again, it’s big talk that accomplishes nothing. It’s all Trump has ever been good at.


  • Try to Guess Who’s the Least Charitable Toward Refugees

    The Washington Post’s Philip Bump calls this a “fascinating detail,” but I call it totally unsurprising:

    If you meet up with an Evangelical white Republican man with a high school diploma—the main Fox News demographic—he’ll be almost certain to think we should tell these folks to fuck right off. If you meet up with an atheist black Democratic woman who has a PhD—the Fox viewer’s greatest fear—she’ll be almost certain to think we have a responsibility toward the world’s most destitute.

    Raise your hand if this shocks you even slightly.

  • Lunchtime Photo

    To finish up the week, here’s a picture of a little girl having a ball feeding the coots. I know you’re not supposed to feed animals in the wild these days, but kids love it so much that it’s easy to see why we all still do it. And anyway, our local lake is manmade and the coots haven’t truly been wild for a very long time. They might as well be in a zoo, so there’s probably not much harm in this.

    This is a composite photo. I had one picture where the girl looked excited and cute, and another where the coots were all staring upward waiting for a treat. Neither one was very good by itself, so I stuck them together to make one great picture.

    March 7, 2018 — Irvine, California
  • Republicans Invite Trump Lawyer to Super Secret Meeting

    Alex Edelman via ZUMA

    The Department of Justice is meeting with a bipartisan group from Congress today to brief them on the Trump-Russia investigation. In theory this is OK since this group gets briefed on all sorts of sensitive intelligence matters and can be trusted not to blab about it.

    But DOJ is also holding a pre-meeting for a very special group of VIPs who just happen to be all Republicans. That’s mighty suspicious, isn’t it? What kind of information is so super-sensitive that it can’t be divulged to Democrats? I will leave that as an exercise for the reader. But now it’s gotten even worse:

    They invited Trump’s lawyer to a meeting where they were discussing the Trump-Russia investigation? WTF?

  • Report Says Rising CO2 Levels Are Ruining Rice

    You may have heard about a new study that predicts reduced nutrient levels in rice as CO2 levels rise. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are are all their results:

    And here’s the projected effect, with the poorest countries suffering the worst consequences:

    Of course, all these countries might get richer and stop relying on rice so much. Alternatively, maybe the boffins in the DNA labs will construct new rice varieties that get more nutritious at higher CO2 levels. Or maybe lots of people will die. You never know.

  • Chart of the Day: Political Orientation Among College Freshmen

    I don’t really have anything to say about this chart from the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute. I just ran across it by accident while I was looking for something else. As late as 1996, there were about equal numbers of liberals and conservatives among incoming university freshmen, but liberals have steadily made gains since then. It’s not that there are fewer conservatives, though. It’s because there are fewer freshmen in the squishy middle.

    But wait. Just as I was writing that, I noticed something: during the last four recessions, the number of freshman identifying as liberal went down.¹ That’s actually kind of interesting, isn’t it? Their numbers recover over the next few years, and the secular trend has been rising ever since the early 80s, but there’s definitely a pattern to the hills and valleys.

    ¹Last five, actually, but I’m not counting 1973 since liberals were already in a post-60s swoon.

  • Trump Writes Weirdly Amiable Message to Kim Jong-un Canceling Their Summit

    President Trump has canceled his summit with North Korea. I suppose this isn’t a big surprise, and there’s not much to say about it. But this is sure a weird letter he wrote to Kim Jong-un about it.

  • Tough on Immigration? Dovish on Immigration? Then Support E-Verify.

    We all know that Donald Trump is “tough” on the border. He wants to separate families, keep out Muslims, deport Mexicans, conduct flashy raids, and build a wall. These things range from heartless to useless, but there’s a funny thing missing from the list:

    In President Trump’s many vocal pronouncements about stopping illegal immigration, one solution he promoted during the campaign has been conspicuously missing — a requirement that employers check whether workers are legal.

    Eight states require nearly all employers to use the federal government’s online E-Verify tool for new hires, but efforts to expand the mandate to all states have stalled, despite polls showing widespread support and studies showing that it reduces unauthorized workers….With the unemployment rate at a 17-year low and the Trump administration cracking down on foreign workers, lawmakers are reluctant to champion a measure that could exacerbate the labor shortage and hurt business constituents — even one that is popular among a broad swath of Americans.

    House Republicans are forging ahead with a debate over the future of young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, but the fate of an E-Verify provision remains in limbo.

    I occupy a weird spot these days: somewhere in the middle on immigration. That doesn’t sound like it should be weird—it’s the middle!—but at least in public discourse it seems to be entirely missing. On the right they’re all arguing about how big the crocodiles should be in the moat they’re going to build next to the razor wire wall. On the left there seems to be almost no appetite for enforcing immigration laws at all. But for various reasons, most of them practical, I favor limiting immigration. However, I don’t want to stop it dead, and I don’t want enforcement to be flamboyantly inhumane. I just want people to know that there’s a fairly reasonable way to apply for legal entrance, but if you’re in the country illegally you’ll eventually end up back where you came from. That’s all.

    The best way to do this is to attack the problem at its source. With a few exceptions, the reason that immigrants cross the southern border is economic: they can get better jobs in America than they can in Mexico or Guatamala. So the obvious answer is not a bigger fence or more raids: it’s cutting off the jobs. And the best way to do that is to force employers to follow the law when they hire people, and to apply enough resources to it that they know there’s a good chance of getting caught if they don’t.

    The benefits of this system are legion. First, it’s American law enforcement dealing with American employers. Second, the fines levied help pay for most or all of the enforcement. Third, ICE agents don’t need to demand papers from people who are doing nothing but speaking Spanish. Just leave them alone and arrest people who commit crimes. Fourth, you don’t need to separate families or even spend much time deporting people. If they can’t get jobs, they’ll move back home on their own.

    Now, I’m well aware that E-Verify isn’t perfect. It needs to be improved, and the appeal procedure needs to be quick and accurate. But that can be done, and it can probably be done for a lot less money than building a stupid wall or taking kids away from their parents. No system built by humans is perfect, but E-Verify could probably be 99.9 percent accurate if it were designed properly, and that would be good enough.

    So what’s the holdup? The answer is that no matter how much social conservatives think they own the Republican Party, they don’t. Corporations and rich people own the party, and they don’t want ICE agents raiding them. They don’t really care very much if Trump screws around with a wall, because they know a wall won’t make much difference. But they do care about E-Verify, because it would work and it would cost them money. So it lies around unloved, even though it’s almost certainly the best immigration enforcement option we have. And when I say “best,” I mean it’s both the most effective and the most humane.

    Now, there’s still the question of what the basic immigration law should be. Guest workers? Higher quotas? Lower quotas? Quotas based on labor needs? For my money, I’d want something that allows in more immigrants, but not a lot more immigrants. Whatever it is, though, it has to be decided no matter what the enforcement mechanism is. And once we’ve done that, E-Verify is the way to enforce it.

  • Liberals Really Shouldn’t Be Defending MS-13 Just Because Donald Trump Doesn’t Like Them

    Edgar Romero/DPA/ZUMAPRESS

    President Trump went on one of his MS-13 rants yesterday, but according to John Pfaff it turns out that they haven’t really killed very many people:

    I dunno guys. Sure, it’s a dog whistle. But MS-13 really is a deadly group that takes considerable pleasure in theatrical cruelty and revenge killings. The entire gang is roughly 10,000-strong in the United States, and it’s a pretty serious threat as these things go.

     A few days ago Trump called them “animals,” and liberals went through a painfully contorted effort to demonstrate that Trump was talking not just about MS-13, but about everyone deported from the country. Trump finally made it clear that he was talking only about MS-13, so then the conversation shifted. It was now bad even to call MS-13 gang members animals. They’re human beings too after all.

    And I guess that’s true, in the sense that we’re all equally children of God. But I suspect God is going to have some fairly sharp words for them on Judgment Day. In the meantime, do we really want to expend our energy in defending MS-13 just because Trump doesn’t like them? That’s kind of crazy, isn’t it? And speaking solely for myself, I’m perfectly happy to call them animals. It seems pretty accurate in their case.

    This kind of stuff does nothing but waste our own time, make other people think we’re nuts, and give Trump terrific ammunition to use against us. How about if we dial down the political lens on every last thing and just agree that MS-13 is a bunch of very bad folks? They are, you know.

  • Housekeeping Update

    Why yes, I am blogging a little earlier than usual. Thanks for noticing. It turns out, unsurprisingly, that the evil dex had exactly the same effect this time around that it had last time: it kept me up all night.

    And today I get to take some more! The first infusion is a two-day affair, so I’ll be off at the infusion center all day again. Yesterday everyone was pleased that I had no negative reaction to the Darzalex, even though I did have a reaction to the Darzalex. About an hour after the IV started, my throat got scratchy, I started coughing, and my nose started to drip. The dripping went away after a couple of hours; the coughing went away after three or four hours; and the scratchy throat isn’t quite totally gone even now. Also, my stomach is slightly upset. Apparently this is what counts as “no reaction.” This must mean that it really hits some people hard.

    But in truth it really isn’t much of a reaction. I can probably control the allergic symptoms with the Zyrtec they told me to get, and there are plenty of options for my stomach. Probably Pepcid, which is what they gave me last time. So things should go more smoothly next week.

    Anyway, this will last eight weeks, then it goes to every other week for eight weeks, and then to once a month for some undetermined length of time. I suppose the effects will accumulate over time, but probably not too much since they seem fairly modest. We’ll see.

    Anyway, that’s why you’re getting early morning posts. Whether you get any late morning posts depends on how I feel after today’s second round of fine pharmaceutical products. I can’t wait.