Thursday, May 25, 2017

Officer's First Question to Immigrant in Accident: 'You Illegal?'

In Trump's America, only citizens get help from the police.

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By Kali Holloway

Instead of offering to help a man who had been knocked off his bicycle by a pickup truck, a Florida police officer quizzed him on his immigration status.
Univision first reported the story after obtaining the officer’s body camera footage. Marcos Antonio Huete, an immigrant from Honduras living in Key West, was thrown from his bike to the sidewalk when he collided with a truck. Instead of inquiring about his injuries, the first cop to arrive at the accident scene began asking Huete about his citizenship information.
“You illegal? Are you a legal citizen or no? Speak English? You got ID? Passport, visa or what?” the officer asks as he approaches Huete.  
The accident occurred on April 27, but Univision was only able to obtain the footage (below) in recent days.
Huete called his sister, Olga, who came to the scene and took him to the hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries. Olga told Univision reporters that her brother was instructed by officers to return to the site of the accident, where he was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. He is now being held at a Miami ICE facility while he awaits deportation hearings.
"Usually Monroe [County] cops did not hand over undocumented immigrants to immigration authorities, because the Cayos area was considered a sanctuary for immigrants," Willy Allen, an attorney in the area, told Telemundo. "It was the Florida Highway Patrol that [called ICE], but everything is changing with the current administration's policy on sanctuary cities."
Olga told the outlet that her brother is the sole provider for his mother, niece and two daughters who are still in Honduras. According to Univision, ICE has stated that “Huete had entered the country illegally and had been deported in the past, so his chances of being released are minimal.”
A recent ICE press release reports that arrests of undocumented immigrants have skyrocketed 37 percent during Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office, compared with the same period during the early days of Obama’s term. The vast majority of those arrests have been for non-violent crimes and other minor infractions. The number of immigrants without criminal records who are being taken into custody has shot up an astounding 150 percent.
Huete’s story adds to the growing list of incidents that have discouraged immigrants from engaging with police for fear of being deported. A ThinkProgress survey of 2,000 Latinos in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and Phoenix released earlier this month found 44 percent reported they were “unlikely to contact police if they are targets of a crime.” Forty-five percent stated they were “unlikely to report crime” they had witnessed. 
“That number shoots up to about 70 percent of undocumented Latino immigrants who indicated that they would neither file a police report for being a victim nor for being a witness. Instead because ‘they fear that police officers will use this interaction as an opportunity to inquire into their immigration status or that of people they know,’” the study found.

Psychiatrist Bandy Lee: “We have an obligation to speak about Donald Trump’s mental health issues. . . . Our survival as a species may be at stake”

"Malignant reality is taking hold" in American politics, says shrink who held conference on Trump's mental health

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President Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the United States and the world.
He has reckless disregard for democracy and its foundational principles. Trump is also an authoritarian plutocrat who appears to be using the presidency as a means to enrich himself and closest allies as well as family members. Trump’s proposed 2018 federal budget is a shockingly cruel document that threatens to destroy America’s already threadbare social safety net in order to give the rich and powerful (even more) hefty tax cuts. His policies have undermined the international order and America’s place as the dominant global power. It would appear that he and his administration have been manipulated and perhaps (in the case of Michael Flynn) even infiltrated by Vladimir Putin’s spies and other agents. The world has become less safe as a result of Trump’s failures of leadership and cavalier disregard for existing alliances and treaties.
Donald Trump’s failures as president have been compounded by his unstable personality and behavior. It has been reported by staffers inside the Trump White House that he is prone to extreme mood swings, is cantankerous and unpredictable, flies into blind rages when he does not get his way, is highly suggestible and readily manipulated, becomes bored easily and fails to complete tasks, is confused by basic policy matters and is unhappy and lonely. And despite bragging about his “strength” and “vitality” during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump appears to tire easily and easily succumbs to “exhaustion.” Trump is apparently all id and possesses little if any impulse control. He is a chronic liar who ignores basic facts and empirical reality in favor of his own fantasies.
Between the scandals and the emotionally erratic behavior, Donald Trump would appear to be a 21st-century version of Richard Nixon, to date the only American president forced to resign under threat of forcible removal. In all, this leads to a serious and worrisome question: Is Donald Trump mentally ill? Moreover, what does Trump’s election reveal about the moods and values of his voters? How are questions of societal emotions and collective mental health connected to the rise of fascism and authoritarianism in America? Do psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals have a moral obligation to warn the public about the problems they see with Donald Trump’s behavior?
In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with Dr. Bandy Lee, a psychiatrist at Yale University who specializes in public health and violence prevention. She recently convened a conference that explored issues related to Donald Trump’s emotional health and how mental health professionals should respond to this crisis. The proceedings from this conference will be featured in a forthcoming book expected later this year.
How did a person like Donald Trump become president?
My being a psychiatrist, I will inevitably see things from that lens. I also tend to think about the social context that gives rise to the current conditions. For me the big shift in our society has been the increasing inequality, and with that a certain segment of the population will end up suffering from an undue amount of poverty — a relative poverty actually, deprivation, a lack of education, a lack of health care and mental health care. All those things will contribute to worsening of collective mental health.
As a clinician, when you watch Trump’s behavior day after day — his lying and obfuscation, his apparent confusion and anger management issues — what are you thinking?
I’ve been thinking from the very beginning that he exhibits many signs of mental impairment. I recently organized a conference on this at Yale. Afterwards, there has been almost an army of people who have shared with me how they have been wanting to speak about this issue. I did not expect to get such a massive response.
What are your peers’ specific concerns and what are they afraid of?
This situation has come to such a critical level. In fact, a state of emergency exists and we could no longer hold back. We have an obligation to speak about Donald Trump’s mental health issues because many lives and our survival as a species may be at stake.
What are two or three things you could cite about Donald Trump’s behavior that causes you the greatest concern, worry or alarm?
There are certainly the symptoms that he displays. He has a great need for adulation. He is angry if reality does not meet his needs. People have been expecting him to settle into his role and become normal or more “presidential,” but that does not ordinarily happen among those with such personality traits. In fact, what we’re seeing is a creation of his own reality, a reality that will meet Trump’s own emotional needs and the need to impose that reality on others. It is his imperviousness to facts and reality that could place us all at great risk.
On one hand, he can just be cantankerous, moody, angry and a spoiled child. I’ve described him as a man-child or a clown king. But how do we separate that from saying, “OK, there is something going on clinically”?
One does not make the other mutually exclusive. In fact, one can both be immature and a jerk, dangerous and ill-intentioned. In other words, bad as well as mad. It’s really the combination that makes it so toxic and unpredictable that we felt that there was a need to speak out.
How should the “Goldwater rule,” the ethical requirement not to diagnose a person you have not examined, be balanced with mental health professionals’ responsibilities as American citizens and members of the global community?  
In  an ordinary situation where matters were not so intense, we could balance out our political activism and separate that from our professional goals and actions. But when there is such a grave mental disability that is affecting the public sphere, the political sphere, such as in the current position of power, then those lines get blurred. Given that all human health exists in an ecological system, there is no rule that politics will never enter the sphere of health or the mental health profession. Right now we’re seeing that it does.
When we have a president who asks, What is the point of having nuclear weapons if we cannot use them?, who urges our government to use torture or worse against prisoners, who urges his followers at political rallies to beat protesters up so badly that they’ll be taken out in stretchers, and suggests that his followers could always assassinate Hillary Clinton if she were to be elected president, there is something very wrong. All this attraction to violence, threats of violence, boasts of his own violence and sexual assaults, and incitements to violence — all these have an effect.
As a clinician, how do you figure out the causal arrows? Is Trump causing an increase in violence or is his presidency a reflection of deeper cultural problems in America?  
Certainly it’s not a one-way path. It happens both ways in that we have elected a president who was somehow very attractive to his voters. But then he stokes and amplifies certain elements in the population that in turn create more conditions for violence and danger.
Why do you think more of your peers have not spoken about these concerns? Are they afraid of professional consequences? Personal threats of violence?
One of my colleagues said this was not the way she wished to spend her life — in other words, to spend the rest of her life paying for an expression of her opinion by fighting lawsuits, by fighting for her license. There was a fear of having her license taken away. Yes, the fear was present then and it is present still now, such that when I was editing this book, I had two co-editors who initially signed on, but the more they heard about the possibility that their license could be in danger, that they could somehow be targeted for this, they pulled out.
How did you overcome that fear and anxiety? It’s easier to be a bystander to history. It’s easier to say, “I’ll let somebody else do it.” Instead you actually chose to do something.
In my case, it became a grave enough emergency that my conscience would not let me rest in peace if I did not do something about it.
As a psychologist, as a human being, as a citizen, why do you think some people choose to be bystanders and others decide to act?
Bystanders do make a lot of difference. Human rights abuses could not happen if bystanders spoke up or did not approve.
On a practical level, how do you think a president should be psychologically evaluated before taking office? What do you think the actual remedies could be for dealing with Donald Trump now? Can we invoke the 25th Amendment, so that if enough people diagnose this man and there is enough of an outcry he will be removed?
I think by sounding the alarm about his mental instability and position of power that some kind of consensus as to a process would be developed. As for the 25th Amendment, I don’t think that’s really a psychiatrist’s domain. But that is certainly one avenue that has been proposed and it’s the only one that would be possible in terms of a case of mental impairment. I think what needs to happen next is a collaborative discussion among people of different fields. We could speak to the president’s mental impairment, the effects of that impairment and the dangerous situation we’re in. Other people could speak to the best political and procedural way to do something about that finding. Those would be lawmakers and politicians.
What do you think the United States is going to look like after Donald Trump leaves office?  
He has exacerbated the pathological patterns of our culture. What would happen if the presidency continues? I think more damage will be done. In fact, the latter part of the book consists of some of the effects of his policies, including repealing the Affordable Care Act, his immigration policies, his tax laws and his military policies. All these things could have ramifications and reverberations throughout —his environmental policies, his educational policies. In fact, Dr. Robert Jay Lifton said at the conference that Trump’s style of governing could be described as “anti-governing.” I believe we’re at a crossroads.
We can either amplify and encourage Trump and his followers’ pathology, or we can stop it and look for ways that are more life enhancing, healing, corrective. When you see a person falling into illness, the deeper the illness grows, the less aware they will be of their illness. The more insistent they will be on destructive ways rather than ways that are healing and constructive. At a later point, doctors and hospitals will be the thing that they will avoid at all costs. That is why sometimes physicians have to hospitalize against the person’s will or put them on a stretcher. The reason why the law allows that, that society allows that is because they feel better and then they thank you for it.
That is why simply respecting the choices of the electorate when the electorate is not entirely well can spiral into situations like fascism. Remember fascism is not necessarily an ideology. It could be on the right or the left. It is also an emotional experience to a certain political structure, and people will cling to it regardless of how destructive it is to their lives, regardless of what path it takes them toward. The pull is emotional, not ideological or even rational. It’s a situation that needs intervention, healing and treatment. The way to do that is to improve societal conditions.
Why do Trump’s voters continue to support him even when his and the Republican Party’s policies will hurt them economically and in other ways as well?
Because it’s an emotional compulsion. It’s an emotional reaction. It’s not anything rational. Trying to reason with them will not help. It’s really the conditions that have to change. Malignant reality is taking hold. It’s a kind of pathology cohesion that normalizes corruption, violence and harm, and there will come a the point where we’re no longer disturbed by it. At that point, all kinds of human rights violations, wars and loss of life become possible. Mental health professionals have to become witnessing professionals who continually point out this dynamic and call it out for what it is, so that it does not become normalized.
The Trump administration, and I might argue to a large extent the Republican Party, has been leading up to a need to impose a distorted reality and a kind of imperviousness to facts onto others. Facts and evidence almost do not matter. What matters is the emotional commitment to either an ideology or what they believe will make America great again, restore their position, or give them the kind of pride or self-esteem that they feel they have lost.

Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke got police to detain passenger who questioned him on flight

Sheriff Clarke allegedly ordered his men to detain and interview a passenger who asked his identity on a flight

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An incident on an airplane in which Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke had a passenger detained and interviewed after the flight without having committed a crime has raised further concerns about Clarke’s alleged abuses of power, despite possibly being selected for a job with the Department of Homeland Security.
When passenger Dan Black boarded a plane at the Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport last January he thought he had recognized Clarke, who was sitting in first class, but wasn’t completely sure because Clarke was dressed in Dallas Cowboys gear — and not his typical uniform garb decorated with questionable pins. He also wasn’t wearing his signature hat. Black alleged that he approached Clarke and had asked him if he was indeed the notable sheriff. Clarke confirmed his identity, and then asked the passenger if he had a problem, according the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
After the meeting, Clarke sent a text message to one of his captains and directed his men to follow the passenger after the flight and detain him for further questioning, according to the Journal Sentinel. “Just a field interview, no arrest unless he become an asshole with your guys,” Clarke sent to Captain Mark Witek. “Question for him is why he said anything to me. Why didn’t he just keep his mouth shut?”
“Follow him to baggage and out the door,” Clarke also wrote. “You can escort me to carousel after I point him out.”
When he landed in Milwaukee, he was met by cops, who stopped him. The interaction was captured on camera. This is how the Journal Sentinel described the video:
One video shows five uniformed officers with a police dog — not six as Black had earlier alleged — waiting for Clarke and Black at Gate 54 of Concourse D at the Milwaukee airport.
Clarke is one of the first to exit the plane, saluting his staff when they greet him. Black follows 2 1/2 minutes later and two of the deputies engage him. Later video shows Clarke being escorted by a captain, a sergeant, a deputy and the dog near Gate 30. Black is accompanied by two deputies about nine minutes later.
Black is suing the sheriff — as well as several of his deputies — and the phone exchange has been made available as a result of the lawsuit. The case has even gotten federal investigators involved to evaluate how Clarke and his men handled the incident, according to the Journal Sentinel, but there have been no charges for civil rights offenses.
Black alleged he was detained and interviewed and was a victim of unlawful stop and arrest, but Clarke’s version of the story slightly differed.
Clarke said that Black had questioned him about his identity, and when Clarke confirmed it Black stood over him in a threatening manner and shook his head. “Plaintiff stopped adjacent to Sheriff Clarke’s seat as Plaintiff boarded the plane and asked him if he was Sheriff Clarke,” Clarke’s attorney said in court filings. “Plaintiff then, while standing over Clarke and in very close proximity to Clarke given the confines of the airline cabin, and in a physically threatening manner, stared at Clarke and shook his head at him for a prolonged period of time.”
Since the case has been made public, Clarke has targeted Black in online attacks. In a post on his Facebook page, Clarke included a meme that read: “Cheer up, Snowflake . . . If Sheriff Clarke were to really harass you, you wouldn’t be around to whine about it.”

Down the Memory Hole

Living in Trump’s United States of Amnesia 

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By Rebecca Gordon

The Trump administration seems intent on tossing recent history down the memory hole. Admittedly, Americans have never been known for their strong grasp of facts about their past. Still, as we struggle to keep up with the constantly shifting explanations and pronouncements of the new administration, it becomes ever harder to remember the events of yesterday, let alone last week, or last month.

The Credibility Swamp
Trump and his spokespeople routinely substitute “alternative facts” for what a friend of mine calls consensus reality, the world that most of us recognize. Whose inaugural crowd was bigger, Barack Obama’s or Donald Trump’s? It doesn’t matter what you remember, or even what’s in the written accounts or photographic record. What matters is what the administration now says happened then. In other words, for Trump and his people, history in any normal sense simply doesn’t exist, and that’s a danger for the rest of us. Think of the Trumpian past as a website that can be constantly updated to fit the needs of the present. You may believe you still remember something that used to be there, but it’s not there now. As it becomes increasingly harder to find, can you really trust your own memory?
In recent months, revisions of that past have sometimes come so blindingly fast that the present has simply been overrun, as was true with the firing of FBI Director James Comey. First, the president ordered up some brand new supporting documents from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein. These were designed to underpin his line that Comey was fired on their recommendation -- for being “unfair” to Hillary Clinton. Then, even as his surrogates were out peddling that very story, Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that, “regardless of [Sessions’ and Rosenstein’s] recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.” And he explained why:
“And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”
Which rationale for Comey’s departure is true? Both? Neither? What is “truth” after all?
When the need to ask such questions occurs once in a while, it’s anomalous enough that we notice. We have time to remark that someone or various people in this story -- Sessions, Rosenstein, the surrogates, Trump himself -- are mistaken or even lying. Fortunately, in the case of Comey’s firing, journalists are still reporting the lies, but what happens if the rewrites of our recent history begin to come so fast that we stop keeping up?

 During the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson was famously said to have a “credibility gap.” People, including journalists, had stopped believing everything his administration said about one very important topic: the war. Trump doesn’t have a credibility gap; he’s tossed us into a credibility swamp. We’re all there together swimming in a mire of truth and lies, with the occasional firecracker thrown in just to see if we’re still paying attention.
If the age of Trump doesn’t end relatively soon, the daily effort to sort out what happened from what didn’t may eventually become too much for many of us. Memory fatigue may set in, and the whole project of keeping the past in focus shelved. In that case, we might very well start to give up the concept of citizenship altogether and decide instead to just get on with our own private uninsuredunderpaid, and overworked lives.
Sometimes it's easier to simply adjust to an ever-changing official version of reality than to keep up a constant, unrewarding struggle to remember. This was the phenomenon George Orwell described so unforgettably in his dystopian novel 1984. His hero, Winston Smith, becomes aware that the sole party that runs his country incessantly rewrites the past to its own liking and advantage. In fact, he realizes that “the past not only changed, but changed continuously.”
Like most inhabitants of the mega-state of Oceania, it wasn’t that Smith couldn’t accept such a reality.  He could. What he couldn’t shake was a nightmarish sense “that he had never clearly understood why” the Party needed to do it. “The immediate advantages of falsifying the past were obvious, but the ultimate motive was mysterious” to him. That “ultimate motive,” he eventually realizes, is to so destroy people’s hold on memory that they come to believe that truth genuinely is whatever the Party says it is.
”In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable?”
Does President Trump know what he’s doing? Does he know that, in a more chaotic fashion than Orwell’s “Big Brother,” he’s grinding away at American memories, threatening to turn them into so much rubble? It’s hard to say; he appears to be incapable of either self-reflection or planning, indeed of acting in any way except on impulse. He does, however, seem to know in an intuitive way what works for him, what gets him things he wants, as he has his whole professional life. He’s called his method “truthful hyperbole.” And regardless of what he himself understands, there are certainly people around him who do grasp all too well the usefulness of that “ultimate motive,” of convincing the public that facts are not all that stubborn after all.
The Memory Hole
Supplying alternative facts is one way of destroying memory. Erasing real facts is another.
In Orwell’s 1984, there was a slot in the wall at the Ministry of Truth where Winston Smith worked, a memory hole, into which inconvenient documents could be fed to be consumed forever by a huge basement furnace. There are, it seems, plenty of memory holes in Washington these days.
Since January, the Trump administration has been systematically removing from federal websites inconvenient information on subjects as diverse as climate change and occupational health and safety, and replacing it with anodyne messages. Take, for instance, this one, which you get when you search the Environmental Protection Agency’s website for the term “climate change” and click on links that search turns up:
“This page is being updated.

“Thank you for your interest in this topic. We are currently updating our website to reflect EPA's priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator [Scott] Pruitt. If you're looking for an archived version of this page, you can find it on the January 19 snapshot.”
If you do click on the link for that January 19, 2017, “snapshot,” you can still (for now) see what the old climate change portal of the Obama era looked like. At the top of the “snapshot,” however, is a bright red notice announcing:
“This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2017. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.”
The government has now entered full-scale climate change denial mode. Information of just about any sort on global warming has been or is being memory-holed in a wholesale fashion at other agency websites as well. The Guardian, for instance, reports that, in the part of the Department of Energy’s site addressed to children, “sentences that point out the harmful health consequences of burning coal and other impacts of fossil fuels have gone.” At the State Department, references to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and a recent U.N. meeting on climate change have similarly been expunged.
However, it’s not just government pronouncements on issues like climate change that are being sanitized. Actual data is disappearing from government websites. The federal government collects vast amounts of data, much of it the results of studies it has funded. Some agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency, are required by law to retain data they collect, but they are not required to post it. This means basic information and the results of scientific research, once available online, are now only available through a Freedom of Information Act request. Of course, you have to know that the information exists in the first place in order to request it.
One result of hiding such data is that scientists citing U.S. government webpages as sources in their own work are now finding that the references they’ve pointed to have disappeared. Arctic researcher Victoria Herrmann describes watching her citations dissolve into thin air:
“At first, the distress flare of lost data came as a surge of defunct links on 21 January. The U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic, the Implementation Plan for the Strategy, and the report on our progress all gone within a matter of minutes. As I watched more and more links turned red, I frantically combed the Internet for archived versions of our country’s most important polar policies.”
Herrmann was able to find some of her missing articles using the Wayback Machine, an internet archiving project. But as Herrmann points out, “Each defunct page is an effort by the Trump administration to deliberately undermine our ability to make good policy decisions by limiting access to scientific evidence.”
It’s not just environmental information that’s been tossed down the memory hole.  Concerned about the health and safety of workers or animals? The Washington Post reports some things you won’t find anymore on federal sites:
“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, for instance, has dramatically scaled back on publicizing its fines against firms. And the Agriculture Department has taken offline animal-welfare enforcement records, including abuses in dog breeding operations and horse farms that alter the gait of horses through the controversial practice of ‘soring’ the animals’ legs.”
Sometimes information only hangs around for a brief moment, before sliding down the memory hole. That’s what happened to an advertisement for Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, which was masquerading as an entry on Share America, which the State Department calls its “platform for sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society.” The page appeared on the website of the U.S. embassy in London.
Someone must have realized that using the State Department to advertise the President’s private club was not a great idea. Conflict of interest? No problem. It’s down the memory hole.
Nor is it just government websites that are being reworked in a distinctly Orwellian fashion. Recently, the Trump 2020 reelection campaign (yes, it already exists) quietly removed many 2016 campaign documents from its website. The Washington Post’s Avi Selk describes some of the missing press releases, among them the one that reproduced Trump’s full interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in which he so infamously insulted Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father who spoke out against him at the Democratic Party convention, and his wife, Ghazala.
Similarly, links to Trump’s “New Deal for Black America,” released a week before the 2016 election, now bring up a dreaded “404 - Page not found” message on the Trump-Pence website. Whatever that “deal” was, it’s evidently no longer on offer, nor is it even to remain in the historical record.
The same memory hole has also evidently devoured a December 2015 press release announcing that “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Fortunately, versions of that particular statement were repeated often enough in enough places that lawyers have been able to continue to use it to argue against the president’s executive orders banning the entry of people from seven (now six) majority-Muslim countries.
The Trump administration’s memory holes have swallowed up more than documents and data. People have also disappeared -- if not from the world, at least from their government positions. We still remember former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former FBI Director James Comey, but who remembers Ponisseril Somasundaran or Courtney Flint? They are among the scientists recently dismissed from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Board of Scientific Counselors. Among their duties was to give advice on environmental regulation. They are to be replaced, according to agency spokesperson J.P. Freire, by people “who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community” -- that is, representatives of polluting industries.
The United States of Amnesia
Gore Vidal coined the expression “the United States of Amnesia” in a 2004 book about George W. Bush’s America. The particular instance of amnesia Vidal highlighted with that phrase was the failure of those then waging the “war on drugs” to remember the disasters of the prohibition of alcohol sales in the 1930s, and the ensuing corruption, gangsters, and smuggling rings that came with it. 
His larger point, however, was that, in general, American historical memory is short. Thirteen years after Vidal’s book appeared, and with a new Republican administration ascendant, it seems that this country is in danger of sinking ever deeper into a state of amnesia. And can there be any question that, in a distinctly Orwellian fashion, the new administration is doing everything in its power to hasten that process? As the Trump administration prepares for a new “surge” on the perpetual battlefield that is Afghanistan, we’ve conveniently forgotten how little the last one achieved. We’ve forgotten how deregulation led to the Great Recession, as the federal Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded in 2011. “The greatest tragedy,” that panel wrote, “would be to accept the refrain that no one could have seen this coming and thus nothing could have been done. If we accept this notion, it will happen again.” Yet the Republicans in Congress can’t wait to repeal Dodd-Frank, the law that restored a semblance of regulation to the world of commercial banking.
The fifth-century African bishop St. Augustine was probably the first western thinker to pay attention to human memory. In his ConfessionsAugustine observes that it is memory -- the ability to bring into present awareness past experiences and the ability to recognize the difference between past, present, and future -- that makes us self-aware beings. He described the “vast hall of my memory,” where “I meet myself and recall what I am, what I have done, and when and where and how I was affected when I did it.” It is on the basis of memory, he added, that “I reason about future actions and events and hopes, and again think of all these things in the present. 'I shall do this and that,' I say to myself within that vast recess of my mind which is full of many rich images, and this act or that follows.”
If Augustine was right and memory gives us our selves, allowing us to “reason about future actions and events and hopes,” then a political regime that seeks to destroy its people’s memory is an existential threat.
In that case, the first act of resistance is to remember who we are.

Communications Inequality Comes Home to Roost

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By Mark Lloyd

The equal ability to share information of concern to the public is among the rights that form the bedrock of our nation. In deciding what to share and what to view, all members of the public need to be reasonably free from surveillance. And as important as international and national affairs are, we remain a country where a vast amount of power, and a vast amount of what needs to be discussed, resides in state and local governments. Local governance, and what we learn as citizens through communicating about and participating in it, is vital to our federal system. These pillars—information equality, freedom from surveillance and localism—constitute long-standing tenets of our republic.

The Republican Party is in the process of dismantling these democratic foundations. The GOP, now in control of the Federal Communications Commission, is proposing to roll back the rules protecting fair access to an open internet.

The Republican-controlled Congress and the president have already tossed aside privacy protections that help guard against government and corporate surveillance. The Republican chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, is proposing to eliminate the requirement that local broadcasters actually operate in the communities they are licensed to serve.

There was a time, not so long ago, when few could tell the difference between Republican and Democratic policy experts regarding the confusing and seemingly technical considerations of communications policy. That time has passed. And it is time all of us wake up to the now deeply partisan nature of the legislators and regulators who determine who gets to speak to whom and at what cost.

This should not come as a surprise. If clean air and banking and energy regulation can become infected by the disease of right-wing lockstep, why would our communications policies be considered immune?

Signs of this increasing partisanship over communications policy go back to the Reagan years, when the Republican FCC Chairman Mark Fowler wondered why television should be treated any differently than toasters. There once was a requirement that local broadcasters ask a diverse group of local leaders what important issues should be covered in their community. The broadcasters were then required to report quarterly to the FCC how the station programming was addressing those issues.

The Reagan Republicans got rid of that stipulation in 1984. They also made it more difficult to challenge a broadcaster’s license while making it easier to get a license renewed and extending license terms. In the meantime, they stopped enforcing the Fairness Doctrine and determined that the National Association of Broadcasters’ code of conduct was a violation of antitrust law. 

The U.S. has never recovered from this dramatic break from a bipartisan understanding of public interest law.

The early hope that cable TV would solve the “vast wasteland” of broadcast was revealed to be a cruel joke after a few years, but those hopes were soon replaced by even greater hopes for the new commercial internet. The current confused conflict over what some call net neutrality is only the most recent sign that partisanship has destroyed any realistic democratic hopes for the internet.

It remains to be seen whether Republican Party loyalist Pai will succeed in once again limiting FCC oversight of broadband, but he is sending a clear signal to internet service providers that they may do what they will and the nation’s guardian of the public interest will look the other way.

And no, the Democrats have not done a great job of advancing the public interest. It took far too long for Democrats to step up and reverse the lie that advanced telecommunications services (i.e., “broadband”) were really not telecommunications services, while they did little to break the monopolies of the internet service providers. Democrats, going back to Carter and Clinton, have allowed the increasing consolidation of broadcasting. And they have watched silently as public media was starved into near irrelevance.

While the elite are worried about slow internet service, red-state Americans remain stuck in media deserts with little information about what their local elected leaders are doing, and blue-state Americans are saturated with commercials and crime stories. All of us are overwhelmed by the angry rhetoric and lies from newspapers, radio, TV, cable, online sources and social media dominated by the right.

The result of our communications policies is that a third of Americans failed to understand during the election that the right-wing rhetoric about Obamacare was also about the Affordable Care Act upon which they had come to depend. The result of our communications policies is that too many Americans doubt the scientific consensus that climate change is real and believe that the undocumented workers the farm factories rely upon to pick our food are dangerous criminals. The result of our communications policies is a lack of trust in journalism and a vulnerability to fake news. The Republican attack on public interest laws, laws meant to reduce communications inequality, has made the U.S. more vulnerable to uninformed tribalism and successful disinformation campaigns.

The structural problems of communications inequality have come home to roost in the election of Trump, a reality TV star and Twitter junkie. He speaks with the same incoherence and knows as much about foreign affairs and the lives of “the blacks” and the “bad hombres” as those who speak on the 11 o’clock news. He is the inevitable result of Democratic incompetence and Republican-driven communications policies going back to Ronnie Reagan.

So what is to be done?

Sure, go ahead and send letters to the FCC and your members of Congress. Go ahead and protest at the FCC headquarters. In the meantime, public interest lawyers must challenge all the rules pushed through under the reckless Pai administration. Perhaps that will stall implementation of those rules long enough to have an election in which citizens are clear they are voting against media consolidation and for an open internet.

Go ahead and march in the street shouting at the top of your lungs and carrying signs mocking Pai. But Democratic congressional candidates must make it clear that they think all Americans should have access to Big Bird on public television, and to information that might keep them safe when the next hurricane hits. Go ahead and make noise, and keep it up. Perhaps that will help people stay focused so that in 2018 they can elect a Congress that will enact budgetary restrictions and hamstring whatever Pai is able to rush through until he is permanently replaced. Perhaps the Donald and his handlers at Breitbart will finally get the Democrats to wake up and really address the structural issues of communications inequality in our nation.

$33 BILLION HEDGE FUND: There could be a recession if the Trump administration doesn't get its act together

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Billionaire Paul Singer's Elliott Management says we might be in for a recession if the Trump administration doesn't pass reforms in taxes, regulation and health care.
Trump took office with a plan to cut taxes, cut back on regulations and boost infrastructure spending — all in a bid to raise economic growth. The plans have mostly been stymied by political disagreements over healthcare reform and a probe into Russia's potential interference in the election. 
In a private first-quarter letter to investors reviewed by Business Insider, the $33 billion activist hedge fund laid out its concerns with the current situation.
"Although the growth agenda of the Trump administration is slow to get off the ground, markets still anticipate that much of it will be enacted, sooner or later," the letter said.
But if the Trump administration fails to pass reforms, "the impact on the US dollar and equity markets would likely be negative," the hedge fund wrote.
"There are actually forces in place that could point to a relatively near-term recession in the absence of solid new pro-growth policies," the fund added.
The automobile industry is one particular red flag supporting the notion of a potential recession, Elliott said.
"The number of cars sold has started to come off its historical highs, the financing terms for cars have been increasingly eased and lengthened (accelerating current purchases but building in a deeper falloff for the future), subprime auto loan defaults are rising, and used vehicle prices are falling," the fund said. 
Elliott managed about $33 billion as of April 1, the letter said.