The Rise of the Amnesty Thugs

Franco was an unauthorized immigrant who had been working in this country for over a decade. His wife, Anne, is from a Pennsylvania Dutch family that has been in this country for generations. They were married in 2013 and have three American children, Max, Javier and Valentina.

In the spring of 2017, Franco got in a minor traffic accident near his Pennsylvania home. A few weeks later as he was leaving for work, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement swarmed him, took him away and deported him to Guatemala.

.. This is an example of ICE going after a perfectly productive member of society. I got the anecdote from a series of reports that Deborah Sontag and Dale Russakoff did for ProPublica and The Philadelphia Inquirer. They found that 64 percent of the immigrants arrested by ICE in the agency’s Philadelphia region had no prior criminal conviction.

.. There are 11 million unauthorized immigrants in this country. Every past administration has used some discretion in targeting whom to deport. They targeted those who were destroying society, not building it. They tried to take account of particular contexts, and they tried to show some sense of basic humanity.

.. today, discretion and humanity are being stamped out. The Trump administration has embraced a “zero tolerance” policy. In practice that means that all complexity has to be reduced to uniformity. Compassion is replaced by a blind obedience to regulations. Context is irrelevant. Arrests are indiscriminate. All that matters is that the arrest numbers go up, so human beings in the system are reduced to numbers.

.. The Trump administration immigration officials have become exactly the kind of monsters that conservatism has always warned against.

For centuries, conservatives have repeated a specific critique against state power. Statism, conservatives have argued, has a tendency to become brutalist and inhumane because a bureaucracy can’t see or account for the complexity of reality.

.. Statist social engineering projects cause horrific suffering because in the mind of statists, the abstract rule is more important than the human being in front of them. The person must be crushed for the sake of the abstraction.

.. People like Stephen Miller are not steeped in conservative thinking and do not operate with a conservative disposition. They were formed by their rebellion against the stifling conformity they found at liberal universities. Their primary orientation is not to conservative governance but to owning the libs. In power they take the worst excesses of statism and flip them for anti-liberal ends
.. Here’s how you can detect the anti-liberal trolls in the immigration debate: Watch how they use the word “amnesty.”
.. Any serious reform has to grapple with tangled realities, and any real conservative has an appreciation for that complexity. But if you try to account for that complexity before an anti-immigration troll, he or she will shout one word: Amnesty!
.. This is what George Orwell noticed about the authoritarian brutalists: They don’t use words to illuminate the complexity of reality; they use words to eradicate the complexity of reality.
.. Look at how the Republican candidates for the G.O.P. Senate nomination in Arizona answered questions about a provision to keep families together at the border. They responded with inhumane abstractions: “I try not to get swayed by what the emotions are or the pressure
.. “Compromising on the rule of law to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants is the wrong path to take,”
.. “Amnesty” has become a club the trolls use in their attempt to stamp a rigid steel boot on the neck of the immigration debate. It’s the sign of a party slowly losing its humanity.

When ‘Miss’ Meant So Much More: How One Woman Fought Alabama — And Won

June 1963. Gadsden, Ala. Mary Hamilton, 28, stood in a courtroom before a judge.

She was a black civil rights activist, arrested for nonviolent protest. And the judge was losing his patience.

The atmosphere in Gadsden that summer “was truly frightening and terrifying,” says Colin Morris, a history professor at Manhattanville College. “The Klan was highly active. On more than one occasion there had been attacks in Gadsden.”

But Hamilton wasn’t frightened. She was furious. She refused to answer the prosecutor’s questions.

“I won’t respond,” she said, “until you call me Miss Hamilton.”

It wasn’t just about an honorific. It was about respect and racial equality. Her demand was an act of defiance that would eventually bring her name before the U.S. Supreme Court and set a precedent for how witnesses are addressed in courtrooms today — with equal courtesy.

.. Mary Hamilton was constantly confusing and infuriating men in authority by standing up to their disrespect.

In Lebanon, Tenn., when a mayor visited her cell and referred to her as “Mary,” Hamilton corrected him. It was Miss Hamilton. Hamilton and Michaels recalled the moment in their oral history: “And if you don’t know how to speak to a lady,” Hamilton told the mayor, “then get out of my cell.”

At the time, throughout the ’60s, many white people — particularly in positions of authority — refused to use honorifics like “Miss,” “Mrs.” or “Mr.” to refer to black people.

.. Barbara McCaskill, an English professor at the University of Georgia, studied the narratives of black Americans and the civil rights movement. She said her own mother vividly remembered being denied the honorific “miss” as a young woman.

“Segregation was in the details as much as it was in the bold strokes,” McCaskill says. “Language is significant because language calls attention to whether or not we value the humanity of people that we are interacting with. And in segregation the idea was to remind African-Americans and people of color in general, in every possible way, that we were not equal, that we were inferior, that we were not capable. And language becomes a very powerful force to do that.”

.. Which brings us to Gadsden, Ala. In 1963, Hamilton was arrested for picketing and brought before the court for sentencing. Once again, officials refused to call her Miss Hamilton.

She refused to answer. The judge — muttering lewd comments about what he’d like to do to her if she were in his kitchen — ordered her to answer the prosecutor and apologize. But Hamilton was buoyed by rage at the judge’s dismissiveness, and by the support of the lawyer assisting her.

She refused. She was fined and sentenced to a few days in jail for contempt of court.

Her lawyers appealed the case, saying that the prosecutor and judge had denied Hamilton her constitutional rights by treating her differently from the way they treated white witnesses. Eventually her case landed before the Supreme Court in Hamilton v. Alabama.

The justices issued a summary reversal, overruling the Alabama courts without even calling for oral arguments. Their brief decision effectively said that a court could not address black witnesses differently than white ones.

George W. Bush comes out of retirement to deliver a veiled rebuke of Trump

Bush offered a blunt assessment of a political system corrupted by “conspiracy theories and outright fabrication” in which nationalism has been “distorted into nativism.”

..  “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone and provides permission for cruelty and bigotry. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.”

.. Just hours after Bush completed his speech, Obama also made a veiled critique of the Trump era, calling on Democrats at a New Jersey campaign event to “send a message to the world that we are rejecting a politics of division, we are rejecting a politics of fear.”

.. That Trump’s two most recent predecessors felt liberated, or perhaps compelled, to reenter the political arena in a manner that offered an implicit criticism of him is virtually unprecedented in modern politics, historians said.

.. George W. Bush was taking aim at Trump’s “roiling of the traditional institutions of the country and, in particular, demeaning the office of the president by a kind of crude or vulgar bashing of opponents,”

.. “I think this is Bush throwing down the gauntlet and feeling that this is a man who has gone too far,” Dallek said. The discretion former presidents traditionally afforded their successors “is now sort of fading to the past because of the belligerence of Trump.”

.. McCain’s critique prompted Trump to warn him to “be careful” because he is prepared to “fight back.”

.. The common thread among Bush’s and McCain’s words was a defense of the post-World War II liberal order

  • which supported strong security alliances,
  • a defense of human rights and an
  • open economic system of free trade

.. “The hallmark of McCain’s and Bush’s speeches was to try to re-center us on what have been, since 1945, these traditional ends,”

.. He cautioned at the time, however, that he would speak out if he saw “core values” at risk.

.. the unifying themes between Obama and Bush are “humanity and empathy towards the American public.”

.. Bush opened his remarks by speaking in both English and Spanish and noting that refugees from Afghanistan, China, North Korea and Venezuela were seated in the audience.

.. Bush also warned that “bigotry seems emboldened” in a passage that evoked the aftermath of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville

.. “Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed,” Bush said in a line that drew the most applause.

.. “Politics are now about discrediting people by ad hominem attacks, not by argumentation,” Cohen said. Those who opposed Bush’s wars have a fair point of view, he said, but their constant “demonization does help make it easier for Trump.”

Whitey on Mars: Elon Musk and the rise of Silicon Valley’s strange trickle-down science

Musk’s plan to colonise Mars is a sign of an older and recurring social problem. What happens when the rich and powerful isolate themselves from everyday concerns? Musk wants to innovate and leave Earth, rather than to take care of it, or fix it, and stay. Like so many of his peers in the innovating and disrupting classes, Musk prefers to dwell in fantasy and science fiction, safely removed from the world of here and now. Musk is a utopian, in the original Greek meaning: ‘no place’. Repulsed by the world we all share, he dreams of a place that does not exist.

.. Before his death, King had turned his political activism toward the problems of economic inequality and poverty. Abernathy stayed with this focus, and continued to organise people around addressing economic issues for black and white Americans. In July 1969, with the Apollo 11 launch, Abernathy saw an opportunity to keep economic justice on the nation’s conscience. He announced a march to Cape Canaveral in Florida, the rocket launch site.

.. Abernathy told NASA officials, as one of them recalled: ‘The money for the space program should be spent to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend the sick, and house the shelterless.’

.. Abernathy’s insight about the priorities of a country that could send men into space while millions of Americans lacked medical care, shelter and food found a new voice in Gil Scott-Heron.

.. US adventures into outer space – white men in expensive, gleaming white spaceships – captivated popular attention and support in ways that urban poverty did not. Americans continued to send their tax revenues to the heavens.

.. US adventures into outer space – white men in expensive, gleaming white spaceships – captivated popular attention and support in ways that urban poverty did not. Americans continued to send their tax revenues to the heavens.

.. His parents divorced when he was young, leaving Musk to be raised by his abusive father. The boy developed the habit of detaching from reality and entering a dreamlike space of imagination. Later, he would envision new technologies in this state. As a child, he was known as a spaced-out nerd who corrected his peers’ mistakes. He was bullied. By his teen years, Musk fantasised about escaping South Africa for the US. After he graduated from high school in 1989, he followed through on these dreams, leaving behind his impoverished and racially divided country.

.. From his early days in business, Musk developed a reputation for harshness. He chastised one employee who missed a company event to be at the birth of his child: ‘You need to figure out where your priorities are. We’re changing the world and changing history, and you either commit or you don’t.’

.. Musk himself admits that, in his early years as a leader, he assumed that ‘other people will behave like you’. He grew frustrated when he realised that people didn’t behave like him. He lacked a natural ability to empathise with other people’s experiences and points of view.

.. For all its ideals and the great possibilities inherent in them, Tesla remains a company that makes toys for rich people.

.. Musk insists that humans in fact ‘need’ to go to Mars. The Mars mission, he argues, is the best way for humanity to become what he calls a ‘space-faring civilisation and a multi-planetary species’. This otherworldly venture, he says, is necessary to mitigate the ‘existential threat’ from artificial intelligence (AI) that might wipe out human life on Earth.

.. The idea that Google’s CEO Larry Page might create artificially intelligent robots that will destroy humanity reportedly keeps Musk up at night. ‘I’m really worried about this,’ Musk told his biographer. ‘He could produce something evil by accident.’

.. Musk estimates the cost of the Mars mission at around $10 billion per person. His goal is to reduce that cost to $200,000 per person. He said this would allow ‘almost anyone’ to save up and buy a trip to Mars.

.. For $1.5 billion, we could upgrade the lead-contaminated water infrastructure in Flint, Michigan; for $400 billion, we could repair the water infrastructure of the entire US. It’s jarring to think that one of the brightest minds of our age would rather fund 40 trips to Mars than keep children in his own country safe from poisoned water. It’s enough to make one wonder what led Musk to develop such contempt for the billions of humans who could never escape Earth.

.. ‘The idea that Mars will somehow save us from the decisions we’ve made is a false one.’ If we ‘truly believe in our ability to bend the hostile environments of Mars for human habitation, then we should be able to surmount the far easier task of preserving the habitability of the Earth.

.. In his September 2016 announcement, he declared that a fully self-sustaining civilisation on Mars would need around 1 million people. From Earth’s current population of 7.125 billion, the Musk Million would bring 0.014035087719298244 per cent of it to Mars.

.. If Musk prefers the planetary scale of action, he could lead people to preserve our single planetary resource, also known as Earth, the only planet we will probably ever have. Even on Musk’s own optimistic terms, his adolescent space fantasies will benefit only 0.014 per cent of humanity. He makes the politicians who serve the 1 per cent seem like communists.

.. Quite simply, why not address the existential problems facing our society and our fellow humans directly? We don’t need trickle-down science.

.. The moral detachment of the plan signifies a deeper pathology that afflicts our culture of innovation, and celebrates innovators such as Musk, who are all too eager to play with gadgets and leave their fellow humans behind.