Quick Hits (part II)

1) How today’s Central American immigration is different:

The killing of a loved one. An attempt at gang recruitment. A rape. Harassment by a police officer. A death threat over an outstanding extortion payment. Amid the justified uproar at the Trump administration’s policies on America’s southern border, often lost are the reasons many Central Americans leave their homes, and are prepared to brave the perils of the journey north, in the first place. Families arriving at the border from countries like Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala leave behind a myriad of stories, many of them connected to their homelands’ plague of armed violence.

Historically, Central Americans have tended to migrate for economic reasons. Since the end of the internal armed conflicts in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua—which together displaced almost 2 million people in the 1970s and 1980s—thousands of Central Americans travelled to the U.S. to escape economic misery in their war-torn states. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the U.S. saw record numbers of apprehensions of migrants along its border with Mexico.

Today’s migrant flow is very different. Yes, there are still male heads of household seeking to pursue the “American Dream” in the U.S. so as to send home a couple of hundred dollars each month to their families. But the crux of the recent crisis at the border is that there are fewer male migrants in their 20s or 30s making the crossing, and many more families, newborns, children, and pregnant women escaping life-or-death situations as much as poverty.

Previous U.S. policies contributed to the extreme insecurity in their home countries. In 1996, U.S. authorities approved the “Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act,” which led to the deportations of tens of thousands of convicted criminals to Central America in the early 2000s. This in turn led to the expansion of gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the 18th Street gang (Barrio 18)—originally born in the U.S.—across El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

2) Jedidiah Purdy on how the Supreme Court is a disaster for American workers:

Recent decisions upholding President Trump’s travel ban and Texas’ racially skewed voting districts are body blows to this optimism. They are unhappy reminders that, for much of American history, the Supreme Court has been a deeply conservative institution, preserving racial hierarchy and the prerogatives of employers.

When it comes to economic inequality, today’s Supreme Court is not only failing to help, it is also aggressively making itself part of the problem in a time when inequality and insecurity are damaging the country and endangering our democracy.

Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the court has consistently issued bold, partisan decisions that have been terrible for working people. Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, decided on Wednesday, was one of them…

These cases are part of a longer historical arc: the dismantling of the legal legacy of the New Deal and the creation of law for the new Gilded Age. A hundred years ago, the last time economic inequality was as stark as it is today, the Supreme Court struck down minimum-wage laws and other workplace protections. Justices insisted those laws violated workers’ free agreements to work for less money and less security — like the agreements in Epic Systems to take wage-theft complaints to a private arbitrator. The court struck down a national ban on child labor, claiming the Constitution left states free to set their own policies — as in the Medicaid expansion a century later. The defense of child labor came out of the South, which was then building its economic advantage on cheap and vulnerable labor.

3) Amber Phillips, “How Rosenstein’s and Wray’s testimony undermined GOP efforts to undermine the Russia investigation.” And Jennifer Rubin on the same topic:

President Trump is not the only unhinged Republican who spins conspiracy theories and denigrates the rule of law. Watching Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) rudely (civility police, where are you?) and hysterically attack Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, accusing him without proof of threatening staffers — and insisting that Congress, an appendage of Trump at this point, get classified documents from an ongoing investigation — recalls the moment when the Army’s chief counsel, Joseph Welch, responded to the vicious smear launched by Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.) at a witness during the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings:

4) Paul Waldman is exactly right… Republicans are lying about Roe v Wade and whomever Trump nominates to the Supreme Court almost certainly will:

Republicans are lying.

That may not be much of a surprise in the age of Donald Trump, the most dishonest president in American history, who just set a new personal best by making 103 public false claims in a single week, equaling what he normally accomplishes in a month.

But as we await Trump’s nomination of a Supreme Court justice to replace the retiring Anthony M. Kennedy, the entire GOP has decided that the best way to advocate this nominee is simply to lie about what they want and what that justice will do on the court. That nominee will also lie, or at the very least be intentionally, egregiously deceptive, in their confirmation hearings. And why shouldn’t they all do it? The strategy has worked so well before.

5) Alec MacGillis on how this is the world Mitch McConnell gave us:

But Mr. McConnell, prioritizing elections over policy, calculated that by blocking or delaying Democratic legislation, above all through aggressive use of the filibuster, Republicans would create a tedious gridlock that voters would blame the Democrats for. After all, weren’t they the ones in power?

Mr. McConnell was right. This strategy helped to foment opposition to the health care bill, and to drive huge Republican gains in the 2010 election. But it also fueled the rise of the Tea Party, which was motivated substantially by the notion that Mr. Obama was “ramming things down our throats” — that is, passing legislation on a partisan basis after Mr. McConnell withheld any Republican negotiation. Of course, Mr. McConnell proceeded to have plenty of headaches managing the far-right contingent in his own caucus, but it was a contingent he helped produce…

Mr. McConnell’s other form of aid for Mr. Trump was more hidden. As The Washington Post reported a month after the 2016 election, Mr. Obama had been prepared that September to go public with a C.I.A. assessment laying bare the extent of Russian intervention in the election. But he was largely dissuaded by a threat from Mr. McConnell. During a secret briefing for congressional leaders, The Post reported, Mr. McConnell “raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.” The Obama administration kept mum, and voters had to wait until after Mr. Trump’s election to learn the depth of Russian involvement.

6) ICE attempting to intimidate ICE whistleblower.

7) First person account of a man arrested for “stealing” his own car.  You’ll be shocked to learn he’s a young adult Black male.

8) John Cassidy on the take-away from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

In terms of messaging, Ocasio-Cortez isn’t as much of an outlier as she might appear. Although many prominent Democrats seem to be talking mainly about Trump—to the point that they can barely see straight—that preoccupation is partly an artifact of the media’s focus. In a world of all Trump all the time, Democrats who bring up other things don’t get much coverage. The fact is that many Democrats are concentrating on the same issues that Ocasio-Cortez emphasized during her campaign: health care (she supports Medicare for all), housing, education (like Sanders, she favors free tuition at public universities), wages, and jobs (she has advocated for a federal jobs guarantee).

Listen to the speeches of Senator Sherrod Brown, of Ohio; or of Stacey Abrams, who is running for governor in Georgia; or of Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging Ted Cruz in Texas; or of Conor Lamb, who won a special election in western Pennsylvania earlier this year; or of Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy pilot who recently won the Democratic primary in New Jersey’s Republican-held Eleventh Congressional District. To be sure, these Democrats are attacking Trump and talking about immigration and the Supreme Court. But their main focus is on promoting social and economic empowerment for people living in their districts.

That is the traditional Democratic Party message, and it is one that never grows old. Every so often, however, it needs to be renewed and adapted to new circumstances. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez just demonstrated how to do this.

9) The Atlantic’s June cover story on the 9.9% (turns out I fall a little short, but I certainly recognized this as “my people”) and how they are making it harder for the bottom 90 is great stuff.  Just read it.

By any sociological or financial measure, it’s good to be us. It’s even better to be our kids. In our health, family life, friendship networks, and level of education, not to mention money, we are crushing the competition below. But we do have a blind spot, and it is located right in the center of the mirror: We seem to be the last to notice just how rapidly we’ve morphed, or what we’ve morphed into.

The meritocratic class has mastered the old trick of consolidating wealth and passing privilege along at the expense of other people’s children. We are not innocent bystanders to the growing concentration of wealth in our time. We are the principal accomplices in a process that is slowly strangling the economy, destabilizing American politics, and eroding democracy. Our delusions of merit now prevent us from recognizing the nature of the problem that our emergence as a class represents. We tend to think that the victims of our success are just the people excluded from the club. But history shows quite clearly that, in the kind of game we’re playing, everybody loses badly in the end.

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