Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Immigrant as Criminal

Useless laws weaken the necessary laws.
—Charles de Secondat, De l’Espirit des Louis (1748)

As usual, the fake news people are trying to make a big deal out of the fact that it took DJT more than 48 hours to respond to the killing of two men on a Portland commuter train, and the serious injury of a third, by a United States citizen. The killings took place after two teenage girls, one of them wearing an hijab, were verbally attacked by the United States citizen. Three bystanders came to the defense of the girls and the United States citizen killed two of them and grievously wounded the third.

At the time of the incident, DJT had just returned from a triumphant trip abroad, his first as president, and he was, of course, focused on the success of that trip and other things that had happened in his absence. Between the time of the murder on May 26 and Memorial Day on May 29, DJT sent out more than a dozen tweets praising himself for the self-perceived success of his foreign travels, praising the newly elected member of Congress who successfully body slammed a reporter to the floor to teach the reporter not to ask questions, and tweetily slamming the media for publishing reports critical of DJT. But that in itself is not why DJT did not comment on actions of the United States citizen. He failed to comment because there are, on average, 23 gun homicides a day in the United States, most of them by United States citizens, and any number of non-gun murders. If DJT tweeted about every murder that takes place in the United States on a daily basis, he would have little time to tweet about anything else.

Nonetheless, “Fake news” sites such as the New York Times commented that DJT seemed not to have noticed the events that took place in Portland. A former prominent newscaster, Dan Rather, went so far as to send a letter to DJT, drawing DJT’s attention to what had happened in Portland. He concluded his letter saying, “Two Americans have died leaving family and friends behind. . . . I hope you can find it worthy of your time to take notice.” DJT did so the following day in a sympathy tweet.

The reason DJT did not respond without prompting, is that the murderer was a United States citizen. Had the murderer been an immigrant, DJT’s response would have been quite different. As he said in an interview on Fox news some weeks ago: “We’ve gotten tremendous criminals out of this country. I’m talking about illegal immigrants that were here that caused tremendous crime. That have murdered people, raped people – horrible things have happened. They’re getting the hell out or they’re going to prison.” And DJT has done more than just complain about those “tremendous criminals” who are immigrants. He has demonstrated his concern about crimes committed by immigrant criminals by creating a new office in the Department of Homeland Security that will help only those who are the victims of crimes committed by immigrants.

The new office is called “Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement” or “Voice” for short. It gives voice to victims of crimes if they are lucky enough to have become victims because of the actions of immigrants. It does not help victims who achieved their status through the actions of United States citizens, such as the ones in Portland. The website for Voice says its mission is to “support victims of crimes committed by criminal aliens, through access to information and resources.” Describing voice, John F. Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security, said: “All crime is terrible, but these victims are unique-and too often ignored. These are casualties of crimes that should never have taken place because the people who victimized them oftentimes should not have been in the country in the first place.”

Voice will be staffed by 27 specialists in victim assistance and 21 community relations officers who “will assist victims of crimes committed by criminal aliens.” The office will provide a hot line for victims to call to get information about the status of their criminal’s case and the criminal’s progress through the immigration system.

It would not be surprising to learn that readers who know of the existence of Voice will secretly entertain the hope that, if they are the victims of a criminal act, it will not be committed by a United States citizen, but by a removable criminal alien. Their hope would be inspired because of the benefits available through Voice. They should realize that it is unlikely that their hopes will be realized. Notwithstanding DJT’s comments to Fox news, immigrants are, in fact, less likely to engage in criminal conduct than United States citizens. Among men between 18 and 49, immigrants were only one-half to one-fifth as likely to find themselves incarcerated as native born Americans. Immigrants make up 7% of the population in the United States, but only 5% of prison population. That is not meant to suggest that Voice is useless. Its creation enables DJT to believe he is doing something worthwhile. Would that he were.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Don Trumpoté de la Torre

When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where

madness lies? 

— Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote de la Mancha

In the novel, Don Quixote is remembered for, among other things, tilting at windmills he believed to be hostile giants, as he travelled through Spain in search of perceived evils he could remedy, or people he could help. Instead of tilting at windmills, believing them to be giants, our very own DonTrumpoté, has been tilting at windmills by insisting that voter fraud is rampant in the United States. To rid the country of this evil, he has appointed a commission to study this non-existent problem and recommend solutions. By creating a commission to investigate a non-existent problem, Don Trumpoté guarantees that the perceived, but nonexistent evil of voter fraud, will remain on the front burner of the stove on which Don Trumpoté cooks all his facts.

To accompany him on his travels, and help him accomplish the goals he had set for himself, Don Quixote enlisted the help of Sancho Panza, a simple man who, unlike Don Quixote, was not delusional. When Don Trumpoté decided to attack voter fraud and established the “Advisory Commission on Election Integrity,” he asked Sancho Kobach, to serve as the vice chair of the commission. At this point, and in fairness to Don Quixote’s Sancho Panza, it should be noted that Sancho Panza did not share Don Quixote’s delusions and, recognized that Don Quixote did not see things as they were. Sancho Kobach, by contrast, is every bit as delusional as Don Trumpoté, and had established his credentials in tilting at voter fraud prior to his appointment to the commission.

Sancho Kobach aka Kris Kobach, is the Kansas Secretary of State, and in that capacity has actively sought to eliminate and then prevent non-existent voter fraud. A Kansas law known as the Secure and Fair Elections Law was passed by the Kansas legislature to protect the state from nonexistent voter fraud. It was struck down by a federal court, insofar as it pertained to federal elections, and in striking it down, the judge observed that: “There is evidence of only three instances where noncitizens actually voted in a federal election between 1995 and 2013.” The judge further observed that during that same period, only 14 non-citizens attempted to vote. Although Sancho intended to appeal, he feared no favorable ruling could be obtained before the 2016 general election. He prevailed on the Kansas Rules and Regulation board to issue a temporary regulation in July 2016, to make it more difficult for people to vote, hoping that would prevent fraud in Kansas in the upcoming elections.

In early February 2017, White House Policy Advisor, Stephen Miller, was interviewed on an ABC Sunday morning show. When asked about Don Trumpeto’s claims of massive voter fraud during the 2016 election, Mr. Miller suggested that Sancho Kobach should be invited on to the show “because he can walk you through some of the evidence of voter fraud in greater detail.” The next day Sancho Kobach was interviewed on CNN by Kate Boduan, and was unable to provide any evidence of millions of cases of voter fraud. He did, however, say that in Kansas alone, six people had pled guilty to the crime of voting in two states, an indication, in Sancho’s mind, of rampant voter fraud. He was unable to provide any other evidence of massive voter fraud, but promised it would be forthcoming. The country is still waiting.

In addition to the federal judge who ruled in the Kansas case, Sancho Kobach’s belief in voter fraud is belied by the number of federal court cases that have examined the question. In one case in the U.S. court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the court observed, in a voting rights case before it, that in Arizona and Kansas “only a tiny fraction of one percent of registered voters were non-citizens.” In a Washington Post article in early December 2016, the paper found that there were four documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 election.

Vice president Pence is chairing the advisory commission, but it is almost certainly Sancho who will be the actual leader since he has nothing else to do with his time. Mr. Pence said the commission would “review ways to strengthen the integrity of elections in order to protect and preserve the principle of one person, one vote, because the integrity of the vote is the foundation of our democracy.”

Commenting on the appointment of Sancho to the advisory commission, Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said that Sancho “might use his position on the presidential commission to sow doubt about the integrity of elections and then push to amend federal voting law to require proof of citizenship. . . . I mean, he’s the king of voter suppression.” Marc Veasey, co-chair of the House Voting Rights Caucus said: “During Secretary Kobach’s term, the state of Kansas implemented a severely restrictive voter ID law designed to discourage and suppress voters rather than assure fair elections. We all have reason to be wary of his intentions in leading this commission.”

At the end of the novel, Sancho Panza accompanies Don Quixote back to his home where, restored to sanity, he developed a fever that led to his death. Don Quixote’s bout with madness had no effect on Spain. It affected only Don Quixote. It is too bad that cannot be said about the madness of Don Trumpoté and Sancho Kobach.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Return Receipt Requested?

Oh for the good old days of heavy post-coaches and speed at the rate of six miles an hour.
— Philip Hone, Diary, November 28, 1834

The preferred way of answering the question would have been to give Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.SC)a copy of his most recent tax returns. Another, and the one chosen, was to have his lawyers send Senator Graham a letter.

The issue arises because Senator Graham is chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee that has been trying to determine whether there was interference by the Russians in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. That was the election that magically transformed the corrupt businessman, DJT, into a completely unqualified, and totally incompetent, president of the United States. Senator Graham told CNN that he is exploring the possibility that there are ties between Russia and DJT’s businesses. In trying to determine that he asked for evidence of DJT’s business connections to Russia, if any.

If Senator Graham had had access to DJT’s tax returns, he would not have needed the letter. DJT, however, refuses to release those returns because, as he used to say, they were under audit and he couldn’t release them until the audits were completed. Now that his tax lawyers have said that the audits of his tax returns for the years 2005-2008 have been completed, the proffered reasons for refusing to release them is because no one wants to see them except the corrupt press. His refusal to release his returns does not suggest, however, that DJT is uncooperative. He came up with the perfect way to satisfy Senator Graham without exposing his tax returns to the light of day or inquiring eyes. He provided what he called a “certified” letter dated March 8, 2017 from his law firm in response to Senator Graham’s early May request. The word “certified” may or may not refer to the method of delivery as discussed hereafter. Perhaps the word “certified” was used because it adds a certain weightiness to something as mundane as a letter.

The “certified” letter that DJT provided to Senator Graham, was prepared by Sheri Dillon, a lawyer with the Washington firm of Morgan Lewis and Brockus. Sheri was the lawyer who appeared with DJT on January 11, 2017, at DJT’s first press conference as president. The press conference was called, in part, to introduce the public to dozens of boxes of documents assembled by Sheri. The unseen contents of those boxes proved DJT had done what he was required to do to avoid conflicts of interest even though, as Sheri explained at the press conference, “conflicts of interest laws simply do not apply to the president or the vice president.”. Nonetheless, it was reassuring to see all the boxes.

Since Sheri did such a fine job at the January press conference, it was not surprising that she and a colleague in her law firm were the ones who wrote the letter about DJT’s business dealings in Russia. In addition to having represented DJT for many years, there are few lawyers better qualified to make representations about DJT’s business connections in Russia. Not only does Sheri’s law firm maintain an office in Moscow, but in 2016 her firm was named “Russia Law Firm of the Year” by Chambers & Partners, a firm that rates and ranks outstanding law firms around the world.

Sheri’s letter says that 10 years of the same tax returns that Senator Graham (and the public) have not been permitted to see, show that, with three exceptions noted at the end of the letter, DJT has “no income of any type from any Russian sources.” The three exceptions are (a) several million dollars received from the Miss Universe pageant held in Moscow in 2013, (b) $95 million received from the sale of an estate in Florida to a “Russian billionaire” and© “over the years it is likely that [DJT entities or DJT] engaged in ordinary course sales of goods or services to Russians or Russian entities. . .. With respect to this last exception,” Sheri’s letter says, “the amounts are immaterial.” “Immaterial” probably has a different meaning to DJT and Sheri, than it does to the rest of us. Immaterial amounts, according to Sheri, include money received from “sales of goods or services to Russians. . . such as sale . . .for condominiums, hotel rooms . . .Trump licensed products (e.g. ties, mattresses, wine etc.) that could have produced income attributable to Russian sources. . ..”

In addition to the information contained in the letter, its delivery, rather than its contents, is what made it special. In discussing delivery of the letter to Senator Graham in a press conference, Sean Spicer said: “IT IS BEING SENT BY CERTIFIED MAIL.” The fact that it is being sent by certified mail (instead of being hand delivered the way the letter firing James Comey was), means it is more important than a letter dropped in a mail box on the White House grounds. Sean did not indicate whether it was simply sent by certified mail or whether the White House took the additional precaution of sending it “certified mail-return receipt requested,” thus making it an even more important missive.

Only a person unfamiliar with the workings of the DJT White House would find it surprising that the President of the United States would respond to a request for information from a United States Senator by sending the information to the United States Senator by the U.S. Postal Service instead of having it hand carried. On the other hand, it was slightly more respectful than responding to Senator Graham’s request with a tweet.