Trump’s Most Shameful Act So Far

Posted on Feb 19, 2017

By Robert Reich / RobertReich.org

Last week, White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller claimed 14 percent of non-citizens are registered to vote. “We know for a fact, you have massive numbers of non-citizens registered to vote in this country,” he said, appearing on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos. “The White House has provided enormous evidence with respect to voter fraud.”

Miller is repeating an assertion Trump continues to make.

It is absolutely false.

What do we do when we have a president and White House surrogates, along with enablers in the right-wing media, who continuously lie about something as fundamental to our democracy as whether we’ve got massive voter fraud?

The answer is we find the truth. We spread the truth. We continue to speak the truth. And we use every chance we have – in opeds, in letters to editors, in local media, on national media – to state the truth.

And we demand that big lies like this be corrected.

A new report on voter fraud from the Brennan Center confirms that multiple nationwide studies have uncovered only a handful of incidents of non-citizens voting.

Based on state prosecution records, votes by non-citizens account for between 0.0003 percent and 0.001 percent of all votes cast.

Election officials agree that non-citizen voting in our elections is not a problem. The National Association of Secretaries of State, whose Republican-majority membership includes the chief elections officers of 40 states, said they “are not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump.”

Federal law and the laws of every state bar non-citizens from registering to vote or voting in elections. Experts believe that the severity of the penalties for violating these laws serve as a significant deterrent. Also, it is relatively easy for a non-citizen to get caught.

Trump’s false assertion of massive voting fraud is intended for one purpose: to legitimate more voter identification laws around the country.

Voter identification laws are already spreading rapidly. Before 2006, no state required photo identification to vote on Election Day. Now, 10 states have this requirement. All told, a total of 33 states — representing more than half the nation’s population — have some version of voter identification rules on the books.

The purpose of these laws is to further entrench Republican officials.

New research shows a significant drop in minority participation when and where these laws are implemented – which is what you would expect given that members of racial and ethnic minorities have less access to photo IDs.

The research also shows that because minority voters tend to be Democrats, strict voter ID laws tilt the primary electorate dramatically. The turnout gap between Republicans and Democrats in primary contests more than doubles from 4.3 points to 9.8 points.

The truth: There’s no voter fraud. State ID laws intended to stop voter fraud are really intended to stop Democrats from voting – and that’s been their effect.

One of the most important common goods in our society is the truth about our democracy. Trump is pulverizing that truth – laying the groundwork for more state restrictions on access to the ballot by American citizens.

This is beyond shameful.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/trumps_most_shameful_act_so_far_20170219

Seventy-five years after FDR’s Japanese internment order, Trump prepares mass immigrant roundup

japanese-americans

20 February 2017

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 mandating the indefinite detention of all persons of Japanese descent living on the US mainland for the duration of the war with Japan. In the weeks that followed, the government removed over 120,000 Japanese-Americans from their homes, including 70,000 US citizens, and detained them for three to four years in a network of remote prison camps.

For decades, even mainstream bourgeois commentators viewed the Japanese internment as a humiliating scar on American history. Tom C. Clark, who defended the relocation program as a Department of Justice lawyer before joining the Supreme Court, wrote later that the internment program was “deplorable” and illegal. The Supreme Court’s 1944 ruling in Korematsu v. US  upholding the program is broadly viewed by legal scholars as part of the “anti-canon” of unconstitutional rulings.

Seventy-five years later, the Trump administration has ordered the rounding up of hundreds of thousands if not millions of migrants and the construction of a new network of prisons to house them.

Two memos signed by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly on February 17 and made public on the anniversary of Executive Order 9066 lay out a drastic expansion of deportation and detention of immigrants in the US.

Under the DHS memos, migrants captured without being admitted into the US by a border official face immediate removal with virtually no due process rights. Many thousands of people will now be subject to “expedited removal proceedings” in which they lose the right to appear before a judge.

The government is expanding the list of immigrants who are priorities for removal to include up to two million people, and the administration is claiming the power to remove or imprison undocumented parents who pay to help their children cross the border to join them in the United States.

The memos also mandate an expanded network of internment facilities to house those slated to be deported. They direct Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to “take all necessary action and allocate all available resources to expand their detention capabilities and capacities at or near the border with Mexico to the greatest extent possible.”

As well as measures for building a border wall, hiring more ICE officials and deputizing local police, the memos establish procedures for publishing the names and criminal records of immigrants released by state and local officials despite a removal or deportation order. DHS hopes to whip up a fascistic tough-on-crime hysteria against immigrants and local governments that refuse or fail to hand them over to federal authorities for deportation. This recalls the tactics of the Nazi press, which published photographs of Jewish people alongside a list of crimes they allegedly committed.

Trump’s plan to establish a network of internment camps has been prepared by both the Democratic and Republican parties, which have jointly cultivated a climate of nationalism and anti-immigrant xenophobia to advance their policies of war and social counterrevolution.

The attack on immigrants in the US takes place in the context of a global wave of xenophobia. Across the world, the ruling classes are seeking to whip up nationalist sentiment in order to scapegoat migrants for the social disaster caused by capitalism. In Europe, the promotion of anti-immigrant chauvinism recalls the 1930s and the lead-up to the bloodbath of World War II.

Anti-immigrant hysteria has long been a key part of the American ruling class’s efforts to advance its imperialist strategy and suppress opposition to war. Within weeks of the US entry into World War I, the Democratic Wilson administration advanced a series of anti-immigrant and anti-socialist measures—the Sedition, Espionage, and Immigration Acts of 1917—that were used to label socialism a “foreign idea” and arrest and deport hundreds of left-wing radicals and socialists in the Palmer Raids of 1919–20.

The Roosevelt administration justified the internment of Japanese-Americans by citing the Alien Registration Act, known as the Smith Act, which criminalized attempts to expose the class character of the imperialist war. In 1941, Roosevelt prosecuted the Trotskyist movement under this act, jailing 18 members of the Socialist Workers Party on the charge of “sedition.” Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 with the claim that “the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national defense.”

The attacks on immigrants are a key component of the ruling class’s nationalist poison. By directing social discontent outward at foreigners or immigrants, the financial aristocracy seeks to facilitate the exploitation of the working class, pitting workers against one another and diverting them from a struggle against their own exploiters.

This policy has been intensified over the past quarter-century, culminating in the extreme nationalism of Donald Trump and his fascist aides. Under the auspices of the “war on terror,” the ruling class has used “national security” as a blanket excuse for illegal war, torture, mass surveillance and deportation. Obama oversaw the deportation of 2.5 million immigrants and the launching or expansion of wars in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. It is these wars and their catastrophic consequences that have forced tens of millions to leave their homes in search of safety abroad.

Trump’s anti-immigrant program is bound up with an attack on the social conditions of the entire working class, citizen and non-citizen alike. As he prepares to deport millions, he is assembling a cabinet of Wall Street billionaires determined to lift business regulations and slash corporate taxes on the one side, and destroy social services—including public education, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security—on the other.

The implementation of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies will require unprecedented attacks on the democratic rights of the entire working lass. Police state measures are being plotted by the administration, as evidenced by John Kelly’s draft memorandum calling for the mobilization of 100,000 National Guard troops to deport immigrants.

The only social force capable of defending immigrant workers is the working class. Workers are objectively united across all national borders in a globally integrated network of production and supply chains, supplemented by family ties and the reality of instantaneous communication. The needs and interests of any one section of workers, national or ethnic, are indissolubly bound up with those of their class brothers and sisters all over the world. Never before in history have the words of the founding program of the revolutionary socialist movement—“Workers of all countries unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!”—been more relevant.

The rights of immigrants are incompatible with the capitalist system, which is incapable of overcoming the contradiction between the international organization of the economy and the outdated nation-state system. Along with imperialist war, the most noxious expression of this contradiction is the militarization of borders to condemn hundreds of thousands people fleeing the horrors of war and destitution to drown in the Mediterranean or die of heatstroke in the desert separating the US and Mexico.

Workers must reject the entire framework of the official debate on immigration. The Democrats’ hypocritical criticisms of Trump’s immigration policies proceed from the same reactionary premise: that so-called “illegal” immigrants are criminals and should be punished, exploited and humiliated.

The only democratic and humane policy is a socialist and internationalist policy: for open borders and full rights for all workers, including the right of workers of all countries to live and work wherever they choose, with full citizenship rights, free from fear of repression or deportation.

Eric London

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/02/20/pers-f20.html

Milo Yiannopoulos isn’t ready for “Real Time” and it shows

Bill Maher’s public service:

Most people have no idea who Milo is, except that he claims to be “Dangerous.” Friday night, Bill Maher showed them

Bill Maher's public service: Milo Yiannopoulos isn't ready for "Real Time" and it shows
(Credit: Getty/Drew Angerer/HBO/Salon)

When it was announced that this week’s episode of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” would feature so-called “right-wing provocateur” Milo Yiannopoulos, some people freaked out. Many seemed to believe that bringing Yiannopoulos on the show would legitimize a noxious professional troll, as if that horse hadn’t already escaped the barn when America elected one president.

Journalist Jeremy Scahill, co-founding editor of The Intercept, canceled his own booking in protest. In his one-on-one segment with Maher at the top of the show, Yiannopoulos called that approach out: “If you don’t show up to debate, you lose.” On one hand, not every debate is worth sitting in the makeup chair for. (I’ve seen the Milo show; I’ve seen better.) But Yiannopoulos isn’t leading a political movement; he’s an attention-seeking troll. They don’t feed on legitimacy, but rather scandal and outrage, which Scahill helped deliver. For my part, I was irritated that I’d have to sit through an interview with this guy before getting to Leah Remini’s Scientology Dirt Bag, so it’s not like I had a high horse to climb off of.

It’s easy to forget, if you don’t live on the Internet, that most people in America — and quite possibly most “Real Time” home viewers — likely have no idea who Milo is or if they should care about him at all. (Third *NSync alum from the right?) If their first up-close exposure to Milo Yiannopoulos, C-Lister Famous for Something or Other, was last night’s “Real Time,” I can’t imagine they now understand what all the fuss is about.

Yiannopoulos came out quite saucy and self-satisfied — ain’t I a stinker? — so Maher, ever the comedy veteran, heckled him right out of the gate: “You look like Bruno.” Milo pouted, and then turned his exaggerated frown into a smirk after a beat. “You know I told [the make-up artist] to dial down the contouring.”

Despite their flirty greetings, Maher didn’t let Milo off easy. They agreed on a few things, like how liberals are too easily offended, but throughout the interview, Milo seemed squirmy, a bit flustered and obviously outmatched by his host. Maher wasn’t interested in gossiping about Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman, whom Milo lamely joked were funny before they “contracted feminism.” In fact, he dismissed most of Milo’s low-hanging outrage-bait as just kind of stupid.

Maher’s challenge here was not being cast as Principal Skinner arguing with Bart Simpson, and for the most part, he succeeded. “You’re wrong about certain things,” Maher tells him flatly, giving examples from Milo’s own spiels: “Black Lives Matter is a hate group. There’s no such thing as white privilege.”

Maher, a consistent atheist, also dinged Yiannopoulos for “bullshit stupid thinking” when Milo gave Catholicism a pass he doesn’t extend to other religions.

Yiannopoulos insisted that he’s funny and that his jokes “build bridges.” All he cares about, he claimed, is free speech and free expression, which he described as “now a conservative position.”

“I’m the guy who always defends jokes, right up to the point where they pointlessly hurt people,” Maher said, bringing up the campaign of vicious harassment against “Ghostbusters” star Leslie Jones that got Yiannopoulos banned from Twitter.

Milo’s defense was a mess of facile talking points. “I like to think of myself as a virtuous troll,” he said. He also claimed, “What actually hurts people is murder, violence. Mean words don’t hurt people.”

“Which some people would say you’ve incited,” countered Maher, though he didn’t give any concrete examples.

“They would be idiots,” said Yiannopoulos.

For a couple of years in the 1980s, my family lived in Germany, where Nazi symbols were, for very understandable reasons, forbidden. As an earnest 7-year-old who read a lot of children’s literature set during World War II, it freaked me out to see swastikas scratched and inked into naughty graffiti, presented with as much gravity and political intent as butts-and-boobs doodles were back home. Little kids test social boundaries all the time. They’re drawn to the illicit — like giggling over Nazi symbols, which they know are bad but don’t quite understand — because that which is frightening for abstract reasons can also be thrilling, even titillating. Part of growing up — as I hope the kid at my Catholic school who was responsible for that graffiti did, eventually — is learning how one kid’s abstract illicit thrills can be another person’s concrete and dangerous threats, and adjusting your behavior accordingly.

Yiannopoulos is an intriguing conundrum because even though he’s an out gay man in his 30s, not a doodling child, he refuses to connect his own flippant denigration of gay people as hyper-sexed, druggy and untrustworthy — abstract jokes he’s in on — to the concrete threat of discrimination or even violence that LGBT people face from those who may feel emboldened or justified by those attitudes. Maybe he feels those fears are idiotic. Most of his fans are likely in it for the dark thrill of an illicit giggle alone: the permission to laugh at a gay joke because a gay man made it. But how grotesque of a spotlight-chaser does one have to be to ignore the possibility of the fan that isn’t? And how narcissistic is it to forcibly extend that “in on the joke” intimacy to those who haven’t issued an invitation first, like women, black people or Muslims?

On one hand, it’s a pity Maher didn’t have time to delve that deep into a discussion of the philosophy of “j/k lol” with Yiannopoulos. On the other hand, it’s not like Milo said anything on “Real Time” that indicated he’d be up for a challenging intellectual discussion about where the line is, and what it’s used for.

Throughout the segment, Milo demonstrated that as far as provocateurs go, he’s nowhere near Maher’s level. You can disagree with Maher’s positions on politics and religion, but he’s a pro who can back a gag or a flat statement up with reason and consistency. Milo’s a snarky brunch friend on a second round of Bloodies for people who don’t have snarky brunch friends. (Get off Gab once in a while and buy a round, fanboys! You can get your fill of Lena Dunham jokes in person.) He’s managed to build a public speaking and publishing career on little more than being shameless, disgusting and reasonably attractive at the same time. America, land of opportunity!

Maher closed the segment by scolding his audience. “Stop taking the bait, liberals!” he cried. “You’re all freaking out about this fucking impish British fag! You schoolgirls!”

Maher’s using his words as a blunt instrument here, but the sentiment’s not wrong. Exposing Yiannopoulos as a lightweight “famous for doing nothing” vacuous Twitter celeb on TV — as Maher just did — is likely going to be more effective at limiting his cachet and influence than inadvertently building up his illicit, underground cred through outrage. Pushing a malignant thing like Milo Yiannopoulos out into the spotlight isn’t necessarily normalizing it. Sometimes the cliché is true, and sunlight really is the best disinfectant.

Classical music performers take a stand against Trump’s travel ban

Budapest Festival Orchestra in New York

By Fred Mazelis
11 February 2017

Performers in the classical music field have joined the widespread protest over the Trump administration’s attempt to ban the entry of refugees and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries that he has branded the sources of terrorism.

Symphony orchestras in major US cities (and many smaller cities as well) have large and growing numbers of immigrants in their ranks, and the music they perform is international in scope and history. Visiting orchestras, of course, consist almost entirely of non-US citizens.

Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra

In the case of the highly regarded Budapest Festival Orchestra, currently in the midst of a five-city US tour, the travel ban nearly prevented the participation of one of its members. Only the last-minute intervention of BFO conductor Ivan Fischer succeeded in securing the entry into the US of an Iraqi-born Hungarian cellist who is a vital part of the ensemble’s string section. The cellist is a Hungarian citizen, but holds Iraqi citizenship as well.

The Budapest orchestra’s tour brought it to Newark, New York, Boston, Chicago and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Its programs, featuring the Bronx-born Richard Goode, one of the greatest American pianists, consisted of Beethoven symphonies paired with some of his piano concertos.

Ivan Fischer is a Hungarian conductor and composer whose work, especially with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, has attracted acclaim and wide recognition. He is known as an outspoken opponent of extreme nationalism and the growth of ultra-right elements, both in the government of Viktor Orban in Hungary today, and elsewhere as well.

The 66-year-old conductor, of Jewish ancestry, lost some of his grandparents in the Holocaust. He told the New York Times that he saw echoes of the past–when Jewish musicians were removed from such orchestras as the Vienna Philharmonic and Berlin Philharmonic and later exiled or in some cases killed–in the current conditions of the rise of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hatred. “Having learned this lesson,” he is quoted as saying, “I have a very strong determination not to allow that ever to happen.”

According to the BFO website, the orchestra has for a number of years been performing in abandoned synagogues in Hungarian towns and villages where the Jewish communities were destroyed in the Holocaust. The local community hears a free concert, and also a brief talk about the synagogue and the history of the local community. Fischer sees this as part of an effort to combat the danger of renewed anti-Semitism, along with hostility to immigrants and refugees.

Fischer is also known for his unusual and imaginative attempts to break down barriers that have been allowed to grow between classical music and today’s audiences. These have involved fresh presentations of important classics, without violating the content and spirit of the compositions. In Budapest he has sometimes held concerts where the programs are not announced in advance, and he has also attracted audiences of tens of thousands for open-air performances.

On his current tour, the Times reports, the BFO’s performance of Beethoven’s immortal Fifth Symphony saw music students from New York’s Juilliard School and Bard College suddenly move onto the stage to join with the older musicians in the work’s closing measures. In a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth, choristers appeared in different parts of the auditorium for the Ode to Joy choral finale.

Conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim is also known as a defender of the rights of immigrants and refugees, as well as an opponent of the brutal and longstanding Israeli occupation of the West Bank. He joined Fischer last December for a fund-raising concert for the Budapest ensemble’s “synagogue project.” The orchestra’s official funding was cut back last year, possibly as retribution for its conductor’s outspoken political stance.

American orchestras have issued statements or otherwise indicated their opposition to the travel ban. One of the more prominent examples was the special program presented by the Seattle Symphony on February 8, a program which originated at the initiative of the musicians themselves. The concert, titled “Music Beyond Borders,” consisted entirely of music by composers from among the seven countries targeted by Trump’s travel ban. The composers included two Iranians, an Iraqi, a Sudanese and a Syrian.

The principal trumpet for the Seattle Symphony, introducing one of the works, noted that about one-quarter of the 80 musicians of the orchestra were immigrants, hailing from 15 countries. The music on the program reflected a cross-fertilization between Western and Middle Eastern classical traditions, and included a large number of instruments not usually heard in US concerts, among them an oud (a stringed instrument related to the lute) and a santoor (an Iranian instrument similar to the hammered dulcimer).

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/02/11/musi-f11.html

History shows Trump will face legal challenges to​ detaining immigrants

The long history of detention has an equally long history of legal challenges

History shows Trump will face legal challenges to detaining immigrants
FILE – This 1924 file photo shows the registry room at Ellis Island in New York harbor, a gateway to America for millions of immigrants. The American self-image is forever intertwined with the melting pot _ a nation that embraces the world’s wretched refuse, a nation built by immigrants. But America’s immigration history is complicated. ()(Credit: AP Photo/File)

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

President Donald Trump has followed through on his promise to ramp up immigrant detention as part of immigration enforcement. His executive order on border security and immigration describes a “new normal” that will include the detention of immigrants while they await removal hearings and removal.

Trump’s order expressly announces the end of “catch and release” of undocumented immigrants after their apprehension, which allowed them to post a bond and be released from detention while their removal proceedings moved forward.

Rather than doing something new, President Trump is simply expanding the use of immigrant detention. Immigrant detention has long been a tool in the arsenal of the U.S. government in immigration enforcement. It goes as far back as the detention of Chinese immigrants on Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay, which began processing immigrants in the late 1800s. Detention of immigrants as a method of immigration enforcement saw an upswing at the tail end of the 20th century. In the 1980s, President Reagan’s administration used detention to discourage Central Americans, thousands of whom were fleeing civil wars, from migrating to the United States.

Other groups have also been detained on a broad scale. Several U.S. presidents responded to mass migrations of Cubans in the 1980s, who came in the Mariel boatlift, and Haitians fleeing political violence, with detention.

The Obama administration still allowed for noncitizens to bond out of custody while their removal proceedings were pending. But it also employed immigrant detention liberally – including the mass detention of Central American families. Obama set records for the number of removals during his first term.

The long history of detention has an equally long history of legal challenges. These are likely to continue in the Trump administration, which has made detention a cornerstone of its immigration enforcement plan.

History of immigrant detention

Courts have regularly been asked to intervene to curb the excesses of immigrant detention.

In 1989, during the administrations of President Ronald Reagan and later George H.W. Bush, a class action lawsuit was brought against the U.S. government by asylum applicants from El Salvador and Guatemala in Orantes-Hernandez v. Thornburgh. In class actions, a group of similarly situated persons band together to challenge a policy or practice.

In this case, the asylum applicants challenged mass immigrant detention and various policies that violated their right to counsel. The court found that the U.S. government had been transferring Central American asylum seekers from major urban areas where they could readily secure counsel to remote locations where they could not. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a broad injunction barring the U.S. government from restricting access to counsel.

The Orantes-Hernandez decision was the culmination of a coordinated litigation strategy pursued by public interest lawyers to challenge the U.S. government’s treatment of Central American asylum seekers. Leading immigrant rights advocates, along with private law firms doing the legal work pro bono, planned the suits and divided up the work.

In a 1991 case, American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh, the executive branch settled a suit brought by Salvadorans and Guatemalans. The plaintiffs claimed the U.S. government was biased against their asylum claims because the U.S. was allied with the governments in power in those countries. The settlement required the U.S. government to hear again the asylum claims of more than 100,000 Central Americans.

This line of litigation ultimately contributed to legislative reform.

In 1990, Congress passed legislation that created Temporary Protected Status for noncitizens who fled the violent conditions in El Salvador, and additional countries designated by the president. Temporary Protected Status has permitted thousands of noncitizens to remain in the United States until the violence has calmed.

Despite these successful challenges, the use of detention in immigration enforcement increased with the immigration reforms of 1996. Immigrant detention continues to be criticized – and litigated. For example, in response to an increase in women and children fleeing widespread violence in Central America, the Obama administration began detaining thousands of unaccompanied minors and entire families.

In Flores v. Lynch in 2016, the Ninth Circuit stated the detention of Central American minors was not required by law. However, the court did not protect parents from detention in the same way.

Class action for reform

U.S. immigration agencies have proved resistant to change. In an empirical study of immigration litigation in the 1980s, Professor Peter Schuck of Yale and attorney Theodore Wang concluded that the success of immigrants in class actions suggest the U.S. government’s immigration agencies are uncompromising. They are enforcement-oriented to a fault, they said.

Recent years have continued to see challenges to immigration detention. In Jennings v. Rodriguez, the Supreme Court currently has before it a class action raising the question of whether immigrants, like virtually all U.S. citizens placed in criminal detention, must be guaranteed a bond hearing and possible release from custody. This case challenges, on constitutional and statutory grounds, lengthy immigration detentions without any opportunity for release.

Detention appears as if will be an important part of Trump’s immigration enforcement plan. As historically has been the case, legal challenges will almost certainly follow.The Conversation

Kevin Johnson, Dean and Professor of Public Interest Law and Chicana/o Studies, University of California, Davis

http://www.salon.com/2017/02/09/history-shows-trump-will-face-legal-challenges-to%E2%80%8B-detaining-immigrants_partner/?source=newsletter

Week three of the Trump presidency: A crisis of bourgeois rule and turn toward dictatorship

inauguralspeechtrump

9 February 2017

Three extraordinary developments over the past several days have exposed the breakdown of democratic forms of rule in the United States.

On Monday, Trump delivered a political speech at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida in which he attacked the press and implied that it was aiding the enemy by not reporting terrorist attacks. “They have their reasons and you understand that,” Trump told the military, appealing for its support. Defending his anti-Muslim travel ban, he said, “We need strong programs” to keep out “people that want to destroy us and destroy our country.”

Two days later, on Wednesday, Trump gave a speech before a police organization, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, bitterly attacking the judiciary. The appearance came on the eve of a decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on his travel ban.

“We need security in our country,” Trump told the police. “And we have to give you the weapons that you need. And this [the order on immigration] is a weapon that you need. And they [the courts] are trying to take it away from you, maybe because of politics or maybe because of political views. We can’t let that happen.”

This was nothing less than a call from the US president for the police to oppose or defy an unfavorable court ruling. He underscored the point by adding, “One of the reasons I was elected was because of law and order and security… And they’re taking away our weapons one by one, that’s what they’re doing.”

In between these two speeches, on Tuesday night, Republicans in the US Senate took the extraordinary step of halting a speech by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren against the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general, the nation’s chief law enforcement official.

Warren was reading from a letter sent by Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986 opposing the nomination of Sessions for a federal judgeship. Republican Senators interrupted Warren, invoking an obscure rule barring senators from imputing to other senators “any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.” Warren was ordered to stop talking and return to her seat.

The invocation of this gag rule recalls in its own way the pre-Civil War rule established in Congress to prevent members of either house from talking about slavery on the floor of the legislative chambers. The ban on discussion of slavery was imposed because the issue was so explosive.

Each one of these events is an indication of a violent break with the most basic forms of bourgeois democracy. The first targeted the press, which is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution; the second was an attack on the judiciary, one of the three “coequal,” according to the Constitution, branches of government; the third was an attempt to muzzle debate in Congress.

Within this context, the response of the Democratic Party is significant. When Warren was told to sit down, she complied, and no Democrat took any serious action to block the gag order. The debate continued throughout the day Wednesday, culminating in a 52–47 vote to confirm Sessions as the next attorney general.

As for Trump’s speeches before the military and police, they have been downplayed or ignored and their ominous implications covered up.

There are significant political divisions within the ruling class, but these are centered on issues of foreign policy. While Democrats, including Warren, have engaged in empty posturing over Trump’s various far-right cabinet appointments, they have done nothing to prevent the nominations from going through.

What they have relentlessly pursued, however, is a campaign to demonize Russia and denounce Trump for being too close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. This has been their main point of attack against the new president.

They speak for those factions of the military-intelligence apparatus that backed the Hillary Clinton campaign in large part out of concern that Trump will shift away from an aggressive anti-Russia policy. The new administration is for the present focusing its war-mongering on China and Iran.

While the immediate object of Trump’s vitriol is his critics within the establishment, the more fundamental target is the working class, and the methods being prepared against working-class opposition are far more violent. His speech on Wednesday was a pledge to eliminate all restraints on the use of force by the police. “My message today is that you have a true, true friend in the White House,” he proclaimed. “I support our police. I support our sheriffs. And we support the men and women of law enforcement.”

The Trump administration expresses the dictatorship of the American oligarchy in its most ruthless form. His administration, packed with billionaires and generals, is determined to massively expand the military in preparation for a major war while escalating the social counterrevolution within the United States. This includes the slashing of health care, the destruction of public education and the elimination of all restraints on corporate profits. To implement this policy, the most basic democratic forms must be cast aside.

The Trump administration is not an aberration in an otherwise healthy society. It is the culmination of a longstanding crisis of American democracy. In 2000, when the Supreme Court intervened in the election to halt the recount of ballots in Florida and hand the presidency to George W. Bush, the World Socialist Web Site noted that the decision of the court and the absence of any serious opposition from the Democratic Party demonstrated the absence of any significant constituency for democratic rights within the ruling class.

The past sixteen years have confirmed this analysis. Under Bush, the attacks of September 11, 2001 were used to proclaim a “war on terror” and justify unending war abroad and the most far-reaching attacks on democratic rights within the United States. Far from reversing these processes, Obama extended them, including the assertion of the right of the president to order the extra-judicial assassination of US citizens.

Now, with the rise to power of Trump, openly dictatorial measures are being prepared.

Every revolutionary situation arises from a violent breakdown in traditional forms of rule. It is no longer possible for the ruling class to rule in the old way, and it is no longer possible for the working class to live in the old way. Both conditions are not only present, they are far advanced.

The central strategic question is the building of an independent revolutionary leadership in the working class, opposed to all of the political representatives of the ruling class, which connects the defense of democratic rights to the fight against war, inequality and the capitalist system.

Joseph Kishore

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/02/09/pers-f09.html

Opposition to Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban mounts on eve of court deadline

inauguralspeechtrump

By Patrick Martin
7 February 2017

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, will hear oral arguments Tuesday on the travel ban on visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries imposed by the Trump administration January 27 by executive order.

The hearing was announced Monday evening, shortly after the administration filed legal briefs with the appeals court seeking to overturn the decision by Judge James Robart, a federal district judge in Seattle, who issued a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of the Muslim ban.

The three judges include William Canby Jr., appointed by Jimmy Carter; Richard Clifton, appointed by George W. Bush; and Michelle T. Friedland, appointed by Barack Obama.

The hour-long hearing, with 30 minutes for each side, will take place at 6 pm Tuesday, Eastern Time, or 3 pm Pacific Time, with a recording of the hearing released to the public after the conclusion of the arguments.

The states of Washington and Minnesota brought the suit charging that the executive order issued by Trump is unconstitutional because of its brazenly religious character. They also argued that it damages the interests of citizens of those states as well as institutions such as universities and corporations whose students and employees are affected by the ban.

Fifteen more states, with a combined population of more than 100 million people, filed an amicus brief Monday supporting the position of Washington and Minnesota. The brief was drafted by attorneys for California, New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and the District of Columbia joined in supporting the brief. The state of Hawaii filed a separate motion in support of Washington and Minnesota.  Nearly all these states are governed by Democrats.

The 15-state brief detailed the impact of the ban on the educational and health care systems in many of the states. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said that medical school programs would “risk being without a sufficient number of medical residents to meet staffing needs,” and that more than 2,000 students set to enroll in the state’s college and university system would be affected.

The main argument presented by the Trump administration was the claim that the states have no legal standing to challenge the executive order, and that the president’s power to control immigration is conferred both by the Constitution and federal law and is absolute and unreviewable by any court.

“Judicial second-guessing of the president’s national security determination in itself imposes substantial harm on the federal government and the nation at large,” Justice Department lawyers wrote in legal papers defending the executive order.

At the court hearing last Friday, Washington state Solicitor-General Noah Purcell responded by saying, “They’re basically saying that you can’t review anything about what the president does or says, as long as he says it’s for national security reasons. And that just can’t be the law.’’

Aside from the obviously authoritarian character of the administration’s claim, this is the diametric opposite of the position taken by Republican state attorneys general in 2015 when they argued—successfully—before the Fifth Circuit Court (based in New Orleans) that they had standing to challenge President Obama’s executive order exempting several million long-settled undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The Trump brief also urged the Ninth Circuit to reject out of hand any arguments based on religious discrimination, since the text of the executive order does not explicitly call for a ban on Muslims. Trump’s numerous statements declaring that he wished to impose a Muslim ban, and his seeking advice on how to word such a ban so that it would pass legal muster, could not be considered by the court, the brief argued, because this would involve investigating the motives of the executive branch, and would thus breach the separation of powers. The contrast between this argument and Trump’s own conduct, tweeting imprecations against Judge James Robart and all but branding him a terrorist sympathizer, is stark.

The brief filed by Washington and Minnesota replied that “courts have both the right and the duty to examine defendants’ true motives,” and cited precedents linked to previous Supreme Court decisions in relation to discrimination against gays and other disfavored minorities.

The states’ brief pointed out that the claims of urgent national security dangers were undermined by the sheer breadth of the order: “For several months it bans all travelers from the listed countries and all refugees, whether they be infants, schoolchildren or grandparents. And though it cites the attacks of September 11, 2001 as a rationale, it imposes no restrictions on people from the countries whose nationals carried out those attacks. It is at once too narrow and too broad… and cannot withstand any level of scrutiny.”

The issues of imperialist foreign policy underlying the legal recriminations were spelled out in an affidavit filed Monday by ten former top figures in the national security establishment, mostly from Democratic administrations. The document was signed by two former secretaries of state, John Kerry and Madeleine Albright, former defense secretary and CIA director Leon Panetta, former national security adviser Susan Rice, her former deputy Lisa Monaco, former homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano, and four former CIA directors or deputy directors: Michael Hayden, Michael Morrell, John McLaughlin and Avril Haines.

Noting that four of these officials “were current on active intelligence regarding all credible terrorist threat streams directed against the US” as late as January 20, 2017, the statement declared: “We all are nevertheless unaware of any specific threat that would justify the travel ban established by the Executive Order issued on January 27, 2017.”

Trump’s executive order will “disrupt key counterterrorism, foreign policy and national security partnerships that are critical to our obtaining” intelligence necessary to combat terrorist groups like the Islamic State, the statement declared. It went on to warn that individuals in the seven targeted countries who cooperated with US intelligence and military operations would now be endangered.

Newly installed Pentagon chief James Mattis reportedly ordered emergency measures for the protection of Iraqis who collaborated with the US military occupation by acting as translators or providing intelligence. The entry of these Iraqis into the United States under a special visa program was halted by the Trump order.

A separate amicus brief was filed by 97 giant corporations, including a who’s who of Silicon Valley: Facebook, Microsoft, Intel, Uber, eBay, Apple, Google, Twitter, Airbnb and Snap. The corporations argued that the order “inflicts significant harm on American business, innovation, and growth,” and by disrupting the movement of employees and potential customers “is inflicting substantial harm on US companies.”

Legal commentators expect the Ninth Circuit, which is the most liberal of the circuit courts in the US, to endorse Robart’s decision in some fashion, followed by an appeal by the Trump administration to the Supreme Court. In the event of a 4-4 split, which was the result of the previous immigration enforcement lawsuit by Republican-controlled states in 2015, the circuit court’s decision would stand.

Whatever the long-term result of the legal conflict, however, the temporary restraining order remains in effect this week, with as many as 100,000 people holding visas for entry into the United States from the seven countries targeted by the White House.

Meanwhile, more evidence has emerged of the racist and bigoted character of both the executive order itself and its enforcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A report in Newsweek quoted Los Angeles immigration lawyer Stacy Tolchin, who describes how ICE agents separated Muslims from non-Muslims during detention proceedings at the airports in the period before the court order halting the travel ban was issued.

“They are segregating Muslims from the non-Muslims when they’re being detained, holding them in separate rooms,” Tolchin told Newsweek. “I think it shows what the real intent of the travel ban is.” The magazine reported that several other lawyers “corroborated Tolchin’s account, saying those who identified themselves as Christian or Jewish did not seem subject to the same treatment at the border.”