Meet Me in St. Louis

found online by Raymond

 
From nojo at Stinque:

Traveling to the United States on a tourist or business visa is a straightforward process: You apply at the local embassy or consulate, sit through an interview if someone wants to know you better, pay your fees, and done. Depending on season and demand, takes three to six weeks.

This is how nineteen of the twenty 9/11 hijackers entered our country. The twentieth arrived on a student visa.

None were refugees.

Were a similar plot hatched today, it would likely follow a similar path. Of the various means to reach U.S. soil, refugee status is the most tortuous — a series of referrals, interviews, reviews and background checks that can take two years.

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Turning Away Refugees

Human nature, I suppose. People are strange when you’re a stranger.

Strangers in an insular community can become isolated. When there are a lot of strangers, and all of them are strange in upbringing, language, culture, or religion, that strangeness can become menacing.

When Henryk went missing, his parents were frantic. He was only nine, not allowed outside beyond late evening. It was way past late evening and he wasn’t home. Then it became late night, then later. When he wasn’t home by morning, his distraught parents were in near panic. His father went to the police. Morning became afternoon, then another evening. Police began to search in earnest. Another night wore on and became morning.

When Henryk got home, his clothes were a shambles, torn. The tearful, traumatized youngster had obviously been beaten. He told his parents and the police what had happened.

Immigrants, refugees had taken him from the street into the building that housed 160 of them. The basement served as a sort of torture chamber. As he was sexually abused, he saw the bodies of other children in varying stages of dismemberment. It was horrible.

Police marched toward the building. A group of onlookers became curious. When they found out what had happened to the little boy, the rage spread like fire. The group became a crowd. The crowd became a mob. The mob demanded blood. Guns appeared. The first shot into the building emboldened others and more shots were fired.

In the end, 20 Jewish refugees were beaten to death, and another 22 were shot and killed, 40 more were injured, in the little town of Kielce in Poland, that July night in 1946. Those Jews had only recently been rescued before they could be put to death by Nazi executioners at Auschwitz. They had escaped death from Nazis only to have their lives taken by an angry mob.

The little boy grew up. It took 50 years for him grow up enough to admit that he had made up the story. He had been out all night and invented the tale of torture avoid being punished for breaking the rules.

50 years.

But in 1946, it did not take even 50 minutes after the massacre for investigators to reach that same conclusion.

None of the story made sense. There were no other missing children. The torture chamber in the basement of the building did not exist. In fact the building did not even have a basement.

But it was easy for local folks to believe that refugees were guilty of horrible crimes. After all, they were different in so many ways. Why would they conform to rules and morality that governed the lives of ordinary people?

The mantra after the Nazi genocide that was directed, not exclusively but mostly, at Jews became “Never again.”

As with all heartfelt resolutions, “Never again” turned out to be vulnerable to time and history.

Americans who know even a little of that history will not feel superior to the Christian residents of that little town across the ocean. Americans participated in Nazi genocide only indirectly, but that single degree of separation still provides a measure of shame to any real American patriot.

The Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC holds an annual ceremonial reading of names. 5 thousand names are read each year. It would take too long to read the names of the six million Jews that were killed in Europe. It would take even longer to add the names of 5 million non-Jews who were killed en masse.

This year, the solemn ceremony was extended to the internet as names were posted every 5 seconds. The twitter campaign focused on one incident. A ship, the SS St. Louis, filled with Jews fleeing Nazi extermination, was turned away by our country. Americans were in no mood to take in foreign refugees.

The internet campaign had no shortage of reminders.

A smiling little boy looks out from a cheerful photograph. The caption carries the message.

A happy little girl, chin resting on hands, appears in another picture.

When the SS St. Louis was turned away, the official reason was national security. Some of those Jews might be dangerous, might even be terrorists. Seems absurd today. It was a deadly decision for those on the SS St. Louis.

The list continues.

Max Wolff

Regina Blumenstein

Walter Weinberg

Amanda Wachtel

Abraham Wolf

The wording is similar in each case. “The US turned me away at the border in 1939. I was murdered…” followed by the location of the execution.

During the 2016 Presidential race, Donald Trump’s rhetoric became increasingly focused on those who try to escape what, by comparison, might be called mini-Holocausts of today. They must not seem like mini-Holocausts to those who are affected. In the final hours of the campaign, he directed violent anger toward small communities of refugees in Minnesota who had escaped death from extremist violence in Somalia.

Here in Minnesota you have seen firsthand the problems caused with large numbers of Somali refugees coming into your state, without your knowledge, without your support or approval, and with some of them then joining ISIS…

It is wrong to blame entire populations for the actions of a few. America at its best is not founded on collective guilt. But even if ethnic or religious groups could be assigned communal guilt, refugees in the United States would still be innocent. As in Kielce in 1946, the accusations against refugees in the United States today are false.

The number of Americans killed by terrorism would be too high if that number was even one.

The number actually killed by refugees is zero. Investigation of each refugee is conducted intensely and carefully. The average vetting time is two years.

But, as in Kielce that terrible night, the moral prohibition against collective guilt means little to those who are enraged, afraid, or simply consumed by hatred.

And, as in Kielce, the morally neutral truth of collective innocence means even less.

On the very day of annual remembrance of the Holocaust, the new President of the United States issued an executive order barring refugees from seven majority Muslim countries.

The order had a clever provision, allowing exceptions to be made for those who belong to minority religions. It was another way of saying selective exceptions could apply to non-Muslims from those countries. Muslims were to remain special targets.

The number of attacks by any immigrant from those seven countries, refugee or not, Muslim or not, is zero.

Since 9/11, no one has been killed in this country in a terrorist attack by anyone who emigrated from any of the seven countries.

William C. Banks,
  Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism

It is to America’s credit that so many people have appeared at airports and other public places peaceably to assemble in protest at the targeting of the vulnerable, those in physical danger, those guilty of nothing more than the primal desire for survival.

Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates refused to defend the executive order against court challenges until she could examine it to see if the order was legally defensible.

At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.

Her reasoning was sound, using some of the same logic employed by conservatives in other settings. In one voting rights case after another, conservatives have defended laws that discriminate against minorities, holding that the discrimination itself was not sufficient reason to reject those laws. It must be proven, they say, that there was clear intent to discriminate. And, without public statements or private records, it is not possible to prove what was in the legislative mind.

We can imagine the nudges and winks that go with that argument.

The Acting Attorney General announced that she would have to examine the same record that courts would look at, including public statements of intent. Statements like this:

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States…

Donald Trump, December 7, 2015

When the courts look at exceptions that would apply only to minority religions from majority Muslim countries, will they decide that this was a cute way to avoid saying the ban will only apply to Muslims? Is there any way to argue otherwise?

The administration fired the Acting Attorney General and issued a statement condemning her.

The statement was notable for it’s vitriol, beginning with the very first sentence:

The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.

The statement continued the attack.

Ms. Yates is an Obama administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.

It was a remarkably emotional, angry declaration of termination.

A replacement has been named, the ban will be enforced.

The refugees being targeted are guilty of trying to survive.

But they are strangers.
And strangers are strange.

We are told to transform our nation into a small village in Poland, hurling false accusations against innocent refugees.

We are directed back to our own shores in 1939 to turn away a ship carrying those who need us, whose only hope is that someone will allow them refuge.

We are instructed to give up our own hope of becoming the shining city on the hill we once dreamed of becoming.


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If We Have Forgotten

found online by Raymond

 
From Vixen Strangely at Strangely Blogged:

Of course, our current President isn’t saddled with my peculiar bias about American exceptionalism. For him, “America first” doesn’t seem to have anything to do with America being different or better, but with some vague idea of “winning”. Team America is just a Team. And maybe that is why his statement marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day lacks any reference to Jews or anti-Semitism–he lacks historical perspective. (Or, because his image is so allied with the alt-right, it would have just been off-brand to mention it.) Also, because he has no historical perspective of our American exceptionalism, he chose this particular day to announce what amounts to a Muslim ban.

You could call it racist or insensitive or whatever. I would call it stupid–banning Muslims and showing favoritism to Christians is exactly what ISIS wants us to do. It’s not a show of strength, but cowardice. And also, it is a unique cruelty to those who had hope. It doesn’t make America great–it reminds of another time when we erred and chose to be small, and of the needless deaths that should haunt us to this day. We can mouth “Never again”–but this is our opportunity to do the right thing, denied because of littleness and fear.

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A Fortnight of Trump

found online by Raymond

 
From John Scalzi:

What’s really remarkable about the Trump administration is that we are literally in week two, and its managed to have enough scandal and constitutional crisis for an entire year of a normal administration. Hell, even Dubya, the former modern low benchmark for incompetence, stretched out his nonsense. Now, you might recall that I predicted this the last time I wrote about Trump — I said we’d see a hundred-day “Gish Gallop” of nonsense from them (to the extent the Trump folks had any plan at all) — but it’s one thing to say “yup, this is going to happen” and another to see it in full effect in just two dizzying weeks.

I don’t think this is sustainable, and I don’t mean in terms of people’s ability to protest (more on that). I mean that, while it is prudent to plan for four years of Trump, I’m going to be surprised if he lasts that long.

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Lincoln’s Heir

found online by Raymond

 
From Jon Perr at PERRspectives:

…it’s clear that George W. Bush’s place in history won’t be a happy one. His war of choice in Iraq was a calamity measured in blood and treasure, and unleashed sectarian conflict that 14 years later is still tearing the Middle East apart. Bush also presided over an unprecedented meltdown of the American financial system that produced the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. As to his legacy, Bush said hopefully in 2013, “ultimately, history will judge.”

History, on the other hand, will be kind to Barack Hussein Obama, 44th president of the United States. Facing monolithic opposition before he even took the oath of office, President Obama nevertheless saved his country from the abyss. During a period of rapid economic, social, and environmental change, Obama readied his country for the future. Over his eight years in the People’s House, Obama helped expand membership in our national community by enabling women, LGBT people, blacks, Latinos, Muslims, and others to redefine the very idea of who is American. And even with the prospect of a period of reaction that will undo some of these gains, over time Obama’s vision will be vindicated and realized, including among many who vilified him at the time.

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No, The Muslim Ban Isn’t About Safety

found online by Raymond

 
From John Pavlovitz:

Safety.

To quote a wise man: “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

Safety has been the mantra of those trying to justify the Executive Order banning Muslims from seven countries from entering the US; one that threw the international community into immediate panic, stranding terrified families throughout the country and leaving immigration officials with an instant, unprecedented crisis. While thousands of outraged Americans streamed into airports and around city halls all over our nation to oppose the ban, Trump’s vicious guard dog base made of largely white Christians, contended that the President was simply protecting the American people from the encroaching threat of what these folks like to call “radical Islam.”

And it simply isn’t true. The safety of Americans is of little concern to these people, least of all those currently making these decisions. It’s certainly not anything this President gives a damn about.

If this was about keeping Americans safe from violent religious zealots, the President would have his sights on many of the very people most loudly applauding the Muslim Ban. He would be protecting us from angry, unstable white Christians with guns.

Homicides here by Muslim-Americans amount to about one-third of one percent, and the number of murders by Muslim immigrants equals exactly zero.

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Is This 1973?

found online by Raymond

 
Raymond:
NSFW. Aunt Tildy instructs teenagers to cover their ears while reading.
 
From Max’s Dad:

Nixon was done in by responsible adults who were adult enough to realize this man was out of control and had to be replaced. The responsible adults are few and far between in the entertainment age we live in. And thus, a speed freak wanders the halls of the White House, watches cable TV looking for perceived slights, and signs papers written by white nationalists he hasn’t read and shows them off with hand picked sycophants staring into space in the background. Responsible adults would already have concluded that the worlds oldest democracy is in bigley trouble because the dummies in three states had a whole lot of economic anxiety about their 19th century job and the fact a black guy was POTUS and voted for a vulgar talking cutie. Responsible adults would have stopped this long ago. But they did not and apparently have no intention of righting the capsizing ship before they accomplish their goal of impoverishing 99% of America and making the peasants grateful for anything they throw to the ground. But ABORTION!! GUNS!!! SOCIALISM!! TERRORISTS!!! BROWNS AND BLACKS!!! SQUIRREL!!!

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Did You Have A Nice Weekend? ACLU Did!

found online by Raymond

 
From Frances Langum:

In 2003, Bill O’Reilly did an O’Reilly Factor Exclusive! on “Where Does the ACLU Get Its Money?” because “we believe the ACLU is hurting America by constantly suing to further an extremist agenda.” (Fox News Link)

O’Reilly might wanna run those numbers again.

This weekend the ACLU raised more in three days than they usually make all year.

Six times more.

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Immigrants Everywhere

found online by Raymond

 
From PZ Myers:

I hadn’t realized what a lovely example of chain migration was in my family history, where one or a few pioneers establish a foothold and then bring in friends and family at later dates to build up a community. It’s also an example of how immigrant families adapt over time, where time is several generations.

It’s also what’s going on with families from Somalia and Syria and all those other countries our government wants to ban — which is nothing less than an effort to disrupt that pattern of chain migration which is so important to accommodating people to a new country. There’s no difference in the general pattern between a Scandinavian family in the 1850s and a Somali family in the 2000s — let ’em live and grow and they will be a productive part of the American culture.

What part of your family would have been wrecked by current policies?

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Classification and Computer Generation of Necktie Patterns

found online by Raymond

 
From The Journal of Improbable Research:

Is it possible to create a simple computerised system to cover all characteristics of necktie patterns – and that can also generate patterns similar to existing neckties? Researchers Hiroshi Fukuda, Tomoko Saito and Gisaku Nakamura of the School of Administration and Informatics, University of Shizuoka, Shizuoka-shi, Shizuoka 422, Japan – as far back as 1994* – said the answer is yes.

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