Category Archives: 2020 Election

Remember travel?

It’s Friday afternoon, and thoughts have gone to fantasy honeymoon plans.

This week Calah and I started watching The Amazing Race together. We began with the first episode of Season 2. I had traveled the world alone for Season 1.

The world looks so weird in that show.

I know that part of it is that it’s filmed for broadcast in standard definition, and another part is how low-tech everything was compared to today.

But mainly it’s the who thing about going to airports and to places that are, you know, not within walking distance.

People are packed in close to one another. What are masks?

Season 2 also was filmed shortly after 9/11, and one non-New Yorker wears an FDNY beanie.

And then we got to an episode where they are in Thailand and have to go into a cave with bats. They’re provided masks and boots so they can keep safe.

Calah and I recognized the N95 masks immediately, and Calah lamented, “There was endless supply of N95 masks then!”

We’re hoping to be able to go to Islay together. I went there right after our first date, and when I talked about her to the bartender at the Laphroaig distillery, the dude looked at me and asked me what I was doing there? Like why wasn’t I already back in LA?

I did luck out that she didn’t forget about me by the time I got back weeks later. It might have had something to do with asking her before my trip if she wanted to go to the Magic Castle for our second date. Hard to believe that that’s coming up on two years ago.

Remember how the world looked yesterday at about 3:40pm?

As usual for a Saturday post, I’ve written this Friday afternoon. If a ton has happened since time of writing that makes yesterday a distant memory, here’s what the world looked like then:

Tommy Lasorda passed away.

Betsy DeVos has resigned.
Elaine Chao has resigned.
Mick Mulvaney has resigned.
Hope Hicks will be leaving next week.

Ben Carson was trending because people are making fun of him.

Trump remains divisive.

Tucker Carlson has been abusing this audience with

Biden says he’s been saying that Trump is not fit to lead for more than a year. “That’s why I ran,” he said today.

Reported domestic single-day COVID-related deaths topped 4000 for the first time.

Kim and Kanye are splitsville.

No one knows where Melania is.

Ted Lieu announced that he’s bringing articles of impeachment on Monday.

This came after Nancy Pelosi has asked Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and later demanded Trump resign. Doesn’t look like either will happen.

But the impeachment articles on Monday and Ben Sasse saying that he is willing to consider convicting in the senate. We can’t forget that Mark Kelly has replaced Martha McSally in John McCain’s old seat.

Ossoff and Warnock may be sworn in next week.

They need only 66 votes because David Perdue of Georgia bounced a few days ago when his term expired. Kelly Loeffler is still the appointee until they certify the votes in GA.

I have all kinds of news feeds set up to inform me of developments throughout Shabbat.

Local:
KTLA

Domestic:
Los Angeles Times Left-Center
Washington Post Left-Center
New York Times Left-Center
Wall Street Journal Right-Center
CNN Left
Fox News Right

International:
Deutsche Welle Left-Center
BBC Left-Center
NHK Right-Center

Opinion:
Donald Trump twitter whoops! Just got suspended permanently! Not using this!
Newsmax

Commentary/Trump bashing:
Lincoln Project twitter

I wish you all a weekend of safety and health and that this weekend is pleasant and without any terrible news.

Trump’s best chances of still winning are to resign

Now that he’s lost the election, he can pout a little more, but that should end quickly if he’s thinking about his future. You know, as a businessman. Forget about this refusal to transfer power peacefully. It’s foolishness.

And it doesn’t help that his bold campaign promise that nobody would hear about Covid-19 after November 3 was undermined by Mark Meadows who picked a really bad time to test positive.

Instead, he should resign. Not today because he needs time to show how much of a victim he is. He should wait till, I don’t know, Wednesday?

And here’s why:

Self- and Base-Preservation

He should make Mike Pence the 46th POTUS so that Pence can pardon him like how Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon. Not only will that be good for Trump, the likely recipient of “Lock him up!” chants that he pretty much brought on himself, but he can do this while claiming to be saving the American people. He can continue to rail against his opponents.

You can imagine tweets like: Crooked Dems like Shifty Schiff and Nutsy Pelosi and AOC+3 are ABUSING their power to go after YOUR PRESIDENT for NO REASON! WHERE WAS THE INVESTIGATION INTO CROOKED HILARY? HUNTER BIDEN???? THE POLES SHOWED I WON! BY A LOT!

And then when he resigns and gets Pence to pardon him, the story can be that he doesn’t have to be a criminal to be pardoned. After all, he pardoned Susan B. Anthony. (Also I just learned that the Susan B. Anthony Museum told Trump to peddle his pardons elsewhere. Go them!)

The Rest of the World Has Moved On

Very, very quickly, European leaders like Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson congratulated Joe Biden on his win. And Trump still hasn’t conceded. They’re not waiting for that. They just straight-up don’t agree that Trump can win a legal battle that would allow him not to have to pack up his stuff.

By stepping down and letting Mike Pence take office, transfer of power can happen and, likely, in a civilized way. The benefit of such a transfer is that Pence can learn what to do because the experts will have a voice. That is to say that when they teach Joe Biden stuff, Pence can be a fly on the wall and gain knowledge. He can lead the country by more than whatever just comes to his head.

He Has Much to Lose

He’s said over and over that nobody is more pro-law enforcement than he is. He doesn’t even care if someone is convicted yet. That someone is being arrested is enough for him to recommend that police officers not to “be too nice.” It’s gotta suck to be on the other side of that, right?

It’s widely reported that he’s vulnerable to all kinds of criminal prosecution after the leaves office. Even if they don’t get anything to stick, he may be out the legal fees. And I’m not an attorney, but if I were an attorney, I’d only want to have a client who is likely to pay his bills. And that’s not Trump.

And while he should be able to raise funds if he needs to hire good lawyers, his lenders don’t even want to deal with him anymore.

Resign on Wednesday

It’s not so bad. And it’s way better than being beaten up by the people who had your back for so long:

TFW your support goes from a lot to well down under. Also literally hat in hand.

It’s the smart thing to do. For Trump and for America. Yeah, I know that if he avoids prosecution that that would rob everyone else of seeing that happen. But if we can get rid of him this week and be like the Chilean coal miners rising from the depths, we can all move on. Our lungs a little blacker, our eyes needing to adjust. But the healing can begin. I think that’s better.

Remember how the world was at about 4pm Friday?

How’s everyone doing right now? This post is set to publish at 10am but was written at about 4pm Friday.

Here’s a blast from the past:

Joe Biden leads Georgia by 4,224 votes! https://results.enr.clarityelections.com/GA/105369/web.264614/#/summary
Joe Biden leads Pennsylvania by 16,041 votes! https://www.electionreturns.pa.gov/

As of writing, there aren’t lots of sirens going around Los Angeles. The West LAPD radio is pretty quiet. Nothing is unusual. Other than that it’s supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow. That is to say last night and today by the time this posts.

While I won’t be able to post during Shabbat, I have a full panel of information up that refreshes every few minutes.

My sources are:
Los Angeles Times Left-Center
Washington Post Left-Center
New York Times Left-Center
Wall Street Journal Right-Center
CNN Left
Fox News Right
International:
Deutsche Welle Left-Center
BBC Left-Center
NHK Right-Center
Opinion:
Donald Trump twitter
Friends’ Discord


Joe Biden is coherent if not downright presidential

The other morning, Joe Biden had a roundtable discussion with veterans at a Tampa community college, and it may have been the most underrated event of the campaign season.

In the roughly hour and a half meeting, Biden didn’t answer rapidfire questions; rather, he took time to address each person’s point. I’m not used to seeing this outside civil discourse (I know! I miss those days, too!), and it’s entirely foreign to me when it comes to presidential primary winners in advance of the general election.

Biden provided no material for soundbites, either, which have been a staple of campaigns and apparently had shrunk to nine seconds in 1988.

Nine seconds?

The way Biden addressed people in the room, it seemed as though he had forgotten that the cameras were there at all, and I felt like I was able to spy on a private meeting he’d have while running this country. And, to me, what I heard was awesome: He was prepared, he was confident, he was humble, and he cared.

In some cases, he wasn’t afraid to say he didn’t have an answer immediately but would consider what was being said.

It is a welcome break from Trump, who has reportedly boasted about driving the media crazy intentionally as a game and is no doubt an entertainer.

Also, have you noticed how Trump’s hands don’t veer far from his body when he speaks? It looks super weird until you cut off the sides of the image to limit the picture to the old 4:3 aspect ratio. He’s been on TV so long that now he stays in frame even when he’s speaking at a rally (and even though we now have the wider 16:9 TVs).

Those who are used to the entertainer approach easily could see the Biden roundtable as boring and slow, and many comments reflect that. But I listened to what he was saying and how he came to answer what was asked. I was pleasantly surprised. He provided background to his answers so they made sense. And this is really important when questions are asked that are too narrow in scope for a brief answer to be useful.

Imagine you’re not used to making spicy food and are asking a friend advice on how much chili powder to use. If your friend gives you an answer, you might find out that your mouth is ablaze. But if your friend explains the difference between chile powder and chili powder and the effects of jalapeño peppers and habanero peppers that you might want to consider but didn’t know to, but that you should probably add some and then taste it and then adjust because it’s a preference thing, you may react poorly because that’s a long-winded answer with no conclusion when you were just asking for an amount, or you may be thankful because the longer answer enabled you to enjoy what you’re making.

A question about Trump’s proposed end of social security yielded an answer that started, “This is both simple and complicated,” and then went further.

He first established a baseline of understanding: Employers and employees split the funding for social security through paychecks.

Then he explained his experience with economic stimulus during his vice presidency and how Trump’s promised elimination of the payroll tax for social security is a terrible idea.

So detractors will say he gets lost, but those who listen will understand that Joe Biden’s approach is one based in logic. And ignoring the cameras completely and having an honest discussion is what we need right now.

Joe Biden does have his flaws, but there certainly are more reasons to vote for him than that he’s anyone but Trump.

This is not America: Awful Immigration Changes Under Trump 9-8-20

Day 7 of this fee-on-asylum-seekers series.

The first comment of today’s post is kind of snarky, and it makes me a little happy that snarky made the cut:

Comment: One commenter stated that USCIS is promising the same inadequate service it has been providing in the past few years and is asking immigrant and refugee families to pay more to not get their applications processed.”

The comment then addresses a fee change schedule under Bush 43 that affirms the asylum seekers shouldn’t be charged.

But DHS, as it has been doing, responds that they’re allowed to charge a fee and that it will help out with the backlog.

While they say that the $50 will offset some costs, we’ve well established that the amount is less than 14% of those costs. Also we’re back to slowing down applicants by charging a fee.

They nod to the snark by acknowledging the delays and by posting that part of the comment.

Skipping down to the next non-repeat, a commenter points out an issue with an asylum-seeker not being able to apply for the work authorization (because there’s a mandatory delay of a year until eligibility to file a work authorization form. Since the person won’t be able to make money legally, illegally performed work could be grounds for deportation.

You know, unless that person is financially stable. In that case, the person totally can take time to hang out for a year without employment.

But DHS has a simple solution: don’t work illegally.

This type of stonewalling is not what we need from our government. This is a cruel response to rational, reasonable discourse. Let’s get this approach out of the Executive Branch in this election.

This is not America: Awful Immigration Changes Under Trump 9-7-20

Now in the sixth post of this series about how this country has recently started charging asylum seekers to enter this country, we get comments that I will summarize but that you can click on to read on your own.

First off is a comment about how there shouldn’t be fees to seek asylum because asylum seekers work and pay taxes.

I think this is a terrible argument. An easy rebuttal is that if that were the case, there should be no fees. For anything. And no restrictions. Like if someone comes from Europe as a tourist, that person should not be able to work as long as taxes are paid and the money earned is spent in this country. That’s crazy talk. The idea of this is that asylum seekers are special.

The response agrees with my point by starting out with: “DHS acknowledges that asylum seekers invest in their educations and pay taxes like other immigrants do.” But these aren’t the same as other immigrants. These aren’t people moving here because it’s a thing they want to do because they think it would be cool to live in America. They’re escaping for fear of not being safe. There’s no other option for them.

It continues with the same old line: “USCIS has experienced a continuous, sizeable (sic) increase in the affirmative asylum backlog and explored ways to alleviate the pressure that the asylum workload places on USCIS.” And this, of course, sounds like if we put a fee on it and make it tough, fewer people will want to file new cases. Yet they maintain fees are not being imposed as a deterrent.

The next comment is about gender-based violence. Women whose right are limited in their countries flee to this one because it’s their only hope of survival. This relates to things including sex trafficking and domestic abuse. Having to pay a fee would make it impossible to pay a fee when they have control over no money.

But it gets worse than that because financial plight is a way for the asylum seekers to remain victims all the way through the immigration process: The $50 fee can be paid by smugglers and traffickers as a way to extort (whose etymology is essentially arm-twisting) those seeking asylum. We don’t need that kind of quid pro quo or even to worry about that kind of quid pro quo.

But the DHS responds that it’s just $50–an amount that isn’t prohibitively expensive. And that’s a big problem with this entire process. A $50 fee is a clear barrier to those who cannot afford it while being an amount that’s palatable to the public at large. And this is new under Donald Trump. But at least now we know the cost of the process for each case: $366.

I’ve yet to be convinced that this fee is a good idea. And a recoup of less than 14% of the cost seems so negligible that it’s unreasonable to demand it.

More tomorrow and with the new summary format so you can click through to the full text.

This is not America: Awful Immigration Changes Under Trump 9-6-20

Comments about the new $50 asylum fee introduced this year under the Tump administration continue in this fifth installment of this series.

So far I have yet to be convinced by the Department of Homeland Security that charging people a fee to seek asylum in this country is something I should support. Also that that joining Iran as one of four countries that directly charge a fee (not including Russia that allows for free entry but requires a medical assessment that does cost money) is not giving me confidence that we should do this.

So the next comment raised:

Comment: With regard to the Form I-589 fee and the fee for an initial Form I-765 filed by an asylum applicant, commenters stated:
-Asylum seekers should not have to pay for an asylum application or an associated work permit because they are not authorized to work for months once in the United States and would have no way of earning money to pay for the fees.
-Asylum seekers in detention, who earn at most $1 a day would have no way to pay the $50 fee.
-Asylum seekers are not allowed to work more than 4 hours a day and are thus unable to pay increased fees.
-Asylum seekers who are poor or need to “quickly flee situations of peril or harm” would be harmed by the asylum fee proposal, and that such individuals would not be able to earn enough money to pay asylum fees once in detention.
-Asylum seekers are often minors with no means to support themselves and therefore cannot afford an asylum fee.

My analysis:

First off, Form I-765 is the Application for Employment Authorization. The fee for this form has gone up this year by more than 34% to $550 from $410. Those who seek asylum cannot work without authorization, so unless they have supporters who are here already, they’re kind of stuck if they want to do things legally.

Also asylum seekers are only recently barred from even applying for work permits at the same time they file for asylum. Now they have to wait a year until they can get a job legally.

I am uncertain but am guessing that those who are in detention are because they came here illegally but are seeking asylum, which is allowed by our government. If they are eligible to work, it would be at a rate that would make $50 about impossible to raise alone. I encourage someone more knowledgeable in this area to help me with info in this area if I am mistaken.

This all seems like creating barrier after barrier to make sure that people can’t come in or don’t want to come in or can’t stay. And if they have legitimate claim to be here, we can adopt them.

Response from the Department of Homeland Security:

Response: DHS acknowledges the commenters’ concerns about asylum seekers’ ability to pay the fees for the asylum application and associated EAD. DHS considered the effect of the fees on asylum seekers and believes the fees would not impose an unreasonable burden on applicants or prevent asylum seekers from seeking protection or EAD. DHS also acknowledges that the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, provides a range of protections for unaccompanied alien children. As such, DHS excluded unaccompanied alien children in removal proceedings, a particularly vulnerable population, from the imposition of the $50 asylum application fee.
The services that USCIS provides at no cost or below cost impacts the final fees imposed on other fee-paying applicants. However, DHS seeks to make the USCIS fee schedule more equitable for all applicants and petitioners in this final rule. Therefore, DHS declines to make changes in this final rule in response to these comments.

My analysis:

They maintain it’s not too expensive. Just straight disagree. They refuse even to acknowledge any of the work eligibility points.

And to say that below-cost services means that they have to shift the expenses elsewhere? First of all, do they? We have a lot of government programs that only are intentionally money-losers. Like the NEA. Sure, some people are against funding the NEA, and I probably don’t appreciate everything the NEA funds, but this year they granted $20,000 to the Appalachian Artisan Center of Kentucky for Metal Works for the Modern Muse. It teaches kids how to be blacksmiths. I think that’s really cool. But also that’s 400 asylum seekers. I’m not saying take away that award, I’m saying we don’t have to recover all costs.

Second, if they have to make up for it somewhere else, let them do that. I’m still against any fee for asylum seekers.

More tomorrow.

This is not America: Awful Immigration Changes Under Trump 9-5-20

Yesterday I began my analysis of public comments and responses by the Department of Homeland Security about the new $50 fee for asylum seekers, which is up from $0. Today I continue the analyses of comments and responses.

A brief recap of the process, though I recommend reading the related posts: Proposed changes to some laws are open for comments from the public before the laws take effect. The government can use the comments to make changes to the proposal or say why the comments don’t matter. So far, the Department of Homeland Security has revealed that the $50 fee on asylum seekers is to let their employees recover from the backlog of applications, which sounds a lot like they’re trying to get in the way of letting people in.

Now for the new stuff (with links added by me):

Comment: Additional commenters on the asylum fee generally opposed the proposed fees for asylum indicating that the proposal runs counter to U.S. ideals, and stated:
-The United States has no precedent in international law to charge for asylum, the fee does not support the humanitarian interests of the United States, would be against the values of the United States and Congressional intent, and our moral and constitutional obligation to provide sanctuary to those who need it.
-The United States would become one of only four countries to charge such a fee if DHS implemented the proposal.
-Processing asylum requests is a fundamental right guaranteed by international agreements to which the United States adheres.
-The United States should endeavor to resolve, rather than exacerbate, humanitarian crises and the U.S. is required under domestic and international law to provide refuge to people fleeing violence and seeking protection in the United States.
-Significant changes to the conditions of asylum services should be carried out by Congress, and not through administrative processes.
-Charging a fee for asylum requests is discrimination and an attempt to block legal immigration of people of color and/or non-wealthy backgrounds.
-The right to seek and to enjoy asylum from persecution is enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and supported by the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.
-The United States is obligated to accept asylum seekers under international and domestic law, and therefore should not refuse asylum seekers because of an inability to pay the fee. Thus, the proposed asylum fees would be a dereliction of legal duty and violate the 1951 Refugee Convention, which prevents signatory countries from taking any action that would “in any matter whatsoever” expel or return a refugee to a place where his or her life or freedom would be threatened.”
-The creation of an asylum fee suggests that the United States will shy away from international problems rather than confront them.
-One commenter said that under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United States is obligated by international law to accept refugees and accord them certain rights and benefits, such as access to courts.
-A fee for asylum violates the INA and that Congress did not intend to authorize fees for asylum applicants, but instead intended that the cost services to asylum seekers should be paid by fees from the IEFA.

My analysis:

I’ve mentioned a lot of these things in the past few posts, but I’m happy there are new things for me to consider.

The idea that these changes should be carried out by the legislative branch and not the executive branch is important. Kicking this decision to Congress means slowing it way down. However, if this is a rider in a bill, maybe we don’t get to see it at all before it becomes law, and it may be harder to repeal if there’s no set expiration. I’m not a legal scholar, so if you’ve got a legal background, please, please weigh in on this.

Regarding the United Nations points, those likely fall on deaf ears, based on what Donald Trump thinks of the UN.

The Department of Homeland Security Responds (emphases mine):

Response: DHS disagrees with commenters’ assertions that an asylum fee violates the INA, that there is no precedent in international law for charging a fee for asylum applications, and that charging a fee is discriminatory and against the values, morals, and Constitution of the United States. DHS also disagrees that the United States is required to provide asylum to those fleeing violence and seeking protection, as the United States’ non-refoulement obligations are met by the statutory withholding of removal provisions at INA section 241(b)(3). Asylum is a discretionary benefit available to those who meet the definition of a refugee and who are not otherwise ineligible.
Although the United States is a party to the 1967 U.N. Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (“1967 Refugee Protocol”), which incorporates Articles 2 through 34 of the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (“1951 Refugee Convention”), the Protocol is not self-executing. See INS v. Stevic, 467 U.S. 407, 428 n.22 (1984). The asylum statute at INA section 208 and withholding of removal statute at INA section 241(b)(3) constitute the U.S. implementation of international treaty obligations related to asylum seekers. The asylum provisions of the INA do not preclude the imposition of a filing fee for asylum applications. INA section 208(d)(3), 8 U.S.C. 1158(d)(3) specifically authorizes the Attorney General to impose a fee for the consideration of an asylum application that is less than the estimated cost of adjudicating the application.

Furthermore, DHS believes that the asylum fee may arguably be constrained in amount, but a fee is not prohibited by the 1951 Refugee Convention, 1967 Refugee Protocol, United States constitution, or domestic implementing law. Article 29(1) of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Refugee Protocol, as incorporated by reference, refers to the imposition of fees on those seeking protection, and limits “fiscal charges” to not higher than those charged to nationals of a given country for similar services, but does not bar the imposition of such fiscal charges. The $50 fee is reasonably aligned with the fees charged to United States nationals for other immigration benefit requests. Thus, a $50 fee for asylum applications is in line with international and domestic law.

DHS also considered the asylum fees charged by other nations, including Australia, Fiji, and Iran. A $50 fee is in line with the fees charged by these other nations. DHS further believes that the $50 fee would not require an applicant to spend an unreasonable amount of time saving to pay the fee.

DHS declines to make changes in this final rule in response to these comments.

My analysis:

It’s true that asylum is discretionary. Determination of eligibility is a judgment call. Are the claims legitimate? Are the claims accurate? Are the claims valid? Someone has to determine that.

The INA section referenced does allow for a fee. It doesn’t advise for there to be a fee, but it’s not against the rules that are in place.

But then we’re back to how reasonable the $50 fee is. My conclusion is that it is unreasonable. See yesterday’s post for the analysis of this first question.

Australia is our friend, but they even charge us a fee to visit their country. I’m skipping over Fiji because I don’t feel like researching them right now. But when we put our country in the same category as Iran, which has all kinds of human rights violations, that doesn’t make me too comfortable.

And then the DHS finishes their response by saying too bad.

More tomorrow.