Due to overcrowding in detention facilities elsewhere, immigration officials are jailing a significant number of vulnerable asylum-seekers in a private prison run by CoreCivic, a company that has had such a long history of abuses that it changed its name as part of a PR makeover. But this Mississippi prison is so secretive that it’s unknown exactly how many Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees are even there. “Congress required ICE in 2018 to publish basic information about the jails and detention centers it uses,” Mother Jones reports, “but the agency has kept Tallahatchie off that list.”
Since Mississippi does not have a history of immigration detention, access to legal counsel at Tallahatchie is severely limited; the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s website lists no immigration attorneys within 50 miles of the prison. Lawyers who have worked at the facility say there are not enough Spanish-speaking staff members at the prison, let alone those who speak the native languages of asylum-seekers from Africa and South Asia.
A Southern Poverty Law Center attorney said that “if someone wanted to build a jail where asylum-seekers lose otherwise winnable cases because of lack of access to the outside world, that jail would probably look a lot like Tallahatchie does now.” Last year, the group sued the private-prison profiteers running Tallahatchie, accusing CoreCivic of forcing immigrants jailed in Georgia “to work for as little as $1 a day to clean, cook, and maintain the detention center in a scheme to maximize profits.” Conditions at Tallahatchie are also dire.
Last weekend, a Wyoming man detained at Tallahatchie died by apparent suicide. One month ago, a Cameroonian immigrant who tried to hang himself with a bedsheet was saved by a fellow detainee, who was a paramedic in Nicaragua. Isaac Molina had fled after being shot by police, after he had assisted demonstrators who were injured in an anti-government political protest. Once he arrived in the U.S., Molina passed his initial asylum interview. He has U.S. family he can be released to, but ICE continues to keep him detained. “As soon as I left my country, I knew I wasn’t going back,” he said. “Maybe when my papers are in completely in order, I can go back to having a normal life. That’s what I want the most: to have a normal life.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office said in a memo Friday night that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort deserves 19.5 years to 24.5 years in prison for his conviction for eight financial crimes. It also noted that calculations under penalty guidelines suggest a fine range of $50,000 to $24,371,497.74, a term of supervised release of up to five years, restitution in the amount of $24,815,108.74, and forfeiture in the amount of $4,412,500.
You can read the entire 120-page sentencing memo at this link:
Manafort was the lead perpetrator and a direct beneficiary of each offense. And while some of these offenses are commonly prosecuted, there was nothing ordinary about the millions of dollars involved in the defendant’s crimes, the duration of his criminal conduct, or the sophistication of his schemes.
His criminal decisions were not momentary or limited in time; they were routine. And Manafort’s repeated misrepresentations to financial institutions were brazen, at least some of which were made at a time when he was the subject of significant national attention. Neither the Probation Department nor the government is aware of any mitigating factors. Manafort did not commit these crimes out of necessity or hardship. He was well educated, professionally successful, and financially well off. He nonetheless cheated the United States Treasury and the public out of more than $6 million in taxes at a time when he had substantial resources. Manafort committed bank fraud to supplement his liquidity because his lavish spending exhausted his substantial cash resources when his overseas income dwindled.
From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE…
In Case You Missed It
There were some microphone issues last week during the State of the Union. For the sake of a more reliable transcript, here’s the actual audio. The House recorder regrets the inconvenience:x x YouTube Video
Oh, and this little nugget posted two years ago today is worth a moment of reflection:xFebruary 16, 2017
Sentencing of the Trump crime family traitor on the left: March 13th. Sentencing of the Trump crime family traitor on the right: TBA. Won’t it be a kick chanting “Lock them up” as they’re actually getting locked up. Hillary, meanwhile, continues to roam the forests and glens, unfettered and fancy free, as one of the most admired women on the face of the earth 4evuh.
Your west-coast-friendly edition of Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold...[Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]
drink it in folks for the first time in his life Roger Stone has been ordered by a court of law to shut the fuck up https://t.co/1kTpgZ9vNT
— Zeddy (@Zeddary) February 15, 2019
While the gag order is limited, all parties are still required to abide by a local rule that prohibits making public statements that are likely to have a “materially prejudicial effect”.
— Charlie Gile (@CharlieGileNBC) February 15, 2019
Read the entire filing here: https://t.co/THPK5WrTXT
— Charlie Gile (@CharlieGileNBC) February 15, 2019
… [T]he judge said [Stone] could keep talking about the case with the caveat that she could change her mind and amend her order “if necessary.”
She also lumped Stone in with all the parties in the case and potential witnesses when they are around the D.C. courthouse. In those circumstances, Jackson cautioned that any comments must not “pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case” and cannot be “intended to influence any juror, potential juror, judge, witness or court officer or interfere with the administration of justice.”
Jackson concluded her ruling with a warning that Stone should consider that any excessive public comments may come back to bite him.
“While it is not up to the court to advise the defendant as to whether a succession of public statements would be in his best interest at this time, it notes that one factor that will be considered in the evaluation of any future request for relief based on pretrial publicity will be the extent to which the publicity was engendered by the defendant himself,” Jackson wrote…
To paraphrase comedian Ron White: Stone has the right to remain silent, but does he have the ability?
Related reading, from Jeffrey Toobin for the New Yorker, “Roger Stone’s and Jerome Corsi’s Time in the Barrel”:
… The Stone indictment reads like a political black comedy. It stars a pair of mismatched operatives, Stone and the right-wing author Jerome Corsi, who, without formal connections to the Trump campaign, went on a transatlantic quest for dirt. Mueller’s indictment does not charge Stone with any involvement in the hacking, but accuses him of lying to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence about his (and Corsi’s) efforts to pry loose the hacked e-mails from WikiLeaks. Stone is also charged with trying to coerce Randy Credico, a New York media figure and a sometime friend of Stone’s, into joining his efforts to interfere with the work of the House committee. According to the indictment, Stone, in order to prevent Credico from sharing what he knew, sent menacing e-mails to him, including one that said “Prepare to die,” followed by an expletive. He also threatened to steal Credico’s thirteen-year-old therapy dog, a Coton de Tulear named Bianca.
Stone has responded to Mueller’s charges with fevered hyperbole. “Those who think the Mueller investigation will die out with a whimper are dreaming,” he told me on the phone in early February, after his arraignment in federal court in Washington, D.C. “This is a pretext to allow them to remove both Trump and Pence and replace them with Leather Face—I mean, Nancy Pelosi—and then she can appoint Hillary Clinton as V.P. That’s been the agenda from the beginning.” He has vowed to contest the charges at trial. “We’re going to fight them on every piece of evidence, fight them on every witness. We are going to concede nothing.”
Corsi has not been charged, but, in December, he sued Mueller for three hundred and fifty million dollars, saying that the special counsel had engaged in prosecutorial misconduct and illegal surveillance, among other misdeeds. In this civil case, which is pending, Corsi is being represented by Larry Klayman, a Washington lawyer and eccentric best known for filing multiple lawsuits against Bill Clinton’s Administration. Also in December, Corsi published an e-book, “Silent No More: How I Became a Political Prisoner of Mueller’s ‘Witch Hunt,’ ” which recounts his experiences with Mueller’s team and what he calls being “mentally tortured by Mueller’s Deep State prosecutors.”
If Stone and Corsi had not turned up in the Mueller probe, they might have been just a pair of waning satellites in the right-wing solar system. Stone once cut a glamorous figure, with his bodybuilder’s physique and his bespoke suits from London. But, at sixty-six, he is out of shape, he hasn’t played a major role in a campaign in ages, and he scratches out a living by giving speeches, doing a little corporate consulting, and writing for fringe publishers and Web sites. (The house on the canal is rented.) Corsi is seventy-two, and spent most of his life as a marginal academic and a nomadic businessman. In middle age, he began writing books whose conceits—“Swift-boating,” “birtherism”—became shorthand for journalistic irresponsibility. Corsi, who earned a doctorate from Harvard in 1972, stamps “Ph.D.” after his name on the cover of his books as an almost poignant plea for respectability…
A jury will resolve the question of Stone’s guilt, and Mueller will decide whether to charge Corsi, but the geriatric bad boy and the literary charlatan have a wider significance. Stone and Corsi are, respectively, the progenitor and the expositor of the world view of the current President of the United States. Stone’s vulgar narcissism and his insistence on claiming victory at all costs anticipated Trump’s. Stone has Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back and Nixon’s values imprinted on his soul; the amoral ruthlessness of the thirty-seventh President passed, through Stone, to the forty-fifth. Corsi tells stories the way Trump does, starting with the desired conclusion and then arranging facts to support it. He cultivated Trump’s obsessions, including genetic purity, as reflected in claims that Obama was born in Kenya rather than in Hawaii; contempt for the two-party system and the political élite, particularly the Bush and Clinton families; and fear and suspicion of the American intelligence agencies and their purported involvement in events such as the Kennedy assassination and the decision to invade Iraq. Through the crucible of the Russia investigation, the fates of these men have become linked, and their cases will help determine the outcome of the epic clash between the special counsel and the President…
The most dramatic—and certainly the weirdest—part of Roger Stone’s trial in the Mueller investigation will probably involve the testimony of Randy Credico: https://t.co/m8cuIciUq1 pic.twitter.com/gV8qE0OZtH
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) February 12, 2019
Since Trump adviser and very strange person Roger Stone was arrested and charged with seven counts of perjury and obstruction in connection with the Robert Mueller investigation of Donald Trump, he’s been doing a lot of what he’s always done—being an abrasive jerk and a nuisance. On Friday, possibly to save America from hearing from Stone over the Presidents Day weekend, Judge Amy Berman Jackson slapped a gag order on Stone and his legal team, saying that there was a very real chance that Stone and his team could make statements that could result in “a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case.”
Judge Jackson highlighted the need for all parties to stop making statements and holding press conferences in and around the courthouse, saying that she worried about “public statements made in the District of Columbia, directed at individuals who may be members of the venire from which the jury will be drawn.”
According to CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Pérez, Stone can continue blathering away outside of D.C.x
Judge says her order is Ã¢Â€Âœnarrowly tailoredÃ¢Â€Â to not affect jury selection, meaning Roger StoneÃ¢Â€Â™s media tour is not entirely grounded. Judge says sheÃ¢Â€Â™s not putting any additional restrictions on StoneÃ¢Â€Â™s public statements & appearances for now. Order also applies to witnesses tooÃ¢Â€Â” Evan PÃƒÂ©rez (@evanperez) February 15, 2019
I wonder how long he can stay away from those microphones and cameras in front of the courthouse, which he loves so very much.
"The Wandering Earth"—an exciting Chinese science-fiction action-adventure—cured my winter depression. No, seriously: I happily joined a packed Times Square auditorium-full of moviegoers (last Friday, on opening day) in cheering on a talented ensemble cast of Mandarin-speaking stars—including action hero Wu Jing, comedy institution Man-Tat Ng, and rising stars Chuxiao Qu and Jinmai Zhao—as they worked together to save the Earth from crashing into Jupiter. I left the theater with renewed hope that "The Wandering Earth" would be one of this year's Chinese New Year's hits—and, sure enough, it went on to gross $300 million in China during its opening week alone. I'm very excited to see more where "The Wandering Earth" came from.
A couple of things set "The Wandering Earth" apart from the many other American sci-fi disaster movies—like "Armageddon," "The Day After Tomorrow," and "Sunshine"—that precede it. Neophyte director Frant Gwo and his six co-writers seemingly take the best elements from other American science-fiction movies (as well as Cixin Liu's source novel) and synthesize them in a visually dynamic and emotionally engaging way. For starters: while the movie's characters and basic plot may seem familiar—Chinese astronauts fight to save the Earth years after its leaders have turned our planet into a globe-sized spaceship(!) in order to save us from a fatally over-active sun(!!)—Gwo and his team never valorize a singular chest-puffing hero, nor do they scapegoat a mustache-twirling antagonist (not even MOSS, a sentient HAL-9000-style computer program).
"The Wandering Earth" also looks better than most American special-effects spectaculars because it features longer and more matte-paintings-on-steroids landscape shots of a dystopian Earth. This isn't that surprising once you learn that Gwo and his team realized their expensive-looking vision with the help of a handful of visual effects studios, including the Weta Workshop (all the "Lord of the Rings" and the recent "Planet of the Apes" movies). Still: the makers of "The Wandering Earth" were somehow able to blend their many influences in bold, stylish ways that only Hollywood filmmakers like James Cameron and Steven Spielberg have previously been able to.
In that sense, "The Wandering Earth" succeeds where so many other American movies have failed because it's both a great and uniquely Chinese sci-fi film. We follow two teams of Chinese astronauts to save the day: a two-man skeleton crew, comprised of the square-jawed Peiqiang Liu (Wu) and his Russian cosmonaut buddy Makarov (Arkady Sharogradsky); and a small exploratory group led by Peiqiang's feisty twenty-something son Qi Liu (Qu) and his optimistic girlfriend Duoduo Han (Zhao). These two factions respectively spend most of their time battling an unhelpful MOSS in a remote space station, and exploring an ice-covered Earth in stolen all-terrain vehicles (some of which bring to mind "Total Recall," specifically the tank-sized drill-cars that Arnold Schwarzenegger's antihero commandeers towards that film's ending).
That basic set-up may not sound particularly Chinese, but, as with all officially released Chinese movies (which must be approved by the government's censors), this one follows characters who ostentatiously love and respect their elders. Both Peiqiang and greybeard spaceman Zi'ang Han (Ng, formerly Stephen Chow's straight-man comedy partner) are accordingly treated with reverence because, well, they're older and therefore have more experience and moral fiber. "The Wandering Earth" also promotes a captivating (and very Chinese) belief in teamwork and the film's younger protagonists, whose unqualified optimism makes them as brazen as they are idealistic. "The Wandering Earth" is also a uniquely Chinese sci-fi blockbuster in that it's an apolitical blockbuster about a post-climate-change disaster that's also filled with narrative diversions that re-assure viewers: no single country's leaders are smarter, more responsible, or more capable than the others—except, of course, for the Chinese.
But the real secret to the success of "The Wandering Earth" is that its creators breathe new life into otherwise hackneyed tropes. Gwo and his team take a little extra time to show off the laser beams, steering wheels, and hydraulic joints that make their various computer-generated space-cars (and exo-skeleton suits and laser weapons) seem unique. Gwo, his co-writers, and his cast also go the extra mile to show viewers the emotional stress and natural obstacles that they all overcome while solving scientifically credible dilemmas (all of which were supervised by the Chinese Academy of Sciences). This movie may not be the next "2001: A Space Odyssey," but it's everything "2010: The Year We Make Contact" should have been (and I like "2010," a lot).
I'm still marveling at how good "The Wandering Earth" is, one week after seeing it. I can't think of another recent computer-graphics-driven blockbuster that left me feeling this giddy because of its creators' consummate attention to detail and infectious can-do spirit. The future is here, and it is gorgeous, nerve-wracking, and, yes, Chinese.
Republican former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has always been keen on voter suppression, pushing voter ID laws, whacking people from the voter rolls, and pushing a law that required people registering to vote to prove their citizenship. In 2011, Sam Brownback, who was then the state’s Republican governor, signed Kobach’s Kansas Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act, which, among other things, mandated that Kansas voters prove they are U.S. citizens. In 2013-2015, 36,000 Kansans had their registrations placed in a suspense file because they couldn’t immediately prove they were citizens.
Kobach has also been heavily involved in pushing to add the citizenship question to the U.S. census. He said in 2018 that he had raised the issue with Donald Trump shortly after his inauguration. In March 2018, despite strong objections from Democrats, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross added the question for the 2020 census. Litigation ensued to stop it.
On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court said it will take up the matter in a review of a case decided against Ross by a district court judge. The court’s ruling could have a tremendous impact on how many people refuse to answer census questions next year. And those uncounted people could reduce Democratic representation in Congress when districts are redrawn and affect how billions of dollars of federal money are distributed to the states.
You know which bullshit I’m talking about.
I’m a little more aggro than normal right now because the expert consultant we’ve hired is being mad condescending, and I definitely don’t have it in me to read more about… this bullshit.
Some folks have been asking how Samwise is adjusting:
Would that we all could be so well-adjusted.
For a couple of months I have basically been doing a tv news embargo- I basically will watch a little bit of the local news (especially since the WV Legislature is in session) to catch the weather, although around here the river and valleys make things pretty difficult to predict- basically if they say snow you can expect between a dusting and twelve inches because there really is never an accurate prediction. At any rate, this means I have not really seen Trump speak for a couple months, other than your random clip here or there. I didn’t watch the SOTU so I didn’t see him them.
There are a few reasons for this, one is to keep my blood pressure down- cable news if consumed in quantity can make you manic. The other is because I liked to read, I’m a very fast reader, and the information density in articles is just so much higher. It’s just easier to read for three minutes and get what I would from 20 minutes of tv and not have to listen to fucking Trump. I mean, I love Rachel Maddow, but sweet mother of God you ask her what time it is and she will tell you how to build a clock. It takes 32 minutes of teases to get to the fucking nut graf and then it’s some shit you already new because you saw the breaking news from Buzzfeed on twitter 2 hours ago. It’s like sitting on the edge of the bed being told how good the sex is going to be for so long you just fall asleep before anything happens.
At any rate, the reason I tell you this is I just watched Trump’s press conference in which he declared a national emergency for an existential crisis and then noted that he “didn’t have to do this.” At any rate, what stood out to me was “SWEET FANCY MOSES THIS GUY IS INSANE AND UNHINGED.”
This is not a new revelation- I mean I have known he was nucking futz for quite some time. But going a few months with our hearing half words dribble out his rancid piehole and then watching that spectacle today was just jarring. It’s alarming how we’ve all just been normalized to him being a madman. I mean, he’s fucking certifiable.
If you watched Trump today and it was the first time you had ever seen him, you’d think either “holy shit this episode of VEEP is some inspired writing” or “when did they reboot the Office?” I mean, you woldn’t let someone like that run your boy scout troop. Or a fucking McDonalds.
Jesus tapdancing christ.
I’m working on an column about, among other things, the arc of federal support for science since World War II. As I was trying not to think about our national emergency national emergency this morning, I tripped over the following thought…
The funding deal Pelosi, McConnell et al. worked out included $1.375 billion for new barrier construction along the border (not, technically, a or the wall). That’s a win for the Democrats and a defeat for Trump, as it’s a tiny fraction of the amount that the bigot-in-chief sought, and that would be necessary to truly fortify the frontier. For what follows I’m going to ignore the faux emergency through which the would-be dictator seeks to seize other money to pay for some useless shit, and just look at that number.
So, what makes for a powerful country? I’d argue that the ability to project force around the world is in many ways the least significant part of it. Certainly, in a globally connected world, with the full range of surveillance technology and so forth, the notion of using technology perfected by, say, 1400 or so, overlapping fortifications, to keep folks out is…
US power since the middle of the last century has certainly been headlined by the military; but our capacity to influence life at home and abroad on a daily basis, in the hour-by-hour experience of billions, has turned on everything else, from our cultural impact (jeans! Rock and roll!) to, crucially and perhaps most significantly, the scientific, medical and technological revolutions fostered by the American research community.
That’s what got me going about even the seemingly de minimus amount of barrier funding in the spending bill.
The NIH budget for 2019 is $39.3 billion. In constant dollars, that’s nine percent below the peak funding achieved in 2003. About 80% of that money goes to research grants — so just shy of $32 billion pays for folks to address all the ills that befall Americans, and citizens of the world. For FY 2018 the National Science Foundation received $6.334 billion for research related activities.* *There are, of course, other significant pots of research money in the federal budget — DoD, DoE and Commerce all fund a lot. But the NSF is where curiosity-driven basic research gets its support, and the NIH is, of course, the one that as we all age we notice a lot, so that’s where I’m focusing this exercise in futile rage.
A first, obvious point. The money spent on the barrier would add more than twenty percent to recent NSF research budgets, and would represent a four percent boost to the NIH.
Within those numbers these factoids: the average research project grant at NIH in 2017 provided a skosh over $500,000 to award winners. The NSF funds such a wide range of projects and disciplines that the figures are a little opaque, but still, as of 2016, the average grant offered an annualized $177,100, while the median figure was $140,900 per year.
You can see where this is going. That barrier money could fund almost 2,800 more principal investigators trying to figure out cancer, Alzheimers, antiobiotic resistance and all the rest. It could pay for more than 12,000 researchers pursuing basic science — the kinds of questions with pay offs that can’t be anticipated, but that have, over the last century, utterly transformed the way humans live on earth.
FTR: I do know that budgets don’t work as sort of implied above. They’re political documents, so spending on foolish stuff is often the price to be paid to spend some on smart ideas. If we somehow avoid pouring a billion plus into holes in the ground along the Rio Grande, that money doesn’t readily flow to a lab. But the exercise is worth doing anyway, if only to point out how little, in budget terms, it would take to turbo charge research in this country.
The reasons for doing so extend beyond the value of knowledge for its own sake, of course, there’s the economic benefits of scientific research. There is an open argument about the size of the multiplier for each dollar invested in basic research, though less controversy about the benefits of investing in more translational or directly motivated work of the sort that shows up in many/most NIH proposals, for example. But the bottom line is that trying to figure out how nature works is good for the national (and global) bottom line.
Instead, we’re buying bollards.
And that’s how the American century ends.
Not with a catastrophic collapse, but the decision to put our national treasure to work in dumbest possible fashion, leaving aspiration, well being and wealth on the table.
With that — I’m done, and you’re up. Open thread.
*There are, of course, other significant pots of research money in the federal budget — DoD, DoE and Commerce all fund a lot. But the NSF is where curiosity-driven basic research gets its support, and the NIH is, of course, the one that as we all age we notice a lot, so that’s where I’m focusing this exercise in futile rage.
Image: Vincent van Gogh, The Ramparts of Paris, 1887