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26 posts
  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Border Wars
The Tornillo, Texas, detention facility for unaccompanied minors, where a report says workers did not undergo sufficient background checks.
The Tornillo, Texas, detention facility for unaccompanied minors, where a report says workers did not undergo sufficient background checks. (Herika Martinez/AFP/Getty Images)

The federal government owns a detention center for children in Tornillo, Texas, an El Paso-area border village of some 1,600 people. Coincidentally, the Tornillo Influx Care Facility also houses about 1,600 minors, though there are plans to increase the capacity to 3,800 beds.

Unfortunately for the migrant children detained there, BCFS Health and Human Services, the Texas nonprofit agency the government’s Office of Refugee Resettlement hired to operate the center, failed to conduct sufficient background checks on 1,300 employees hired to care for the children, including whether staff members have a history of child abuse or neglect.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.
California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The Republican Party can count another notable defection this week: California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who told reporters this week that she decided to dump her affiliation with the GOP after the Brett M. Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings. She reregistered as having no party preference.

This was news to me in part because I didn’t realize Cantil-Sakauye was a Republican, though I knew she had been appointed by one, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact, I never gave much thought about her political affiliation, which is exactly what you want in a chief justice.

I can’t believe the Republican Party wants to chase away smart people, especially women. But as long as the party’s leadership continues to cover for the toxic president, more are likely to leave. (If this were a novel, it would soon be revealed that the Trump presidency was an elaborate plot cooked up by foreign agents in order to destroy the Republican Party from within.)

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The death of a 7-year-old migrant in Border Patrol custody spotlights treatment of migrants.
The death of a 7-year-old migrant in Border Patrol custody spotlights treatment of migrants. (Scott Eisen / Getty Images)

The death last week of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl hours after Border Patrol agents took her and her father into custody is a tragic turn of events that engenders no small amount of finger-pointing and recriminations. Someone must be to blame, but who?

White House spokesman Hogan Gridley told reporters Friday morning that the death was “a horrific, tragic situation. Obviously, our hearts go out to the family and to anyone who's suffered any type of danger and peril that they see so often when they make that trek up from the southern border.”

He then turned political: “It's a needless death and it's 100% preventable. If we could just come together and pass some common sense laws to disincentivize people from coming up from the border and encourage them to do it the right way, the legal way, then those types of deaths, those types of assaults, those types of rapes, the child smuggling, the human trafficking that would all come to an end. And we hope Democrats join the president.”

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  • Opinion
  • The Golden State
  • Rule of Law
A new report finds that 11 of 25 inmates executed in the U.S. this year suffered from mental illness.
A new report finds that 11 of 25 inmates executed in the U.S. this year suffered from mental illness. (Los Angeles Times)

It’s been apparent for years that the American death penalty system is so deeply and irredeemably flawed that it should not be used to determine whether someone should die for a crime. It’s prone to manipulation by prosecutors and police, witnesses get details wrong (intentionally and not), and the penalty is applied disproportionately on minorities and the poor.

But a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center also argues that the death penalty is also disproportionately applied on people with mental illness and brain traumas.

The organization, which released its annual year-end overview early Friday morning, reports that of 25 executions in 2018 — a near-record low for the modern era — at least 11 of the condemned displayed “significant evidence of mental illness.” Further, at least nine showed “evidence of brain injury, developmental brain damage, or an IQ in the intellectually disabled range” and at least 11 had suffered “chronic serious childhood trauma, neglect, and/or abuse.” Many of the executed fell into more than one category.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Swamp
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) departs the White House Wednesday.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) departs the White House Wednesday. (Michael Reynolds / EPA-EFE/REX)

Some things are just too good to be true, yet it’s hard to resist believing them. That story about Miley Cyrus telling fans to worship Satan if they wanted to be rich and famous like her? Ummm, no. Or the new PlayStation 4 for $89 on Black Friday? Sorry.

This next news tidbit probably falls into that category:

This would be a Washington reporter’s dream. Gingrich can’t help himself — he is a chaos machine. Yes, so is the man who might employ him; both seem to jump from one idea to the next, regardless of how big a gap there might be between the two concepts. But Gingrich is cerebral, and President Trump is … not.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
President Trump's statement that he would consider interfering with the case against Meng Wanz if it would help trade is dangerous.
President Trump's statement that he would consider interfering with the case against Meng Wanz if it would help trade is dangerous. (Maxim Shipenkov / EPA/Shutterstock)

When Canadian authorities arrested Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou last week at the request of the U.S. government, questions immediately surfaced over whether the American arrest warrant was an independent act of the Justice Department seeking to enforce sanctions against Iran, as it claimed, or whether Meng was just a bargaining chip in Trump’s trade battles with China, as Beijing officials claimed.

The president seemed to erase any doubt earlier this week when he told Reuters that he “would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary,” which converted Meng from a suspected felon into an apparent hostage.

That’s dangerous ground, as the world learned with news that China has detained two Canadian citizens on unspecified national security charges, a clear response to Meng’s arrest. One, Michael Kovrig, is a former Canadian diplomat on leave from his government job as he works as a respected international analyst for the International Crisis Group; the other, Michael Spavor, runs cultural exchange programs with North Korea.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
Letitia James at her victory party after being elected attorney general of New York.
Letitia James at her victory party after being elected attorney general of New York. (Andres Kudacki / Associated Press)

New York state’s incoming attorney general has put a target on President Trump’s back.

“We will use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well,” Democratic Atty. Gen.-elect Letitia James told NBC News in an eyebrow-raising interview published Wednesday.

James mentioned several specific areas of potential investigation, including Trump’s real estate holdings in New York; the Trump Foundation; and the now-famous 2016 Trump Tower meeting involving Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and a Russian lawyer said to have incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

  • Opinion
John Mulaney performs onstage at a benefit in New York City.
John Mulaney performs onstage at a benefit in New York City. (Getty Images)

How can it be that no one (besides Whoopi Goldberg) wants to host the Oscars?  

Are other comics worried that internet users will unearth some cyber trove of homophobic, sexist or racist remarks and stand-up routines in their pasts?  Just days after the announcement that Kevin Hart would host, the comic bowed out when years-old homophobic tweets and footage of his onstage ruminations on why he hoped his son wouldn’t be gay resurfaced on social media. (As he stepped down, he apologized on Twitter for “my insensitive words from my past.”)

Is that why we’re in danger of having the new hashtag #OscarsSoHostless?  

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Border Wars
President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) exchange words during a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday.
President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) exchange words during a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday. (Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE/REX)

When Washington braces for a potential government shutdown, the usual ritual is that Republicans and Democrats will posture over who will get blamed.

President Trump, however, made it clear Tuesday morning that he will be the one shutting down the government if Congress doesn’t provide money for the bigger, more expansive wall he has promised to build along the southern U.S. border. 

Meeting with the top House and Senate Democrats, Trump engaged in a surprisingly public airing of differences over the last remaining appropriations bills. Funding for about half of the federal government will run out Dec. 21 unless Congress acts to extend it, but it appears that lawmakers and Trump are at an impasse — he wants $5 billion to help fund his project, but he may not have enough votes for the wall funding in either chamber.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Border Wars
Part of the recently closed camp for migrants, mostly Central Americans, at a sports park adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana.
Part of the recently closed camp for migrants, mostly Central Americans, at a sports park adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana. (Scott Martelle / Los Angeles Times)

It is only in an administration as dysfunctional and truth-averse as this one that people from other countries exercising their statutorily defined right to seek asylum in the U.S. can be viewed as taking advantage of a “loophole” in immigration laws.

On Monday, the government released statistics showing that the number of people seeking asylum at the border with Mexico has skyrocketed from 55,584 in 2017 to 92,959 in 2018, most of them unaccompanied minors or families with minor children. But asylum seekers still make up only a thin slice of the total number apprehended at the border — 18%, up from 13%.

And two-thirds of asylum-seekers are denied, a percentage that has risen dramatically under Trump policies narrowing the conditions that meet the asylum standard. The vast majority of asylum-seekers are fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — conditions that have been influenced by U.S. policies, particularly those of the Reagan and first Bush administrations. Whether those were good or bad policies is a topic for another discussion, but the U.S. decision to support anti-leftist actors during insurrections and civil wars added to the violence and destabilization of the region. Those actions helped lay the foundation for other problems too, from corrupt governments to powerful street gangs, some of which came together here in Los Angeles.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
Leslie McCrae Dowless sits in his kitchen in Bladenboro, N.C.
Leslie McCrae Dowless sits in his kitchen in Bladenboro, N.C. (Justin Kase Conder/ Washington Post)

President Trump’s voter fraud commission was launched in 2017 on the false premise that massive voter fraud by non-citizens prevented Trump from winning the popular vote in 2016.

Since there is no evidence that this type of fraud was or is going on in any significant way, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was doomed from the start. And in January, after a short and ignoble life characterized by ineptitude and infighting, it disbanded without having uncovered any fraud other than its own existence.

Maybe the commission, led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, might have survived if it hadn’t been looking for fraud in all the wrong places. Instead of California and other Democratic states, they might have found what they were looking for right at home in Trump country.