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“Where Will It All End?”: Trump’s New Mexico Proposal Is Much Crazier And More Nightmarish Than You Thought

Donald Trump’s new proposal — if you can call it that — to force Mexico to fund a border wall by threatening to cut off money transfers into that country could prove even crazier and more nightmarish than it first appears.

In particular, it could require literally every person anywhere in the country who wants to transfer money abroad to present proof of lawful presence — or, if not, it could force private businesses to potentially discriminate against Mexican immigrants, several immigration policy analysts with varying specializations on the issue tell me. And it could also fuel an explosion of black-market money-transferring activities.

Under the proposal, which was outlined to the Washington Post in a two-page memo, President Trump would threaten to change a rule under the U.S.A. Patriot Act, to require that “no alien may wire money outside of the United States unless the alien first provides a document establishing his lawful presence in the United States.”

Once apprised of this threat, which would cause tens of billions of dollars in remittances to Mexico to dry up, Mexico would instantly cave and cough up $5-10 billion to build a Great Trumpian Wall on the border, his memo boasts.

The Post story about this proposal points out that there are major legal obstacles to actually achieving such a rules change, and also notes that the prospect of a major confrontation with Mexico over the idea could prove prohibitive.

But just as bad or worse than any of that, the practical on-the-ground consequences of actually implementing this proposal could be quite dramatic and nightmarish. It raises possibilities that (you’d think) Trump’s opponents could use to persuade GOP voters that he is less-than-prepared for the presidency, to put it charitably.

For Trump’s proposal to work, one of two things would have to happen, these analysts tell me: Either every transfer of money abroad would require the agent carrying out the transaction to demand documentation of lawful presence from the person looking to send money. Or the agent would only have to run such a check on those who are sending money to Mexico in particular. Trump’s proposal seems to require this of every “alien” looking to transfer funds abroad, which would seem to mean anywhere outside the U.S. But the memo’s broader aim — forcing Mexico in particular to its knees — suggests he may mean the latter.

“Under Trump’s proposal, every individual sending money outside of the United States would first have to establish his legal authority to be in the U.S.,” Fernand Amandi, a principle of Bendixen and Amandi International, which has studied remittances for decades, tells me.

“The dog whistle that one can interpret or decipher from the memo is that it’s targeting Mexican undocumented immigrants only,” Amandi adds. “The implication of this is that it would require lawful proof of residence in the U.S. only from people who are transferring money to Mexico. Until Trump is explicit about this policy, we can’t know for certain which of these he means.”

Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst for the libertarian Cato Institute, agrees. “The only way to do this is to force every Western Union or bank employee to ask for proof of lawful presence,” Nowrasteh tells me. “Unless you want to patrol every transaction, it would have to stereotype specifically against Mexican Americans and Mexicans in the United States.”

In other words, this would impact “$125 billion in annual remittances from the U.S. to the entire world,” or it would require those carrying out transfers to “profile all their customers, determine which are sending money to Mexico, and block that,” Nowrasteh says. Either way, this would be an “expensive government regulation that would impact global capital flows,” he adds.

“The agents would provide this service upon presentation of proof of lawful presence in the United States,” says Manuel Orozco, an expert on remittances at the Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank in Washington that focuses on western hemispheric policy. “None of this is feasible in any way.”

Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute also sees the possibility that Trump’s proposal could cause a rise in criminal money-transfering activity — and an increase in illegal immigration.

“Black market channels would be quickly utilized for funneling money abroad,” Nowrasteh says. “Immediately it would all go underground.” He predicts that this business might flow into already existing underground money-transfer channels, such as to people who literally “haul cash across the border on their backs.” Or people might buy stocks and transfer those, to be sold in Mexico. Or, if the restriction were only on money being transferred to Mexico, as opposed to all money transferred abroad, some might send money to a third party in another country who would then send the money on to Mexico.

And there’s still more! “Blocking remittances could create more incentives for Mexicans to come here and stay here longer, because income flows are cut off,” Nowrasteh says. “That’s clearly not Trump’s goal.”

Trump has shown a talent for offering up proposals that seem ever more batty than the ones that came before, no matter how crazy the previous ones seemed. Trump launched his campaign amid a vow to carry out mass deportations and build a border wall. He then followed that with a promise to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country. Now he’s somehow managed to make the initial border wall proposal — which has been the lodestar of his whole candidacy — seem even more outlandish still.

As nutty as some of these previous proposals have seemed, his GOP rivals have at times responded with surprisingly mute criticism combined with movement in his direction. Trumpism has compelled Marco Rubio to call for stepped up surveillance of mosques and it has driven Ted Cruz to rule out legalization of the 11 million and to call for increased patrols of Muslim neighborhoods. At this point, it’s impossible to even venture a suggestion as to where it will all end.

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, April 5, 2016

April 9, 2016 Posted by | Border Wall, Donald Trump, Mexico | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Leader Of The Leave-Me-The-Hell-Alone Coalition”: Rand Paul Is Fighting For Your Privacy—Unless You’re A Woman

“The right to be left alone is the most cherished of rights,” Kentucky senator and presidential aspirant Rand Paul said over the weekend in San Francisco. He was there to sell himself to the young tech elite as a civil-liberties crusader; the only candidate willing to take an uncompromising stand against government surveillance. He cares so deeply about privacy that he’s planning to filibuster the renewal of parts of the Patriot Act.

But the leader of “the leave-me-the-hell-alone coalition” is simultaneously, albeit more quietly, arguing that women should have little privacy in their healthcare decisions. “The government does have some role in our lives,” Paul said at a summit organized by the anti-choice Susan B Anthony List in April, by which he meant making abortion illegal. Paul describes himself as “100 percent pro-life.” Along with all of the other Republican presidential candidates he supports a bill that resurfaced this week in the House that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Recently Paul has become something of a champion for anti-abortion groups that are trying to reframe the abortion debate so that pro-choice views seem extreme. Pressed by reporters last month to clarify whether his support for abortion bans includes exceptions, Paul deflected the question by calling up the specter of late-term abortions. “Why don’t we ask the DNC: Is it OK to kill a seven-pound baby in the uterus?” he said to a New Hampshire journalist. No matter that only 1 percent of abortions in the United States occur after 21 weeks of pregnancy; claiming Democrats endorse the “killing” of babies is an easy way not to account for his selective support for personal liberty.

Paul’s hypocrisy isn’t new. Indeed, one of the long-standing ironies of American politics is that the people who decry government meddling in, say, healthcare are the ones calling most vociferously for the government to step in to regulate women’s bodies. As Katha Pollitt noted in Pro, conservatives like Paul never would propose to restrict access to guns, despite the tens of thousands of deaths caused by gun violence in the United States each year. Only when it comes to women does “life” trump individual freedom.

It’s still worth pointing out how inconsistent Paul’s advocacy for civil liberties is (and on issues beyond abortion), since that’s the platform he’s using to distinguish himself. If Paul really believed in “the right to be left alone,” he’d demand that women be allowed as much control over their bodies as their phone records.

 

By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, May 12, 2015

May 13, 2015 Posted by | Rand Paul, Reproductive Choice, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Folksy Panderin’ In Bubba-Ville”: Huckabee 2016; Bend Over And Take It Like A Prisoner!

Great American leaders have long contributed profound thoughts of tremendous consequence to the public discourse.

Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Kennedy: “Mankind must put an end to war — or war will put an end to mankind.”

Reagan: “Trust, but verify.”

And now, similarly, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee: “Bend over and take it like a prisoner!”

Earlier this week, Huckabee ended his Fox News talk show so he could spend time mulling another bid for the Republican nomination. If the contents of Huckabee’s latest book – due out January 20th – are any indication, the overarching message of that campaign will be that the government is, um, having its way with the American public in a method that Huckabee, a Christian conservative, finds rather repulsive.

“Bend Over and Take it Like a Prisoner!” is the title of the 10th chapter of Huckabee’s 12th book, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy – which, as a whole, is an achievement in the genre of poorly written pandering.

The chapter, ostensibly about the TSA and IRS, is a soaring crescendo of latent homosexuality homoeroticism cloaked in almost libertarian – but not libertine! – conservatism.

It opens with Huckabee’s dramatic recollection of going through security at the airport. “Where else would I be ordered to stand still, put up my hands, and have my personal belongings taken and searched without a warrant or probable cause?” He asks. “After years of this indignity, much of the flying public thinks little of it, and they usually don’t complain. They just dutifully stand there, bend over, and take it like a prisoner.”

Clickbait title notwithstanding, Bend Over and Take It Like a Prisoner! is not devoid of substance. Although Huckabee’s condescending tone – like that of an elementary school history teacher – makes it difficult to take seriously.

He takes aim at the Department of Homeland Security and the USA Patriot Act: “…did anyone anticipate that not many terrorists would really get punished as a result of this act, but that American citizens would?”

He then quotes Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

“What would Ben say today?” Huckabee wonders. “Would he cheerfully go through a full-body scanner that electronically strip-searched him and then allow a federal agent to put his blue-gloved hands inside his pants and over his thighs, crotch, and upper body for the sake of domestic travel on a privately owned commercial carrier? I’ll bet you a Benjamin that he most certainly would not. (Come to think of it, though, kite flying Ben would definitely be in awe of this and every other use of…electricity! Also airplane flight, but I digress.)”

Huckabee then basically reprints – in full –  a few Politico Magazine articles by former TSA agent Jason Edward Harrington, because he has space to fill (later in the book, he writes out the lyrics to Simple Life by Lynyrd Skynyrd,).

He then provides some insight into his psyche – complete with Animal House reference.

While excoriating the IRS, Huckabee brings his readers along on a flashback to his youth.

“They remind me of a sadistic coach at my high school who used to enjoy ‘giving licks’ to teen boys for any infraction of his rules. Just so you know, ‘giving licks’ was the term used to describe the coach hitting the butt of a student with a short-handled boat paddle, riddled with holes to minimize wind resistance and enhance striking power…The coach had a rule that if you got a ‘lick’ you were required to say, ‘Thanks, coach, may I have another one?’ And most often he would say, ‘Sure,’ and pop you again. One might get three or four before the coach finally said, ‘No, I think you’ve had enough,’ and stop his twisted abuse of a helpless adolescent. Whenever I think of the IRS, I see that coach standing with his paddle, expecting em to say, ‘Thanks, IRS, may I have another one?’”

In closing, Huckabee condemns the current US government for being a “ham-fisted, hypercontrolling ‘Sugar Daddy,’ ” that has conditioned Americans “to just bend over and take it like a prisoner.” But, Huckabee writes, “In Bubba-ville, the days of bending are just about over. People are ready to start standing up for freedom and refusing to take it anymore.”

Now, the book does include a disclaimer on the back cover.

It is “not a recipe book for Southern cuisine, nor a collection of religious devotionals, nor a manual on how to properly load a semiautomatic shotgun.” Instead, “It’s a book about what’s commonly referred to as ‘flyover country.”

Clad in a blue, striped button-down, a silver watch adorning his left wrist, Huckabee beams on the cover. He stands, one assumes on a porch, which overlooks a prairie. “After you finish the book,” he writes, “you might just say, ‘Dang, those good ol’ boys ain’t so dumb after all.

 

By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, January 8, 2015

January 10, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Homophobia, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Little Evidence”: On Civil Liberties, Comparing Obama With Bush Is Easy, And Mostly Wrong

Nearly a dozen years after the passage of the PATRIOT Act — rushed through Congress in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation — informed debate over the balance between liberty and security is long overdue.  That includes a public examination of how widely and deeply the National Security Agency (and other elements of the “intelligence community”) may monitor Americans’ telecommunications without violating the Bill of Rights.

But that needed discussion isn’t enhanced by hysteria or the partisan opportunism it encourages.  As others have noted already, the supposed revelation that the NSA is collecting metadata on telephone use in this country isn’t exactly startling news. The fugitive ex-CIA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked documents concerning that program to the London Guardian and the Washington Post, may yet unveil more startling revelations from his peculiar refuge in China. But anyone paying attention has known about this program since 2006, when USA Today first disclosed its existence.

The most important difference today is that Americans are no longer too frightened by the constant “terror alerts” of the Bush administration to consider the boundaries of surveillance and security.  Rather than hyping the terrorist threat, like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, President Obama has repeatedly framed a calmer — if equally resolute — attitude toward Islamist extremism.

So while facile comparisons between the Obama and Bush administrations now appear every day in the media, they are quite misleading. Uttered by Republicans and their mouthpieces on Fox News, such arguments are hypocritical as well.

Consider the single most important surveillance controversy of the Bush era, namely the warrantless wiretapping undertaken on the president’s orders. In December 2005, the New York Times revealed that Bush had authorized the NSA to monitor phone calls and emails originating in U.S. territory, without obtaining warrants as required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. (That’s why it was called “warrantless.”) For the first time since Watergate – and the intelligence reforms resulting from that true scandal — the U.S. government had eavesdropped on Americans’ conversations without seeking the permission of a judge.

Only months before, Bush had claimed publicly that he was a steward of civil liberties and that his agents always got a court order before implementing a wiretap. But his administration had been using warrantless wiretaps ever since the 9/11 attacks.

Those trespasses against liberty went considerably further than the collection of metadata by the NSA.  No reports indicate that the Obama administration violated existing law to eavesdrop on any American — or listened to any calls without the sanction of the special FISA court.

Yet reaction to the recent stories about the NSA’s policies has been far more intense than eight years ago. Pundits and politicians have compared Obama unfavorably with Richard Nixon, berating him as a tyrannical betrayer of civil liberties. A few prominent Republicans even seem determined to ruin the NSA, solely because they wish to embarrass the president – a motive that other Republicans attribute to Snowden, whom they vilify as a traitor.

Not a peep was heard from Republicans on Capitol Hill when Bush, his vice president Dick Cheney, and their lawyers were practicing and promoting the theory of the “unitary executive,” under which any act ordered by the president in wartime, including warrantless wiretapping, is deemed inherently legal and exempt from judicial review. What exercised the Republicans in those days was the temerity of the Times in revealing what Bush had done.

As for Obama, the complicated truth is a mixed record on civil liberties. He tried and failed to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and he supported the renewal of the PATRIOT Act without changes. But he also substantially reformed the use of military commissions and abolished the use of torture, renditions, and secret prisons. In ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has rejected the “permanent war” ideology, which the Bush regime deployed as a political weapon against dissent.

So far there is little evidence that Obama shares the dangerous theories of Bush and Cheney – but no president should enjoy the kind of exemption from congressional scrutiny that his predecessors exploited. Whatever Snowden’s intentions may be, he has inspired members of Congress to provide stricter oversight of the government’s gargantuan data-gathering efforts, which are inherently prone to overreach even under the most responsible supervision. At the very least, Congress and the public need to know how the government wields its powers under the PATRIOT Act – an interpretation that remains classified and thus precludes democratic oversight.

The president’s response to that question will test his commitment to the Constitution he swore to uphold.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, June 14, 2013

June 16, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Civil-Liberties Freak-Out”: Caught Up In The Conspiracy

Unaccustomed as I am to agreeing with Marc Thiessen, hell has frozen over and he’s on the right track about the National Security Agency–leaks nonscandal.

First of all, we pretty much knew everything that has “broken” in the past week. The NSA has been involved in a legal data-mining operation for almost a decade. Its legality was clarified in the renewal of the Patriot Act, which I supported. It has been described, incorrectly, as electronic eavesdropping. What is really happening is that phone and Internet records are being scanned for patterns that might illuminate terrorist networks. If there is a need to actually eavesdrop, the government has to go to the FISA court for permission.

Those who see the federal government as a vast corporate conspiracy or a criminal enterprise — in other words, paranoids of the left and right — are concerned about this. More moderate sorts should also have cause for concern — especially if a rogue government, like Nixon’s, were in power. We have to remain vigilant that the snooping stays within reasonable bounds; that’s why we have congressional oversight committees. And that’s where the paranoid tinge comes in: the FISA court, the congressional committees, the President and journalists like me are obviously incompetent or caught up in the conspiracy. Of course, there has been absolutely no evidence presented that the current parameters are unreasonable. Yes, I expect that some of my phone and e-mail traffic has been picked up in the data trawling. I travel fairly frequently to places like Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt, the West Bank and the rest of the region; part of my job is to talk to partisans on all sides — and also to talk to sources in the U.S. military and intelligence communities. I have no problem with the government knowing that I’m doing my job.

I do have a problem with individuals like Bradley Manning divulging secrets that may well put lives in danger; his reckless actions require criminal sanction. I also have a problem with sources within the government who leak news that endangers the lives of U.S. intelligence assets overseas — the leaker or leakers who gave the Associated Press the story about the second undie bomber, for example. That leak compromised a highly sensitive operation that involved the Saudi bombmaker our government considers the most dangerous man in the world. (I think that the Department of Justice hounding the Fox News reporter, or any other journalist, was well over the line, though.)

This is a difficult issue and will become even more difficult in the future as technology becomes more sophisticated. I applaud civil libertarians like Glenn Greenwald who draw our attention to it. But it is important to keep it in perspective. Far too many people get their notions of what our government is all about from Hollywood; the paranoid thriller is a wonderful form of entertainment, but it’s a fantasy. The idea that our government is some sort of conspiracy, that it’s a somehow foreign body intent on robbing us of our freedoms, is corrosive and dangerous to our democracy. This remains, and always will be, an extremely libertarian country; it’s encoded in our DNA. We now face a constant, low-level terrorist threat that needs to be monitored. A great many lives are potentially at stake … and our national security is more important than any marginal — indeed, mythical — rights that we may have conceded in the Patriot Act legislation. In the end, the slippery-slope, all-or-nothing arguments advanced by extreme civil libertarians bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the slippery-slope, all-or-nothing arguments advanced by the National Rifle Association.

 

By: Joe Klein, Time Magazine,  June 10, 2013

June 14, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, National Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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