Friday, June 29, 2018


The MV Aquarius used to be a German Coast Guard and fisheries protection vessel that, back then (1977) was christened the Meerkatze. It was re-christened the Aquarius in 2016, when it was acquired by the NGOs SOS Méditerranée and Doctors Without Borders as a life-saving rescue vessel used to save would-be refugees crossing the Mediterranean to Italy from war-torn and poverty-stricken areas of Africa in unseaworthy vessels that often sink or capsize killing thousands in recent years.
The Aquarius operated by SOS Méditeranée and Doctors
Wthout Borders
These desperate voyagers form part of a major flow of mostly African diaspora feeding the current refugee crisis in Europe. It is clear that this sort of mass migration has posed a humanitarian dilemma for numerous countries in Europe and that some, like Germany and France, have stepped up to help handle the influx, while others have sought to deflect the problem. Mass migration was, for instance, one of the main considerations behind the Brexit referendum, which is in the process of ending Britain’s membership in the European Union. Britain has, like the United States, chosen to see migration as a national security rather than a humanitarian issue.
Until now, because of its relative proximity to Libya, Italy has been a main port of entry for Africans seeking asylum. But as of earlier this month, Italy’s new Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, a law professor who has never held political office before, has implemented a new rightwing populist government that is taking a harsh stance on immigration, while stirring anti-European Union sentiments among his base. His Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has now begun to turn away rescued asylum-seekers arriving by sea from African and Arab countries, as well as from places like Bangladesh.
The Lifeline, operated by Mission Lifeline
As a result, the Aquarius was not permitted to dock in Italy earlier this month with several hundred rescued migrants on board. It was, instead, escorted to Spanish waters after the government of Spain offered to permit debarkation of refugees in Valencia, some 850 nautical miles away. The island nation of Malta south of Italy is also refusing rescued refugees and another ship, the Lifeline, operated under a Dutch flag by the German NGO Mission Lifeline, had to negotiate with the Maltese government to put into port there after the ship ran into trouble and had to dock for repairs.
In the case of both ships, Italy’s new government has a new take and is toying with the idea of charging them with human trafficking. The idea is that if those being rescued knew that there would be no rescue ships to pick them up, they would no longer put out to sea in inadequate small craft.  
This last is an oversimplification of the situation. The reality is that the drama of desperate refugees setting sail in death-trap vessels operated by the real human smugglers, who have built a nearly 200-million-dollar a year business based of human misery, predates the rescue effort, which is a humanitarian response to, rather than a cause of the current refugee crisis. Criminalizing such efforts by equating them with trafficking promises to tie the hands of the NGO’s operating them.
Furthermore, the message hidden behind the flimsy justification which supposes that if there’s no rescue there will be no migrant issue is a policy that seeks to curtail help and let the problem sort itself out. In other words, simply provide no lifeline and let the would-be refugees drown.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said it best: “We are facing a migration situation that no one can fix alone. If we look at the reality of things, we cannot just speak of a 'migration crisis.' It is a European political crisis.” This is certainly true in neighboring Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal humanitarian immigration policy could well cost her a no-confidence vote led by neo-nationalists following her 13 years as the head of state.
But Macron is right that it is a burgeoning problem that no one can fix alone, but also one that no one can ignore. It is, moreover, a problem created over the course of decades to a large extent by many of the Western nations, including the United States and Britain, that are most adamant about doing nothing to mitigate the consequences.
If every country in the West were to do its duty and its share, it would be a problem that could indeed find a solution. But the new far-right is taking the world in a direction that we thought had ended with World War II and the later fall of the Berlin Wall. Namely, a return to nationalism, isolationism and an autistic view of the world, just when what the world needs most is compassion, empathy and cooperation to solve its pressing humanitarian and environmental crises.

Thursday, June 28, 2018


Little Red Hen found a grain of wheat. “Who will plant this?” she asked. “Not I,” said the cat. “Not I,” said the goose. “Not I,” said the rat. “Then I will,” said Little Red Hen...
The owner of a Lexington, Virginia, family restaurant may have planted the seed of a trend this past week, when she made national headlines by politely and privately asking Presidential Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her party to leave the premises. The owner of the Red Hen Restaurant, Stephanie Wilkinson, has described herself as “not a huge fan of confrontation.”
Red Hen Restaurant
“I have a business, and I want the business to thrive,” she explained after the incident. But somehow, she just didn’t feel she could countenance Sarah Sanders’ presence on her property. It wasn’t a snap decision. Nor was it a command decision. She briefly talked it over with her employees, who, she indicates, expressed their disgust with the Trump administration’s stance against transgender people who want to serve in the country’s armed forces, and, more particularly, with Trump’s family separation policy regarding undocumented immigrants.
Based on her own convictions and those of her employees, Wilkinson asked the White House press secretary to step into the patio, and privately explained to Sanders that her business had “certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation,” and that she felt Sarah Huckabee Sanders clearly didn’t meet those standards. Therefore, she was asking Sanders to leave.
The conversations that Wilkinson has had with the media since the incident seem to make it fairly clear that this wasn’t the sort of situation or action that she was particularly comfortable with. She could have let it pass, not said anything, served Huckabee Sanders and her group of seven diners and simply hoped, in her heart of hearts, that this major presidential spokesperson never came back again. But, in the end, the restaurant owner didn’t feel she could do that in good faith.
Stephanie Wilkinson
Said Wilkinson, “This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”
As a liberal democratic thinker, I have squirmed a little over my feelings about this incident. The devil inside me dances a jig to see almost any complicit Trumpian defender—but particularly Lying Sarah—getting a hard time. But the justice-seeker and rights-defender in me is leery of situations in which anything like discrimination gets a pass.
Right away, I start thinking of baseball great Jackie Robinson eating in the kitchen or sleeping on the bus while his white teammates ate in restaurants and slept on hotel sheets. I also recall the barber in Yellow Springs, Ohio, when I was a boy, who refused service to African Americans because he “didn’t know how to cut Negro hair.” I see drinking fountains with signs that say “colored”, tired African Americans riding in the back of the public transport bus, restrooms marked  Men, Women and Colored. I also see Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, two African American men who were arrested earlier this year in a Starbucks coffee shop for loitering, when they told the management they were waiting for friends. (That incident, at least, had a happy ending: Nelson and Robinson sued and settled for one dollar each and two hundred thousand dollars for the setting up of a program for young entrepreneurs: clearly, in their case, it was about the principle, not the money).
Sarah Huckabee Sanders
But then I ask myself, is this the same thing? And the answer is, I don’t think so. This is more of a political statement, I feel, a First Amendment kind of question. It’s about a restaurant owner reserving the right of entry to the premises of a private business on moral and political grounds. The message is, you are defending the indefensible. You are taking money to relate unconscionable lies to the American public. You are the chief broadcaster of nefarious, unethical and undemocratic policies that defy the spirit and letter of American tradition and law and, as such, we’re refusing you service. Not because you are white, a Republican, a woman, a conservative or a government employee, but because you are complicit with and a promoter of policies and actions that we find morally and politically repugnant.
Is it legal to refuse service? That depends on what state laws and local ordinances say. Although under federal law, the Civil Rights Act prohibits the withholding of service due to race—and President Trump knows this since he has had more than one complaint brought against his real estate business under federal law for skirting rental of his properties to blacks. And then too, we’ve heard of business owners on the right who have gotten away with turning away same sex couples who wanted to buy a wedding cake, and of Kentucky clerk of courts Kim Davis who defied a federal order to issue a marriage license to a gay couple because it would be offensive to her religious beliefs. (Kentucky had to pay a quarter-million-dollar settlement, but Davis subsequently kept her job and became a hero to many Evangelicals). There have also been cases of gun range owners who have refused service to Muslims—one, Jan Morgan of Arkansas, proudly declaring the indoor shooting range she owns “a Muslim-free zone”.
The truth is that while a rather large minority of Americans support President Trump and find his most controversial policies almost refreshingly authoritarian, the vast majority of people in the United States are shocked, upset, frustrated and fearful of the trend that the US is taking under Donald Trump—a far-right trend that challenges the Constitution, engenders racism and religious discrimination, openly targets Muslims (even achieving conservative Supreme Court backing for a clearly discriminatory travel ban) and generally eroding the two and a half century old democratic foundations of the country. And as Red Hen owner Stephanie Wilkinson indicates, those who see and feel the demise of democracy and the onset of autocracy in the US are past passive worry and are seeking innovative and decisive actions to show that they are standing up to be counted rather than being complicit through silence.
The question remains, will such definitive actions serve any purpose other than making those who implement them feel they are taking a stand? And won’t the reaction that is bound to come from the other side only worsen the divisions that are already threatening to tear the fabric of the United States in two?
I’m thinking, no, to the first, and, yes, to the second. But I’m also thinking that there is little that can be done to change the outcome. The reality is that the United States is on the brink of an ideological confrontation that could have previously unthinkable consequences as its people become more and more polarized along political, racial and religious lines. Perhaps the most polarized that they have been since the Civil War.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


This is the real cover of Time Magazine on Trump's zero-tolerance immigration policy.

Below is how comedian and cartoonist Jim Carrey thinks it should have looked....

Jim nailed it!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


US President Donald Trump may contradict himself constantly and change policies like he changes socks, but where he can be counted on to remain ever consistent is when it comes to his complete opposition to truth.
This week he is again appealing to falsehoods as a means of defending the indefensible: his failed “zero tolerance” immigration policy. Tweeting and speaking in perpetual campaign mode to his base—who, let’s face it, have proven they will believe anything as long as it comes from the royal palomino’s mouth—he has offered up a multiple array of misconceptions and utter falsehoods about immigration and the law. These are lies that go beyond the realm of mere skewed viewpoints and minor prevarication and enter the territory of unconstitutionality.
Add caption
One of the first things that would-be despots and village tyrants in other parts of the world have done to consolidate power and play to their non-democratic base has been to infiltrate, elude or shut down the courts. The extent to which Trump has sought to do this is already apparent from his record-setting appointment of far-right judges to the US justice system. And since federal judges are appointed to their posts to serve “during good behavior”—another way of saying for life or until they voluntarily retire from office—their influence, and Trump’s, promises to carry over long after the current president is voted out of office or is no longer eligible to run.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, explained earlier this year just how important it was that Trump was seeking to paper the federal court system with as many far-right judges as he could (according to the GOP itself, more than ever before in the country’s nearly two and a half centuries of history). According to Feinstein, “The Supreme Court hears between 100 and 150 cases each year out of the more than 7,000 it’s asked to review. But in 2015 alone, more than 55,000 cases were filed in federal appeals courts.” The significance of this was, she explained, that “in a way, circuit courts serve as the de facto Supreme Court to the vast majority of individuals who bring cases. They are the last word.”
She described as “stunning” the speed with which Trump was appointing judges and the GOP congressional majority was ramming approval of these appointments through Congress.
But in some of his latest tweets, Trump has suggested that, when it comes to immigrants, he wants to circumvent the court system entirely. In other words, he would like to institute a kind of “hanging-judge” lawlessness on the border, where law enforcement officials would be able to act directly, in his name, and at their discretion, without the intervention of any immigration court at all. This too is what every despot has wanted and, if they were able to consolidate enough power, it has been exactly what they’ve done, set themselves up as judge, jury and executioner, given themselves a monopoly on rights, made the will of the people subordinate to their own and rendered the rights of the minority non-existent.
A Dana Ellyn painting...worth a thousand words
The president backs his call for absolute White House control of the border by employing falsehoods galore. Among them, that the border is being constantly permeated by terrorists. His claim in seeking ever tougher treatment of would-be immigrants has been that “Every day, sanctuary cities release illegal immigrants, drug dealers, traffickers, gang members back into our communities. They’re safe havens for just some terrible people.” And polls indicate that nearly half of the US population believes him.
But the facts don’t back his claim up. Studies show that while immigrant populations have been growing quickly over the last several decades, violent crime in the United States has been dropping steadily since 1980. A University of Buffalo study that was later expanded by The Marshall Project and that looked at statistics from over 135 urban areas across the US indicated that in almost 70 percent of those studied, the immigrant population increased between 1980 and 2016 while crime stayed stable or fell. And in the ten urban areas that saw the largest absolute increases in immigrants, crime levels were significantly lower in 2016 than in 1980.
Trump has also stated, irresponsibly and without any grounds in truth, that “they” (whoever “they” are) want to add 5,000 new immigration judges to handle what he tries to portray as an enormous influx of illegal immigrants. The fact is that the most salient proposal for finding a more effective way of handling illegal immigration cases has come from within his own party and was suggested by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Cruz has called for the doubling of immigration judges from 334 to about 750. That’s a far cry from 5,000.
Furthermore, in order to wield the kind of discretionary power that Trump wants the Executive Branch to have on US borders, he would necessarily have to violate the Constitution, international treaties and US legal precedents and regulations. Experts consulted by The Washington Post, for instance, indicate that there is an entire body of statutes and precedents that govern the due process afforded to asylum-seekers. They add that these are further underscored by such major international treaties as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.
And then there’s the Constitution. As retired University of Texas law professor Barbara Hines told Washington Post fact-checkers, “The Constitution and the immigration laws, other than expedited removal, administrative removal and other limited exceptions, do not provide for deportation without an administrative hearing before an immigration judge. That would violate due process.”
And even then, the federal government already wields enormous discretionary power through the kind of exceptional cases that Professor Hines quotes, in which law enforcement can detain and remove immigrants with no due process whatsoever.
There are mounting calls from the opposition, as Trump seeks ever increasing powers, to do away with ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency instituted under the Bush administration in 2003, in the wave of panic and paranoia that followed the 911 tragedy. The catch-all agency’s detractors accuse ICE of being an immigration shock force that has proven abusive and even cruel in carrying out its actions. Some people in the Trump administration have suggested that this is a virtue and what ICE was created for, to go where no other law enforcement group dares to tread and to operate only marginally within the law.
Before the advent of the Trump era, it would have been easy to conclude that the president is merely bloviating when he talks about handling immigration from the Oval Office and casting aside justice and the highest laws in the land to do it. But we’re quickly being cured under this administration of our naïve belief in the sanctity of the law and of human and civil rights. The feeling is growing that, under Trump, anything is possible, as long as its result is the erosion of high principles for which the United States was once known throughout the world.
Meanwhile, American Airlines, Frontier, Southwest and United Airlines are all now refusing to be accomplices to the government’s anti-immigrant campaign by affirming that they will no longer provide service to the federal government for transporting immigrant children separated from parents. The move came after flight attendants shared their experiences transporting immigrant infants, toddlers, and children separated from their parents by the government. Most indicated that they had been traumatized by the feeling of being complicit in the pain and confusion felt by their unwilling child passengers.
An American Airlines statement said: “We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it. We have every expectation the government will comply with our request (to refrain from booking detained migrant children on its flights) and we thank them for doing so.”
Clearly, the family separation policy could never work without the complicity of individuals and businesses outside of the government. American Airlines has taken the lead in bringing this fact to the fore. Hopefully it will maintain its line, and other businesses will follow the airline’s example in not lending themselves to this and other pernicious policies that the administration seeks to invoke.

Monday, June 25, 2018


TV celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who took his own life earlier this month, would have been 62 years old today. I thought this might be a good occasion to remember him briefly, because although he was best known as a “foodie” he was so much more than that.
Anthony Bourdain
Bourdain once described his TV shows as “stand-alone essays”. That was, indeed, what they were, outstanding literary pieces set to food and film excellence. Some years ago, I began watching his show, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on the Travel Channel while I had my lunch, and quickly became an avid fan. Although I appreciate good food of all sorts, I’ve never given any importance whatsoever to the finer points of the culinary arts. But that wasn’t why I watched Bourdain’s program. I watched it because it was, perhaps, some of the finest writing on television. And it was, as well, a cultural gold mine, a guided tour of the world from the vantage point of native dinner tables and backstreet food stalls, where Bourdain not only delved courageously into abundant and outrageously varied food and drink, but also into the politics, history and grassroots culture of the places he visited.
Bourdain was the type of guy every writer wants to meet (and be). I remember feeling a moment of grief when I heard he had done a show in Buenos Aires and I felt as if I’d missed a chance to see if I couldn’t, perhaps, meet him and talk to him for a while. I would have liked to have gotten to know him well enough to call him Tony.
But writers, I think, must have also envied him his powers of observation—a kind of radar that seemed to come on automatically as soon as he touched down in yet another country—and his ability to take those observations and mold them into a powerful, accurate, yet pleasant and compelling portrait of the places he visited.
In my own case, I couldn’t help also envying him his gig, not so much the part that concentrated on typical cuisines and how they were made, but surely the part where he stood up from the table, walked the streets in the company of locals, and described so eloquently what he saw, smelled, felt and heard. He was, without a doubt, a traveler, not a tourist, a philosopher, not an investigator, and he did a full immersion course in every culture in which he found himself, literally breaking bread with the world.
But the pieces he crafted were never travelogues per se.  Clearly, it was more literature than TV show. Like an audiovisual version of Henry Miller’s The Colossus of Maroussi, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, or John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. His competition was never other foodies, but the memory of other great TV travelers who preceded him, like CBS roving correspondent Charles Kuralt, or “the world’s foremost globetrotter” and 1950s CBS TV personality Lowell Thomas.
From the time I had watched Thomas as a boy and Kuralt as a teen, there was a voice inside me that told me that this was what I wanted to be, a traveler and writer. Seeing Bourdain’s show brought that longing back, made me want to be on the road again. Numerous times over the years, I’ve longed to put aside my other journalistic activities, the politics and the financials, and write about what really matters in life: the people, places and customs of different world cultures, what we all have in common and what sets us apart.
Few have done that as well as Anthony Bourdain.  

Sunday, June 24, 2018


By now, it has become famous—or infamous, depending on your viewpoint. Whatever your point of view might be, it wasn’t “just a jacket” as her spokespeople tried to convince us when they sought to backpedal, but a “fashion statement” that painted the Trump Regime from head to toe (almost).

I’m talking, of course, about Melania Trump’s field jacket, the one she wore to the US-Mexico border in what can only be seen as a failed attempt at a forced damage control mission after her husband enacted a nefarious policy that ended up with government-caged child hostages and migrant families separated with no real assurance of being reunited. The jacket was a common enough army green field jacket (marketed by Zara at about US$40), but on the back was emblazoned a strange message considering that she was heading to a place where there was real suffering going on—suffering for which her husband was entirely to blame: “I DON’T REALLY CARE, DO U?
There were numerous theories as to why Melania had worn the jacket. Few of them were naïve enough to express a belief that she wasn’t sending a message, or that she just grabbed the first thing off the coat rack by the kitchen door.
A London tabloid thought that “it must, MUST, be a hoax.” But no, her staff immediately jumped to the defense of her “fashion” choice. Melania’s spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham offered a “no theory theory.” It was just a jacket. There was no hidden massage. The president tweeted a (fake) theory of his own. It was, he said, a message “to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!” Perhaps the kindest theory of all was the one who had poor little rich girl Melania sending a private message to her mean old husband: It was a way of telling her husband: “I really don’t care” about how much you want to crack down on the borders; this isn’t fair to children. Another theory was that it was a message to The Don about their own personal relationship. Since the stories about porn star Stormy Daniels having gone to bed with Trump, Melania has been conspicuous by her absence from many events where she might be expected to accompany her husband. But then again, she’s been capricious about accompanying him ever since his presidency began. Still others thought the message was precisely about that, her absence from the scene and media speculation about where she was. This one seemed to me particularly far-fetched. The harshest theory was that it was a message to the migrants themselves, telling them, in short, that if they came into the country illegally and had their kids taken from them, then they deserved it and she didn’t care about their plight.
I have a theory of my own—which is no better or worse than anybody else’s—and since we may never know whether Melania was really trying to tell somebody something or she's just such an air-head that she put on a stupid, trendy jacket without even stopping to think what it said on the back, here goes: I think that Trump, in his usual contradictory way, put a policy in place without weighing the consequences. Typical executive that he is, he wanted to blame someone else for the immediate fallout. So when he decided to backtrack and try to fob the blame off on Democrats, he wanted to underscore the move by having his wife show the same kind of dismay and empathy displayed by Republican former First Lady Laura Bush. I submit that he very likely ordered Melania to go to the region where migrants and their children were being detained and she balked. Eventually, he or his staff talked her into it, but she wasn’t happy about going, so she decided to send her husband a message through the TV screen, which is where most of his focus is most of the day. The message: I’m going but only because you’re making me, And frankly, Donald, I don’t give a damn.  
Certain people on both sides of the running political war in the US seek consistently to justify Melania and to give her a break. The left, because she has several times shown contempt for and disagreement with her husband, more through body language than anything else, and without translating her rebellion into public statements. And the right because, in their eyes, Melania is an extension of Trump, and for them, Trump can do no wrong. But the only way not to be complicit with someone as monstrously insensitive, authoritarian, racist, isolationist, misogynistic and hateful as the current US president is by taking clear distance from him, and the First Lady (in point of fact The Third Lady, if you don’t count Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who clearly takes priority over his latest wife) continues to serve his purposes, no matter what might happen between them in private or what pranks she plays on him in public.
Whatever the case may be, the message on Melania’s jacket can’t be explained away. It was, at best, a childish, vulgar display of defiance toward the mission she was being sent on by her husband. At worst, it was a symptom of the contempt in which the Trumps and their regime hold human rights and the suffering of others.
In short, the American public and the world have no reason to have to interpret the allegedly minute nuances of an overtly crass and callous message displayed as if on a billboard across the US First Lady’s back. People take it at face value and at face value, it is a slap in the face to all of those who are suffering injustice at the hands of the current administration and to any decent person who believes in the feelings of others and in the sanctity and legitimacy of human rights.    

Saturday, June 23, 2018


What US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called a “zero tolerance policy” is, in fact, an unnecessary and cruel injustice imposed as an inhuman deterrent to Hispanic migrants and as a blackmail ploy to try and ram the administration’s nefarious and racist immigration policy down the throats of the opposition.

As I’m writing this, hundreds of children have been taken from their parents and dispersed to holding facilities all over the US, with no plan for how to eventually reunite them with their families, no proper installations in which to take care of them, and not even an appropriate system for identifying them and matching them with their parents. It’s important to reflect on the fact that, while this “policy” has taken sufficient flak to force the US president to reluctantly—and only partially—renege of the “jail everybody” order from the Department of Justice (DOJ), had such a procedure been implemented by some non-First World nation, it would have been decried throughout the West as tantamount to abduction and in violation of global human rights standards.
The process is authoritarian and immoral. It is traumatic and permanently damaging to many of the children who have suffered it, and the nightmare isn’t over yet.
From the outset, the procedure—if indeed such a horrendous procedure were to be implemented—should have been to have the data of parents and the children straight and cross-indexed instead of treating them all like criminals dragged in from the street and thrown nameless into holding tanks, for a “crime” that, until very recently, has been treated as a misdemeanor. As implemented by the Trump regime (if the administration insists on acting like a regime, then let’s call a spade a spade) the procedure employed is the same as under a number of dictatorships that I’ve reported on during my career in journalism. In those, children were often lost forever, or ended up not finding their long-lost relatives until 20 years or more later. From the reports of utter chaos and confusion emerging from the zero-tolerance policy implemented by Trump (with the collusion of his own evil advisory junta, Attorney General Sessions and White House advisors Stephan Miller and General John Kelly) this could happen as well to some of these kids who have been separated from their parents, caged, and then scattered like chaff in the wind.
Trump’s followers whom I interact with daily on the social media keep being offended by my references to Nazi Germany—mine and those of people like former National Security and CIA director, General Michael Hayden—but they’d better get used to it. Because that's how it's looking.

Gen Michael Hayden

Verified account

Jun 16
Other governments have separated mothers and children

Gen Michael Hayden

Verified account

Jun 16
This is Birkenau. Then Germany. Now Poland. NO ONE who now walks through that portal on that siding can casually believe that civilized behavior is guaranteed.


Dan Newland Retired Air Force General and former head of the CIA. He chose this particular photo because these tracks were where children were separated from their parents. Also, it's chilling that there are reports of children being removed from their parents at the Mexican border with the excuse that they are being taken to be bathed, after which they never return, since they are actually being taken to internment camps or "foster care". People in concentration camps in Europe in the Nazi era were also "taken to baths" from which they never returned. And it all happens gradually.

The other day two of my Facebook friends and former schoolmates said it was a “bad comparison” to liken the separation of Jewish families under Hitler to what's been happening on the US-Mexico border, because the US “wasn't exterminating anyone.” All I can say is, “Holy Crap!” Has it come down to that? That the “moral high ground” is defined by whether you exterminate or not? Is anything short of extermination okay and not comparable to the horrors of other wicked regimes, simply because the US doesn’t physically eliminate its victims?
And, anyway, as I responded to them, the answer to “We don’t exterminate,” should be, “No, not yet!”
No one seems to want to face the fact that democracy, as The Washington Post tagline goes, “dies in darkness.” People conveniently ignore the fact that fascism, autocracy, totalitarianism, or any other name you want to give to autocratic regimes and personality cult dictatorships don't happen overnight. I know. I've lived under both for a decade of my life. And you could see it coming. From the deterioration of democracy, to a personality cult popular dictatorship, to a declared state of siege and the suspension of basic rights, and finally, to tanks in the street and an elitist military dictatorship in government. And not only have I lived (miraculously, since I refused to keep my mouth shut) through those, but I've also covered several others, and the signs are always the same. 
Nazi Germany didn't see fascism coming either. They just saw a firebrand leader (also with a bad haircut) who attacked the status quo and talked down to traditional politicians whom he eventually banned, to cheers and raised fists of his racist, nativist base. And before they knew it, decent Germans who were tacitly against persecution of non-Aryans ended up no longer having a voice, because it became okay to jail or eliminate them if they spoke out. Eventually, it even became legal to jail or eliminate them. So when you hear those who, like Attorney General Sessions, quote “the law” in carrying out heinous, inhuman acts, warning, they are the voice of the “legal but illegitimate” and the harbingers of de facto rule. 
I feel sorry for Americans who laugh off these warnings and say “It could never happen in America.” Democracy only survives if it is defended, if people stand up and demand it, if, like the teen survivors of the Parkland mass shooting, they “call bullshit” when they see it. The truth is, that it is happening, right under our noses. The United States is courting the policies of authoritarianism and the personality cults of fascist designs.  
The burning question is this: When you start having policies to cage children and to criminalize people because of race, language and origin, can ghettos and concentration camps be far behind?

Friday, June 22, 2018


Today begins a new era for this blog. After remaining silent for nearly half a decade, I’ve once again decided to return to writing a political and social blog.
I wish I could say I was refloating this blog because I simply have more time and want to return to journalism as “a hobby” after long years in the profession previously. But nothing could be further from the truth.
A Yankee At Large is being refloated out of my grave concern for what is currently happening in the world—the deterioration of democracy, the rise of authoritarian designs, and the parallel erosion of human and civil rights, in pace with the equally grave destruction of the environment.
In Spanish, there is a great expression: El que se calla, ortorga. It means, roughly, He who keeps silent, gives permission. (And by the way, in its new genesis, this blog will be published in both English and Spanish). I refuse to give my permission for any of these nefarious trends. For what it’s worth, I want to take a public stand, to make my voice heard, even if it’s only to a handful of readers. I want to be on the right side of history, and make it clear which side I consider that to be.
So I’ll be writing short editorials and longer research articles here, on a more or less regular basis, as well as sharing links to other articles, interviews, etc. that I feel are important for people to read in order to have a clearer view of the present, the past, and the possible future.
I just want to thank those of you who have continued to read my past essays and articles posted here. It is moving to me to read my traffic statistics and realize that even after such a long hiatus, I still have a loyal reader base.
You rock!