Time For Your White House Press Briefing With Special Guest The DHS Secretary Who Has More Splaining To Do
Not a great week for Alejandro Mayorkas.
Time for our White House press briefing, which we carry here live every day except when we forget, because CNN stopped.
Joining Jen Psaki will be Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, who will assuredly face questions about his handling of the grotesque Customs and Border Protection officers who were filmed whipping Haitian asylum-seekers this weekend.
Here's what President Joe Biden had to say about it at a presser this morning:
"It's outrageous. I promise you those people will pay ... there will be consequences" -- Biden on images of Border… https://t.co/rPtjZsauNl— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1632492718.0
Biden: Of course I take responsibility, I'm president. But it was horrible what you saw, to see people treated like they did, horses running them over, people being strapped, it's outrageous! I promise you, those people will pay... An investigation underway now, and there will be consequences. It's an embarrassment, but beyond an embarrassment, it's dangerous. It's wrong. It sends the wrong message around the world, it sends the wrong message at home. It's simply not who we are.
Of course, what we do is who we are.
This week, many of us were horrified by the treatment of Haitian asylum-seekers by the Department of Homeland Security, as well as by the Biden administration's decision to use a Trump-era rule to deport many of those asylum-seekers back to Haiti instead of simply beginning the asylum process. The Biden administration and the DHS have announced their intention to rebuild our asylum process and "ensure that there are safe, orderly, and humane pathways so people do not have to take the dangerous perilous journey to make a claim of asylum that our laws that Congress passed are recognized." Some refugees have been let in and allowed to start the asylum process here.
Most of us understand that the US, as part of our obligations under the 1951 Refugees Convention, has to take in a certain number of refugees and also that, simply from a moral perspective, we should take in refugees and asylum-seekers. Because they are human beings and we care about them and want them to be okay. But Grant Stinchfield of Newsmax knows what the Democratic Party's real plan is — import all of the migrants in order to murder the suburbs and then also make all of the migrants dependent on the government so they always vote for Democrats. Obligatory "muahahahahahaha."
Stinchfield explains that Joe Biden has no strong beliefs personally, but always just goes where the wind blows because of how hungry he is for power, following in the long tradition of power-hungry dictators who are also generally just "go with the flow" kind of guys.
Apparently, the incredibly power-hungry Joe Biden (as per Stinchfield) is now being guided by the "radical faction of the Democrat Party," which (according to Stinchfield) includes Susan Rice, Valerie Jarrett and, yes, Barack Obama.
Transcript via Media Matters:
So right now, the radical faction of the Democrat Party is in control. Joe Biden cozies up to them. But what may be most troubling is that I don't actually think he's deciding anything. I think the roundtable of co-conspirators consists not of Joe Biden, but of Susan Rice and Valerie Jarrett and, yes, Barack Obama I'm sure is on the speakerphone.
Power-hungry dictators — always delegating, amirite? Anyway, this incredibly radical faction of Democrats has an evil plan to do evil stuff, and Grant Stinchfield is ON IT.
The goal here isn't about providing comfort and opportunity to the tens of thousands of illegal aliens coming to America. The goal is clearly to dilute America, to import poverty, and to fundamentally destroy the suburbs by turning them into migrant population centers.
Oh, this is gonna be their big thing now, isn't it? Like when Trump was freaking out about low-income housing in the suburbs and kept trying to scare the "Suburban Housewives of America" with tales of Cory Booker moving into their neighborhood, possibly to break and enter into their homes just because they are "on fire." It's so cute how they call liberals elitist and then scream in horror over the idea of people who aren't rich moving into the suburbs, because of how all poor people are murderers.
What is it that they think we are up to? Are we overcome with a blind, seething rage towards The Cheesecake Factory and all that it stands for? Do we just indiscriminately hate ... lawns? I honestly don't know. I actually like The Cheesecake Factory. I only ever order one thing there, but that has less to do with them than with the fact that giant menus with too many choices make me nervous.
I guess we're doing it just to make Republicans feel sad and unwanted and then replace them with people who will vote for Democrats instead of them. Or perhaps even just people who are, overall, less terrible to their fellow human beings.
The Democrats will then train these migrants, like they trained low income Americans, to be dependent on government. It's not about race here, folks, either. It's about poverty and making people sure that people stay there. And making sure that most people possible are reliant on government. They want as many as possible just reliant on absolute government for all of their needs. Of course, making it impossible, then, for those people to vote for any other candidate than a Democrat because that Democrat will promise to keep the payoffs coming.
To what end, though?
Basically Stinchfield thinks that we all support helping asylum-seekers and we all want people to be able to eat, live somewhere, have a job that pays them enough to live, have health care and be able to take care of their children ... all for nefarious reasons? But what nefarious reason?
Let's just say, hypothetically, that the Democrats do all of this, and then we live in this horrifying country that is ... generally like most other first world countries. Let's say we even go full lefty — we've got Medicare For All, subsidized public college, universal childcare, a living wage, paid parental leave, a healthy environment, no student loan debt, and we're not hemorrhaging money on the Pentagon because we're not even going around murdering people in other countries all the time. And yes, the suburbs are more diverse because people can actually afford to live there now. What happens then? Like once they've got everyone on the hook, voting for Democratic candidates because they don't actually want their lives to be worse than they currently are, the Democrats turn around and ... what?
They turn everyone into Cybermen? Start secretly mass murdering large swaths of the population in order to turn them into food? Burn down any plaza containing a Bed Bath and Beyond? Ban golf? Or is it just that people will be really sad and depressed about losing out on the thrilling opportunities we have today, like working 80 hours a week and not being able to afford a one bedroom apartment or paying thousands of dollars for an ambulance?
Honestly I've got nothing. If Grant Stinchfield wants to scare people, he's going to have to come up with some better specifics.
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They used the horses' reins, not whips, so problem solved.
US Border Patrol agents on horseback were photographed last weekend whipping and grabbing Haitian migrants and generally calling to mind slave patrols, leading to an outcry by the ACLU and calls for the agents to be fired, and while we're at it how about dismantling the Department of Homeland Security and replacing it with something at least 20 percent less fascist. Yesterday at her daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the photos and video "horrific" and said the Border Patrol agents have been placed on desk duty while an investigation of their "brutal and inappropriate measures" goes forward. Here, have some video:
Noting that the investigation is expected to be completed by next week, Psaki said the agents
were placed on administrative leave and will not be interacting with any migrants. So as it relates to those photos and that horrific video, we're not going to stand for that kind of inhumane treatment, and obviously we want this investigation to be completed rapidly.
In what's sure to become the dominant rightwing talking point about the incident, Fox News made a point of explaining several times that the Border Patrol agents were not carrying "whips," but were instead holding their horses' "long reins," so shame on any "Democrats and media outlets" that "falsely described the agents' long reins, which they use to control their horses, as 'whips.'"
Fox repeated the "long reins" bit in the paragraph after that, so get ready for the distinction to be just about all anyone on the right ever wants to talk about, just as any discussion of a mass shooting will inevitably go haring off into a rant about how it wasn't an "automatic" rifle, it was a "semiautomatic" rifle.
We should note, however, that Fox did not come up with a new verb to describe how the agents were using those long reins against the migrants.
Condemnation has also been growing of the Biden administration's decision to deport many of the migrants to Haiti, even though many of them had not lived on the island for years, and had instead come to the US border from South and Central America. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer yesterday called the agents' behavior "unacceptable," but also called on Biden to stop using the same "hateful and xenophobic" Trump pandemic policy, Title 42, as an excuse to deport adults seeking asylum at the border. On the Senate floor, Schumer said
I'm told there are four flights scheduled to deport these asylum-seekers back to a country that cannot receive them. Such a decision defies common sense. It also defies common decency and what America is all about.
In addition, this morning the administration's Special Envoy for Haiti, Ambassador Daniel Foote, resigned in protest over the deportations, saying in his resignation letter that he would not be a party to the US's "inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees." Here's his letter:
It's a pretty strong statement of moral outrage, noting that while Haiti is considered so dangerous for Americans that diplomats are "confined to secure compounds" to keep them safe from armed gangs,
The people of Haiti, mired in poverty, hostage to the terror, kidnappings, robberies and massacres of armed gangs and suffering under a corrupt government with gang alliances, simply cannot support the forced infusion of thousands of returned migrants lacking food, shelter, and money without additional, avoidable human tragedy. The collapsed state is unable to provide security or basic services, and more refugees will fuel further desperation and crime. Surging migration to our borders will only grow as we add to Haiti's unacceptable misery.
We need to do better. We really do.
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Everybody ready for some GODDAMN SOCIALISM.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took a ride recently with a New York cabbie and New York State Assemblymember Zohran K. Mamdani to bring attention to the cab drivers' fight for debt relief. It's all part of the fallout from the collapse of New York City's taxi medallion system, due to the rise of Uber and Lyft, and also to the pandemic, which severely depressed the demand for cabs. It's a huge debt crisis, which we'll explain further in a moment, but for starters, here's the video, courtesy of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, the nonprofit union for city cab drivers.
WATCH: I rode with @NYTWA cabbie Richard Chow and ally to taxi workers @ZohranKMamdani to highlight the horrific me… https://t.co/E2k2JWVUsJ— Chuck Schumer (@Chuck Schumer) 1632332847.0
Now, as The Intercept's Ryan Grim noted on Twitter, Mamdani, the state Assembly member Schumer's riding around with there, won the endorsement of the Democratic Socialists of America when he ran, so we can only assume that Chuck Schumer is now on board with Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism of some sort. We wholly approve of this development.
So let's back up a little here: What is all this about, and is assigning me a story about New York City cabbies just another of Yr Editrix's fiendish plots to make me look like a rube from Boise goddamned Idaho who doesn't know a damn thing about the hustle and bustle of la-di-da NYC, with its fancy pigeons and rent control and subway pizza rats? Probably! She likes to see me struggle like Victoria Jackson on SNL trying to report on the Contras and the Sandinistas from Managua, Nicaragua.
Happily, there's an internet, so I can look stuff up, like this story from Jalopnik's Raphael Orlove, who explains in brief how the mess developed, who got screwed, and how New York's government appears to be fucking up the relief plan.
Here in New York, you don't just paint your car yellow and start picking people up off the street. You need a special taxi medallion for your car to be a taxi and pick up hails, and the city limits the number of medallions out there. As you can imagine, with limited supply and strong demand, the value of a medallion could rise. As Uber and Lyft have completely reshaped the taxi landscape here in the city, that value plummeted, and yellow cab drivers are now underwater, struggling to pay off loans on medallions now worth a fraction of what they started as.
For instance, as City & State New York says, the "value of a medallion went from $200,000 in 2002 to over $1 million in 2014, then crashed to less than $200,000 soon after." As it turns out, it wasn't just the arrival of Uber and Lyft that were at fault, but also a fair bit of financial fuckery by bad actors gaming the system, if you can believe that:
For years, taxi industry leaders and lending institutions engaged in deceptive or risky lending practices, artificially driving up the value of the medallions and pushing independent owner-drivers into bad loans.
The New York Times won a Pulitzer for its 2019 investigation into the schemes, too, revealing the ugly details of how immigrant drivers got steered into loans they couldn't afford and were then driven to financial ruin. (Does that narrative sound at all familiar to just about anyone who remembers the home mortgage financial crisis?) At the time of the story, more than 950 owners had filed for bankruptcy, and several had killed themselves.
And if financial scheming involving taxi medallions sounds familiar, that's related to some of the frauding Michael Cohen was charged with, too, although that tends to be overlooked because it had nothing to do with Donald Trump.
Worse, as the Times noted in a story this spring about the city's bailout plan,
During the bubble, government officials worsened the problems by exempting the industry from regulations. The city also chose to fill budget gaps by selling medallions and running ads promoting the permits as "better than the stock market."
The city profited from selling all those medallions, while many drivers were ruined. Hell of a way to run an industry! So when the city got a great big chunk of money from the American Rescue Plan, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a bailout plan: $65 million to help drivers. But there's a bigass problem. as Orlove explains, with terse headings, even:
What's The City's Plan?
Let drivers borrow $20,000 to pay their medallion debt, and they can borrow another $9,000 for other monthly payments.
What Does This Accomplish?
With some drivers hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, it doesn't accomplish a lot! All it does, basically, is funnel a bunch of money to big lenders without helping drivers.
The problem is that the $20K loans — even with zero interest — aren't likely to help drivers much, since it'll be up to the drivers to renegotiate their own debts, without any requirement that the lenders accept a deal that would be favorable to the drivers. As New York Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai explained to The Business of Business, drivers want the city to provide more direct relief instead:
Our proposal has been that the city set up a backstop—if the hedge fund or bank reduced the debt to $125,000, the City of New York would guarantee it, 100% of delinquency. The medallion owners are protected and the banks and hedge fund would be guaranteed $125,000, even if the debt is $300,000 for example. [...]
Even in the [worst] case scenario, our plan would end up costing the city $75 million over 20 years. Our plan is more fiscally sound and would be life-saving. Their plan costs more and does absolutely nothing, offers no relief.
Cab drivers have been protesting the city's inadequate debt relief plan at New York's City Hall this week, and that's why Chuck Schumer is riding around in a cab with a Democratic Socialist, you see. We're starting to like this leftier debt-relievey Schumer, yes we are! It seems like his imaginary couple friends, the Baileys, might have some kids with college debt now, and might even be moonlighting from their insurance jobs with an overpriced, underwater medallion on their cab.
And I'm fairly sure I got through the story without embarrassing myself like some sort of Idaho flyover rube. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to catch the BART to La Guardia.
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