National Emergency

On Friday, Donald Trump declared a state of national emergency. He did this in order to reallocate billions of dollars in emergency funds to be used to build a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico. This wall is desperately needed in order to protect America from the hordes of dozens, nay, hundreds of poor and unarmed women and children flooding over the border in order to bring drugs and crime which otherwise don’t exist in our country.

Trump said that this wall is necessary in order to stop all drug and human trafficking and will bring crime as we know it to a standstill.  Thus why it was so urgent to declare this state of emergency.

After the announcement, Trumps retreated to the White House where he spent the entire weekend in the War Room with his top advisers in marathon sessions of planning and strategizing, trying to nail down the best path forward. With the fate of the country in the balance, Trump decided that there would be no rest until the job is done.

Just kidding.

Trump didn’t do any of that. Right after the announcement, Lord Dampnut boarded Air Force One and flew down to Mar-A-Largo in Florida where he spent the weekend golfing, watching Saturday Night Live, and tweeting about his dissatisfaction with S&L for making fun of him for declaring a national emergency and immediately going to his resort.

Happy Presidents’ Day #MarALardass

And here we go…

A clearly incompetent and highly unpopular American president has declared a national emergency on grounds that everyone knows to be spurious. And yet, it is likely that he will experience only the mildest blowback from his political allies. There’s good reason to believe that such a move is only meant to waste taxpayer money and bamboozle his followers however. The declaration will likely be tied up in court until Trump is out of office and a new president acknowledges there was never any emergency at all.

It is hard to recall a juncture in American history in which the president’s congressional supporters have been so willing to do his bidding. Mitch McConnell is an especially striking study in the dereliction of duty. Over the past weeks, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ racist uncle has made it clear that declaring a state of national emergency over the southern border would constitute an abuse of power. When, on Thursday, Trump announced his intention to declare a national emergency over…wait for it…the southern border, McConnell immediately got in line and vowed his support.

A powerful trick in the authoritarian’s toolkit is the ability to engage in “salami tactics.” When they set out to expand their power, authoritarians typically do it one small slice at a time, issuing false pretexts for executive action and fake reasons for the “reform” of independent institutions. As a result, no single action by the executive seems like an existential threat to the rule of law. Without any clear moment of juncture, the system of checks and balances slowly decays.

What is striking about Trump’s declaration of a state of emergency for such transparently fraudulent reasons is that he isn’t even bothering to engage in salami tactics. This is about as clear of an abuse of presidential power as political scientists could have dreamed up for some in-class exercise on the rise of dictatorship.

If Republican senators like Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, and Ben Sasse are not willing to stand up to Trump’s cheap power grab now, they never will. And if the president’s many opponents cannot take to the streets to oppose his autocratic tendencies at this juncture, it is clear that they won’t do so until it’s far too late.

R.I.P. Opportunity 2004-2019

On Wednesday, NASA that the Mars land rover Opportunity has died after 15 years. The six-wheeled vehicle’s death is being attributed to a severe dust storm.

From the AP:

“Flight controllers tried numerous times to make contact, and sent one final series of recovery commands Tuesday night, along with one last wake-up song, Billie Holiday’s ‘I’ll Be Seeing You,’ in a somber exercise that brought tears to team members’ eyes. There was no response from space, only silence.

Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s science missions, broke the news to the Opportunity team at what amounted to a wake at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, announcing the demise of ‘our beloved Opportunity.’

Given the silence from space, ‘it is therefore that I’m standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude that I declare the Opportunity mission as complete,’ Zurbruchen told a packed auditorium. ‘It’s an emotional time.’”

Opportunity was one of two rovers that landed on the Mars in 2004. The other rover, Spirit, didn’t last as long as Opportunity. Communications with Spirit were lost after it was caught in a sand trap. Nonetheless, both vehicles exceeded NASA’s expectations.

When Opportunity and Spirit landed on Mars in 2004, the mission was only meant to last 90 days. But the vehicles, which were sent to different parts of the planet, proved to be surprisingly durable. Communication with Opportunity was finally lost in June 2018, and as rugged as the vehicle was, it was no match for the severe dust storm it encountered.

Opportunity explored an area of Mars called Perseverance Valley when it encountered the dust storm, which was so harsh that it darkened the sky for months and prevented sunlight from reaching Opportunity’s solar panels.

Opportunity was the fifth of eight NASA space vehicles that have successfully landed on Mars. Two of them are still working: Curiosity (which landed in 2012) and InSight (which landed recently).

 

The Battle of El Paso

Ladies and gentlemen, our long national nightmare is over. After a three-month drought, our savior, Lord Dampnut, held a rally at the border town of El Paso, Texas.

Trump’s rally in El Paso was his first since the 2018 midterm election, in which Democrats took control of the House of Representatives. It provided him with a backdrop to again try to rally support for his border wall to stop what he has called “an urgent national crisis” at “our very dangerous southern border” that he claims has led to a surge of crime, drugs and human trafficking caused by migrants seeking illegal entry.

That he would go to such a dangerous place to give this message speaks volumes of his great courage. It’s a shame he wasn’t allowed to serve in Vietnam because of his bone spurs, he may have single-handedly turned the tide of that conflict.

Oh yeah, and his uneducated prick of a son called teachers “losers.” Keep it classy Jr.

At the same time, former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke, who represented El Paso in Congress until he narrowly lost in his campaign against Republican Senator Ted Cruz, spoke at an event at a high school located about bout a half-mile away from Trump’s rally, where he provided a counter argument to Trump’s hair-on-fire message on immigration. The group then marched toward the venue where Trump’s “Make America Great Again” event took taking place.

Trump has made El Paso, a border town which shares a binational metropolitan area with Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, a centerpiece of his argument for erecting a wall on the southern border. Trump falsely cited El Paso during the State of the Union speech last Tuesday as an example of a city where building a wall had worked to deter crime.

In fact, violent crime began its steady decline in El Paso (along with the rest of the country) in the 1990s, long before the border fence was installed in El Paso in 2008. The city “had the second-lowest violent crime rate among more than 20 similarly sized American cities,” the New York Times reported. El Paso’s crime rate stayed steady in 2010, after the fence construction, and it was never considered one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S.

El Paso, O’Rourke said during his rally, is “safe not because of walls, but in spite of walls. Secure, because we treat one another with dignity and respect.”

“That is the way we make our communities and our country safe,” he said to cheers.

O’Rourke’s event began with a march through El Paso. Organizers said the crowd numbered well over 10,000 at its peak, citing El Paso police estimates.

Trump mocked O’Rourke and the size of the protest crowd. “He challenged us,” Trump said. “That may be the end of his presidential bid.” he told his supporters. Trump’s venue itself was filled to capacity (5,250) with an estimated 6,000 person overflow crowd outside. Not exactly a blowout.

O’Rourke urged his supporters to champion policies of inclusion during his speech, painting El Paso as a city built around community, not division.

AOC Dares to Exist Again

My favorite representative, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, just can’t catch a break when it comes to conservatives and their hit campaigns. The most recent one? Her credit score.

Seriously.

The claims, which Snopes had to take time out of their day to clarify, are completely false. They went viral after Trump supporter John LeFevre tweeted them out on Thursday:

“@aoc has a 430 credit score, two evictions, and an empty résumé

Just two months ago, she couldn’t afford an apartment in DC

Now, the Democratic leadership has put her on the Financial Services Committee & the media is saying that her Green New Deal will “reshape” the economy”

It’ s not clear where he got that (seemingly incorrect) information, but many speculate that it came from a January 16 Facebook post by a user named “ Donn Johnson.” Snopes explains in their debunking post that it’s likely impossible “Johnson” could have gotten this information about Ocasio-Cortez, even if it were true.

The half-assed hot takes are endless. If AOC is not being accused of secretly being rich, she’s being mocked for discussing the high relocation costs associated with moving to D.C. If people aren’t alleging that pictures of her feet are circulating the internet (they’re not), they’re debating whether or not it’s appropriate that the Congresswoman once danced in a university video. She’s somehow an elitist know-it-all and stupid, naïve little girl, too rich to actually care about working-class people, and a dead-beat all at the same time.

I’m not trying to give them advice or anything, but if they could actually be consistent for a couple of minutes, maybe they at least wouldn’t look quite so stupid when they attack her.

It’s almost like they can’t figure out why they dislike her so much, or don’t want to admit why…

This credit score nonsense does touch on an important issue however. For many people in the US, having a poor credit score and/or a history of evictions is a reality.

Credit scores can impact how much you pay in utilities, your chances of being approved for a lease, or how much you pay in car insurance. If you’re living (or have ever lived) in poverty, other aspects of your life quickly become more expensive, making it all the harder to dig out of that hole.

To quote another viral tweet: “Being poor charges interest.”

In a time when 40 percent of Americans can’t afford a $400 emergency expense, it feels especially cruel to mock people who may have a history that reflects a lack of financial freedom. A low credit score doesn’t make someone a bad person, nor does it speak to their ability to be a good or reliable employee, renter, or representative.

Shaming low-income people has to come to an end.