The illegal transport of legal immigrants

Imagine you approached a bunch of American citizens down on their luck and promised them that if they came with you, you’d take them somewhere they could get jobs and assistance. You then shove them on a plane and send them off without making any plans whatsoever as to what happens to them when they get there. Oh, and you also lie to them about where they are going.

cartoon by Steve Breen

To reiterate: You committed a fraud by lying to these people, and you committed the crime of “unlawful restraint” by transporting people against their will (since they only agreed based on your lies).

Now if you say, “that’s different, these people that DeSantis sent to Martha’s Vineyard were immigrants,” then you clearly don’t know your Constitution. (I mean, no one has ever accused DeSantis of having the slightest bit of knowledge of the Constitution, of course.)

If you’re in America, you have rights. The 14th Amendment guarantees these rights to “people,” not just citizens. Even tourists get these rights. Hell, even illegal immigrants get these rights.

And these people were here legally. They are refugees, most of whom are escaping from a terrible regime in Venezuela. You know — Venezuela. That place Republicans incorrectly use as an example of socialism gone mad (when it’s really because of a dictator gone mad). You’d think conservatives would at least be consistent in that regard, and welcome them.

Refugees are allowed to come here, and once here, they have certain rights. Among those rights are not to be lied to and treated like cattle, and then shipped hundreds of miles away from the place where technically they are supposed to report to in order to take care of all their paperwork for entry.

The evil conservatives who cite the Bible while ignoring 90% of what it preaches just assumed Massachusetts residents would treat these refugees as terrible as they had, but of course, the exact opposite happened. The locals embraced the refugees, fed them, found shelter for them, and are working to help them get the assistance they need. You know, all the things Jesus said to do with immigrants.

You’ll never hear about that on right-wing talk shows, however. After all, if there is one thing modern conservatives are known for, it’s simply ignoring facts when they contradict their already-held viewpoint.

Cubans are protesting totalitarianism, not socialism

Whenever something bad happens in some totalitarian government, the right is the first to scream that the problem is “socialism.”

They conveniently ignore all the democratic countries that are primarily socialist and instead look at the few that are run by dictators. “Look how bad Venezuela is!” they scream. “Clearly, it’s because of their socialist policies and not at all because they have a terrible dictator running things.” The fact that most of Europe, Canada and Japan have socialist economies of varying degrees doesn’t convince them. It has to be socialism! It can’t be the evil dictators!

Now, admittedly, given right-wing support of oppressive governments like Russia and what Trump wanted to turn the U.S. into, you can sort of understand their obsession of finding another reason for a country’s failure than authoritarianism. But mostly it’s just a misunderstanding of the distinction between a government and its economy.

(Current protesters in Cuba, who have specifically said it’s the dictatorship they are protesting, not socialism. Not that facts matter to the right.)

Here’s a very short abbreviated version of the difference:


Capitalism.  This is where the market decides and government stays out of it.  No minimum wage, no health inspections, no laws against discrimination, no regulations on business at all.  This doesn’t work, because you end up with the powerful running everything, destroying the economy, and keeping people in poverty.

Communism.  This is where the government runs business.  The idea is that we should all live together in peace and harmony and share everything, and the President earns the same amount as the guy who sweeps the street.  This also doesn’t work, because it completely destroys initiative and any reason to try to improve yourself.

Socialism.  This is where most countries are, where the government regulates business to prevent the abuses capitalism can bring, and provides many services (libraries, hospitals, parks, fire departments, social security, unemployment, etc.) This is the tough balance to meet.  You don’t want to go too far in either direction, and most of the debate in the US is over how far to go.


Democracy.  This is where the people decide, usually through representative democracy or republicanism.

Totalitarianism.  This is a dictatorship, whether individually controlled (North Korea) or committee controlled (China).  Once more, there are degrees here as well as various types (monarchy, fascism, oligarchy).  But the key thing they all have in common is that the decision-making power is not with the people.

So happens is that people confuse the economic with the political.  The Soviet Union was a communist country but was also a totalitarian country. Cuba has a socialist economy but is a dictatorship. It is possible to have a democracy that is communist if the people vote for it, and it’s also possible for a totalitarian capitalist country.

It’s even more confusing when countries lie about themselves.  Just because you call yourself “the Democratic Republic of Vietnam” doesn’t mean you are a democratic republic, any more than China is the “people’s republic.” The Soviet Union was indeed a communist country, but it was a corrupt one because you know perfectly well that not everyone shared equally in that society.

So whenever some right-wing fool tries to blame terrible conditions in a country on “socialism,” take it with a grain of salt. Could socialism be part of the problem? Sure, if poorly managed. So can capitalism. But when the real reason is a terrible dictatorship, you don’t have to ignore that to find a scapegoat you’re more comfortable with.

The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!

When I was a kid, the Russians were the Bad Guys that all the movies and TV shows warned us about. This was especially true concerning Republicans and conservatives, who proclaimed that the Rooskies were out to destroy our way of life any way they could.

Well, the Russians learned. The way to win is a lot more subtle than blatant warfare. Now they use other means. They infiltrate other governments and influence them through the media. They plant their people in key positions, bribe them to favor their ways, and otherwise make sure they win to promote their radically conservative philosophy.putin tru,pAnd they have won. Look at Brexit, where Russia made sure stupid Brits voted out of fear. They tried again in France but lost. But, of course, they won the big one with Trump, a man who has many Russian connections and who has insulted every single person and group except the Russians.

And where are the conservatives and Republicans now? You guessed it. Russia is their best friend. Many conservative leaders admire Putin, the strong-arm leader who doesn’t care about democracy or anyone who disagrees with him. I’ll bet they wish they had his power to just kill those damned journalists who question him.

If the Republicans of my childhood could see what their party has become, I’m sure they’d think it was “fake news.”

In any event, the special prosecutor will start handing down indictments soon concerning Russian influence. Republicans who spent years trying to find anything on the Clintons and coming up empty-handed will claim this is a “witch hunt” and otherwise will try to pretend there’s nothing there, because that’s what evil stooges do.

And the Russians will be laughing at us the whole way.

Comparing refugees and homeless veterans?

by Guest Blogger Dennis Higgins

All I have to say about the meme that “we shouldn’t help the refugees while there are still homeless veterans” bullshit:

1.) Apples and Oranges. As if they are going to defund the veteran homelessness initiatives to pay for the refugees. I mean, really, let’s use some critical thinking skills, people.homeless-veteran

2.) Thanks to the Obama Administration’s initiatives to end veteran homelessness, 27,000 veterans have found home. Some of them are my patients. Some of them are my classmates’ patients. These programs are real and they are working. The current estimates have a little under 50,000 homeless veterans on any given night in 2014. So, when Obama says his government has reduced veteran homelessness by 33%, the numbers back him up. I challenge you to find a modern president who can show that kind of success in reducing veteran homelessness.

3.) The party that forced Secretary McDonald to cut $1.4 Billion to the VA’s 2016 budget is the party that seems to want to perpetuate this idiotic meme and block refugees coming into the United States.

So, basically, if you perpetuate this homeless vets and refugees meme, you are perpetuating bullshit and just need to stop. You can hate on refugees for whatever reason. It’s your right as an American. BUT DO NOT COMPARE IT TO VETERAN HOMELESSNESS because you are wrong. Pure and simple.


Dennis Higgins is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan who is currently a Doctoral Candidate in Clinical Psychology.

You don’t need to be a foreign policy expert to do the right thing about refugees

I’m no foreign policy expert.

And neither are you.

One of the problems I have when discussing what to do about terrorism is precisely that: I don’t know. I don’t have the information and intelligence that the experts have access to, I don’t study the subject completely, and, as I said a few days ago, I can see that whatever the solution is, it’s not going to be easy and simple.

And that’s why I get so frustrated with people who “know” what we should do.  Usually, it’s some variation of “Bomb them all” — which is what we have been doing. While some of it has been successful in removing important leaders, it also helps their recruitment and propaganda.

While I don’t know the best way to deal with this — even if there is a “best way” — I do know that turning away refugees is wrong.


“Hey, when we say ‘never again’ we didn’t really mean it…”

I don’t need to be a foreign policy expert there. I just need to have a heart.

The refugees are the ones running away from these fanatics. Most of them are educated, had jobs, and will be productive members of society. They’re just running away from war.

The recent attacks in Paris were performed by people who had already been in the country. All the evidence points away from the recent refugees.

Let’s face it, if some terrorist wants to commit these acts, they will find a way. They always do. Turning away people who need our help who are willing to obey our laws won’t matter to the terrorists. The only people we harm by turning our backs on the refugees are the ones who legitimately need our help.

Yes, Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern countries should be helping these refugees. But they’re not, because they’re the Bad Guys. Let’s not lower ourselves to their level.

As someone named Oliver Willis recently posted: “If only we had a seasonally appropriate story about middle eastern people seeking refuge and being turned away by the heartless…”



There is no easy solution

Look, there isn’t an easy answer. Stop trying to find one.

The more we attack ISIS, the more they get to recruit people by claiming we’re at war with Islam.isis-army-700x430

And if we don’t attack them, they’re just going to kill their own people and install their medieval ideas of religion on the area.

As human beings, we should accept the refugees running from such terror and help them.

However, some of them may be using this to gain entry to us and infiltrate from within.

If we target Muslims in our own country, not only are we doing exactly what they want, but we are going against everything we say we stand for.

There is no easy solution. “Bomb them all into oblivion” won’t work. “Ignore them” won’t work. “Outlaw Islam and round up all the Muslims” won’t work.

Anyone who argues for an easy “solution” should be ignored.

President refuses to blame Muslims

“Both Americans and Muslim friends and citizens, tax-paying citizens, and Muslims in nations were just appalled and could not believe what we saw on our TV screens,” said the President after this terrible attack.

“These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that.”paris-1-jpg20150109111431

The President continued on, once more refusing to blame Muslims, saying “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.”

Conservatives everywhere fumed, because he refused to lay the blame where it properly belongs: on the religion itself and the people who follow that religion. How dare the President not realize this!

Oh, wait. Hold on, my bad.

None of that happened.

Because these words aren’t from President Obama. They’re from President Bush, after the 9/11 attack.

Sorry. For some reason, I dunno, I thought maybe conservatives would be consistent in their views and not change them based simply on who was President.

Silly me.

Iran (so far away)

By wanting to know what I was talking about, I have disqualified myself from ever being considered a Republican.

I guess that’s a good thing, really.

You see, when Obama announced the deal with Iran, I started reading articles about it to see exactly what it said. I went on my Facebook page and asked for advice from those who follow these things closer, and otherwise tried to educate myself before making an opinion.reagan

Not so the Republican party, whose motto is “If Obama is for it, we’re against it.” As soon as the 100-page treaty was announced, Marco Rubio had a commercial denouncing it for “allowing Iran to build a nuclear bomb.” From what I have read, it does the exact opposite, but hey, when have facts ever stood in the way of a good Republican rant?

Before the treaty, there was a policy of cutting Iran off from all trade. We had a lot of other countries working with us as well. The policy worked, because it got them to the negotiating table. The new treaty reinstates trade (good for business) and allows us to investigate and make sure they’re not building bombs (something we didn’t have the power to do before).

Now, did we get everything we wanted? No, of course not. That’s how negotiations work. That’s how treaties with other countries work. You get as much as you can, and it’s better to get 50% of what you want than 0% any day.

But that’s not how the GOP sees it: In their mind, it’s far better to go to war. (It’s also more profitable to the industries that bankroll the GOP.) And whatever is in the treaty doesn’t matter, because they’re against it, especially because they haven’t read it and think it does things it doesn’t do (“Don’t confuse my opinion with facts!”).

Keep in mind that the real reason they’re against it is because it was a treaty from Obama, who may have finally earned his Nobel Peace Prize. Had a Republican President made the exact same treaty, he’d be a great hero, like Nixon opening relationships with China.

War over diplomacy

Barack Obama may have finally earned his Nobel Peace Prize by getting many nations to join with us to get Iran to agree to an historic treaty. Under this treaty, Iran will reduce its nuclear capability and we will be able to inspect to make sure that they do. 131124102022-01-iran-deal-1124-story-topIn exchange, we will get rid of many of the sanctions that worked to force them to the treaty table in the first place.

Seriously, how can someone be against this?

Answer: Be an Obama-hating Republican. You know these guys — Obama could come out in favor of drinking water and they’d object. (Oh, right, they did.)

In the simple world view of these people, America is the world ruler and we should always get everything we want. If we don’t get what we want, we should bomb everyone until we do. (Because that has worked so well for us in the Middle East before. That was sarcasm.)

But that’s not how the world really works and that’s not how mature adults understand relationships, where there are compromises that must be made in order to get along. Iran is a big country and we can’t just order them to do whatever we want so we have to negotiate. We will never get everything we want when we negotiate so we get as much as we can while they try to get as much as they can. That’s how it works, you see.

So we’ve gotten a pretty good deal. Not the absolute best deal but pretty much 90% of what we want.

Not good enough, say people who are willing to let poor people die in another unnecessary war. Go ahead, ask them what their alternative is. Many of them are openly suggesting we should just declare war and bomb them because, you know, they’re an evil country and they are trying to build a nuclear bomb. (As opposed to Pakistan, China, and other evil countries that already have nuclear bombs.)

I have an idea. Let’s try diplomacy first. Let’s save violence for the last resort when everything else has failed.

I am told that is what mature, intelligent people do.

Why Obama won’t call the Terrorists Muslims

The right is outraged that Obama won’t call the terrorists Muslims, because after all that is who we are really at war with, isn’t it?

Obama, using logic and reason, argues that to call them that is to legitimize them.  ISIS and al Qaeda and the other radicals want us to declare that we are at war with Islam, because that’s the best recruiting tool they have. cmimg_22296

“We must never accept the premise that they put forward because it is a lie,” Obama said. “Nor should we grant these terrorists the legitimacy they seek. They are not religious leaders, they are terrorists.  We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

Ha ha!  You see the problem, right?  He’s once more assuming the right wing cares for things like logic, facts, and reason!  This can also be seen by claims on the right that Obama is doing nothing to fight these terrorists when in fact, he’s been bombing them pretty regularly for months.  Facts!  Who needs facts when you have anger!

Today comes news that these terrorists have bombed Islamic religious sites and mosques and burned books because, hey, they’re evil.  Seriously, there’s not much debate on that part.  But that sure doesn’t seem the kind of thing that a Muslim would do, does it?

Using religion as the excuse to cause terror helps to convince others of that religion that it is acceptable because their god wants it.  By refusing to legitimize the religion, you can cut some of that power.